Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
It was mid-morning on a typical school day.
We were in class, minding our own business, doing whatever you’re supposed to do in school.
Suddenly, a high pitch scream pierced through the air.
Startled, we snapped our heads up.
Soon, there was another chilly shriek.
Just then, my classmate pointed out of the window. “Look!” he shouted.
We all ran to the window to get a better look.
And to our complete bewilderment, we saw a girl climbing a tree.
The way she climbed wasn’t human.
Image via Philnews.ph (for illustration purposes only)
She was a small girl, but the way her limbs moved as she shot up the tree at lightning speed? It was creepy.
A teacher arrived at the bottom of the tree, and tried to coax her to come down.
She stayed on the tree as her screams drowned our surroundings.
When she screamed, there was a distinct echo, like there were two voices coming out of one mouth.
The episode lasted about an hour.
I remember she had to be forcefully removed from the tree. A group of guys had to climb the tree to drag her down.
By the end of the school day, there were rumours that she had been possessed.
Some of us were spooked, especially those who sat near the windows and had a clear view of the entire spectacle, but most of us were just confused.
And that was the end of it… for that day.
The next day, the same thing happened again.
Picture credit: Sefano Pollio @ Unsplash
But this time, on top of the original girl, more girls were hysterical.
I first noticed when the girls came into plain view of my classroom, running amok.
They were running everywhere barefooted. Some were climbing the balcony.
Many were screaming in a high-pitched voice. They hurled verbal abuse at whoever was trying to hold them down.
“Let me go!” or “You don’t know who I am!” they growled in Malay.
In my school, each form had our own designated block.
I was in Form 5 at that time, so my classroom was in the Form 5 block.
Strangely, only the Form 4 girls in the Form 4 block were affected.
At first, only the Malay girls were affected.
But soon after, the Chinese and Indian girls went into a state of frenzy too—climbing and running around. The strangest part was, they screamed in Malay too.
This went on for a few days.
Each time, the girl we saw climbing the tree on the first day was manic.
She was the constant. Like patient zero.
Sometimes, she started the mass hysteria. Other times, another girl would, but she always ended up affected in the end.
Although most of the male students remained unaffected, a few were also swept up in the chaos. They were not screaming, but they climbed and ran around like the girls.
Eventually, the school authorities called the religious leaders.
Picture credit: Endri Killo @ Unsplash
My classroom was right opposite the surau, so my classmates and I had front row seats to the chaos when the ustaz and his team arrived.
The affected students were brought to the surau for counseling.
Since there were non-muslim students among them as well, a priest and pastor were invited too.
Of course, we were all very curious.
But the teachers didn’t appreciate that. “Tak payah menyibuk,” we were told.
The school was closed down for 2 to 3 weeks.
Even the newspapers reported the incident without naming our school.
It was that bad.
When we eventually returned to school, we learned what happened through the grapevine.
Picture credit: Marcos Rivas @ Unsplash
There was a tree outside the boys’ toilet.
It was practically a landmark.
We had to pass it to get to the canteen, or when we went to the carpark to help our teacher carry books.
This tree was eerie. Walking past would give me the chills, making my hair stand on end.
And underneath this tree was a marble bench.
One night, a group of girls snuck into school.
They sat under this eerie tree on the marble bench.
There, they played Spirit of the Coin.
Picture credit: Alexia Rodriquez @ Unsplash
Spirit of the Coin is a game where the players attempt to talk to the spirits. The players use a board with alphabets and numbers printed on it.
Next, they put a coin in the middle and summon a spirit.
The spirit would then communicate with them by spelling out the message with the board.
Apparently, the spirit they summoned was male.
That’s why only the female students were hysterical.
This incident happened midway through the school year.
But Patient Zero did not attend school until the end of the year.
Rumour had it that she was home-schooled till then, and had to undergo intense therapy.
My classmates have varied opinions about this experience.
My atheist friend says that it was all in their heads, especially Patient Zero’s. There are many sceptics among my circle of friends.
At the same time, some are convinced that a ghost had indeed possessed the Form 4 students.
Me? I consider myself a spectator.
At first, I thought the girls were just looking for attention.
But then I witnessed the way they ran, climbed, and screamed. They were sprinting very fast, like something else was in control over their bodies. No ordinary human being does that.
Nonetheless, I’m cautious to assign the supernatural to my experience. A lot of people play Spirit of the Coin, especially kids in boarding schools. What’s so special about them?
Experts think that mass hysteria is a sort of psychogenic illness.
That means that the condition begins in the mind and not in the body.
Nevertheless, the physiological symptoms experienced by the affected individual is very real.
These outbreaks usually start with a ‘trigger,’ maybe a smell or a piece of information.
When a group of people think they are exposed to a threat, they begin to react, even in the absence of an actual threat.
But does this mean that it was all “in their head”?
No. And this is a testament to the crushing effect of stress and how the people around us can affect us.
As an example, stage fright can cause nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc. Likewise, our bodies may have a strong reaction to stress. Likewise is the case of mass hysteria.
This might very well be what the Form 4 girls of my school experienced.
Perhaps it was the high-stress environment of school.
Maybe the traditional belief systems embraced by many students in my school heightened their susceptibility to suggestions in a group setting?
Sometimes, when expressing our feelings, religion arms us with the language of the supernatural. Patient zero might have felt stressed by school, the pressure of which then manifested in terms of spirits, which then spread to her fellow students.
Nonetheless, we may never know the truth with certainty, and I have made peace with that.
For more stories like this, read: A Balloon Popped, And My Friend Had A PTSD Meltdown – If You Love Them, Learn The Triggers and I Used To Work In A Haunted Hospital. Here’s What Happens Late At Night
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