No Laughing Matter

They say that laughter is good for the soul, but perhaps not for a few citizens who could not stop laughing in 1962. 


In Tanzania in 1962, an epidemic of mass hysteria caught in Kashasha. In January, a few girls as the mission boarding school for girls began laughing uncontrollably, soon it had spread throughout the school so much that almost 100 people could not stop laughing.

Some could stop laughing after a few hours, but some continued their uncontrollable laughter for several weeks.  For some reason none of the teachers were affected. After a short time the school was forced to close as no one could concentrate.

The epidemic soon flared up again in the town of Nshamba, where over 200 of the village's youth had been struck with uncontrollable laughter. The school reopened in May, only to be closed again 6 weeks later.

By the end of June the laughter had spread to another girls school in the neighbouring village in Bukoba, affecting almost another 50 students.

The epidemic continued to spread to other schools and towns in the region, leading to the school in Kashasha being sued for transmitting the laughter.

18 months after the laughter first appeared, the madness wore off and everything went back to normal. During the course of the 18 months, over 1,000 people were affected with the laughter, resulting in the closure of 14 schools.

No one died from the laughter, despite the many reports of pain, fatigue, and respiratory problems.