Tuesday, January 7

It's No Laughing Matter

By Grant Davies

On this day (+23), in 1962, some silly schoolgirls started giggling. What made them start laughing is unclear but one thing is clear:  when they had to close the private boarding school for months on end because so many of the students were affected, it was no joke.

The events took place in Tanzania (then known as Tanganyika), when a few girls started laughing and then crying. So what's the big deal you say? Didn't the girls giggle and cry when you were in school? Well, yeah, but this was different. This was serious laughter (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and it didn't stop for most of them. There were other emotional disturbances and it seemed to be contagious.

It started with just three girls but soon the number afflicted was 75. And there were only 159 girls at the school. That's when they shut the whole place down and sent everyone home. The problem was, when the girls got back to their home towns, people there caught the affliction as well. And it spread out from there.

No one who wasn't exposed to one of the girls (or someone in close contact with them) got the illness. But most who were exposed didn't contract it. Scientists checked out every possible variable they could think of, but no cause was ever found and no one could figure out why they suddenly stopped laughing. In the end, no one died or even became seriously ill.

To mark the occasion, stop by your local comedy club and have a few chuckles, but don't fall down in gales of laughter, you might break your funny bone. And that wouldn't be humerus.

The first winner of the FIFTEEN SECONDS OF FAME AWARD for 2014 goes to Sara Aldworth who suggested this story and pointed us to the information at the Mental Floss website.

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