The picture above shows female students praying at the SMK Kemumin school in the city of Kota Baru, northern Malaysia, where 20 students were reportedly affected by mass hysteria sparked by ghostly presences.
According to the BBC, trouble began at SKM Pengkalan Chepa 2 school, which had to shut temporarily to handle what local media have called a case of “mass hysteria”.
It started last week with several students and teachers of the school claiming that they had seen spirits or had supernatural experiences.
School authorities shut the school and called in Islamic traditional experts, scholars and even witch doctors in prayer sessions and exorcisms.
About 100 people, mostly students, were affected, a senior school staff member confirmed to the BBC.
Our students were possessed and disturbed [by these spirits]. We are not sure why it happened. We don’t know what it is that affected us.
But the place is a bit old, and these children can be disobedient and sometimes throw their rubbish around the school grounds. Perhaps they hit some ‘djinns’ and offended the spirits.
The school is located in the highly traditional and religious state of Kelantan.
Since then, according to this report, three more schools have been affected – SMK Pengkalan Chepa 1 (five girls), SMK Kemumin (20 students) and SMK Kubang Kerman 3 (eight students).
Several students at one school all said they saw a ghostly figure before passing out. They claimed they saw an unsightly dark figure or female ghost known as a pontianak before they experienced paralysis and then fainted.
Fatin Nor Atikah, 17, of SMK Pengkalan Chepa 1, said she was possessed twice in the school toilets. During both incidents she saw a black spectre that was hard to describe more accurately.
The spectre was so ugly that I went into fits and felt paralysed, like I was being pinned down by an unseen force. In both cases, I fainted for several hours. I was later revived by an ustaz [male religious teacher] in the school.
A Form Five student at SMK Pengkalan Chepa 2, Raja Nor Atirah Hurmaishah, said she was possessed after she too saw a pontianak in the school toilet.
I could not believe what I saw, both my arms began to go numb and then my mind went blank and I was frozen on the spot. I tried to call out for help but could not open my mouth, after that everything went dark.
She described the feeling of not being able to move as weird and thanked God that:
I did not jump off the school building. The apparition was creepy and now I avoid the toilets, preferring to ease myself at home.
State deputy education director Jaafar Ismail declined to comment, saying that the schools should be left alone to sort out the problem.
In 1987 there was an outbreak involving 36 Muslim girls in a Malay hostel in Alor Star, Kedah which Bartholomew said had lasted five years.
The outbreak involved shouting, running and mental confusion, crying, bizarre movements, trances and spirit possession. The girls, ages 13-17, complained of too much religion and study, and too little recreation.
Malays are susceptible because of their belief in an array of spirits.
Bartholomew added that outbreaks tend to occur in all-female boarding schools as they are the strictest.
Hat tip: AgentCormac