In the Autumn of 1944, in the small town of Mattoon, Illinois, people were afraid. They weren’t afraid of bombs falling from the night sky without warning, or losing loved ones and how they’d get by on their own if something happened, or escaped Nazi Prisoners of War. Of course they weren’t. Voicing such fears would be bad for morale and positively un-American; at a time when patriotism was the greatest defense against a sense of powerlessness and depression that could have doused the brightest home fires. No, their fear was of something lurking in alley ways and creeping around slumbering homes. They feared the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon,” who piped unknown chemicals into their windows as they slept. His poison was not fatal, but its effects were unpleasant, and his attacks were quickly increasing in frequency. This mad scientist fiend had to be stopped, and he was, though not in the way one would expect. Join us this week as we explore the month of panic in Mattoon that began as a manhunt, and ended as the defining study of the psychological phenomenon of mass hysteria. Of course, we will spend some time analyzing the crimes as if they are not just a story. We’ll discuss credible suspects and incredible claims, and a brand new theory on the origin of the fear.
NEWS CLIPPING GALLERY