Episode 62: The Uninvited Anesthetist: The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

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.

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NEWS CLIPPING GALLERY

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The Uninvited – 1944 Trailer

SOURCES:

The Uninvited | The Screen Directors Playhouse | Drama | Old Time Radio Downloads

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon: Dispelling the Hysteria by Scott Maruna – 2003

Journal Gazette – Mattoon Illinois – August – December 1944

The Uninvited – Full Film – 1944

The Riddle – Mattoon High School Year Book – 1927

THE “PHANTOM ANESTHETIST” OF MATTOON: A FIELD STUDY OF MASS HYSTERIA * BY DONALD M. JOHNSON

Rumor, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds by J P Chaplin

Did Mattoon have A Mad Scientist or A Mad Population – io9

THE MATTOON MAD GASSER – LOOKING BACK AT A TEXTBOOK CASE OF MASS HYSTERIA

Protean nature of mass sociogenic illness – British Journal of Psychiatry

Mass Hysteria Can Strike Anywhere Anytime – Psychology Today

117 of Ill Recruits Returned to Base – LA Times

Examining 1962’s ‘laughter epidemic’ – tribunedigital-chicagotribune

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