Global Health and Environment

“Contagious Hallucinations?”: A Medical Mystery of Eerie Proportions



Written by Arham Ahmed
Edited by Arham Ahmed and Adeeb Chowdhury

It sounds like a notion taken straight from an apocalyptic fiction.

Five individuals fell sick and began daydreaming consistently, taking after contact with one lady who began seeing things in the eerie times of night. The caretaker of a 78 year old lady called the police sometime during the pre-dawn hours in North Bend, Oregon, reporting a case of vandalism. The cops went to check and returned, finding nothing of those sorts only to be called again during early morning. The cops suspected the lady was hallucinating and they brought her to the hospital for a checkup.

Soon the lady was discharged showing no signs of illness. As the day went on, everybody who’d interacted with her began indicating comparable manifestations of mental trouble: Both police officers, the 78-year-old lady, and a hospital employee were hospitalized for comparative side effects of lightheadedness, euphoria, and nausea.

A HazMat inspection team went to the area looking for causes, sterilizing the vehicles, and inspecting the elderly lady’s house etc. A search of the elderly lady’s house was unremarkable aside from a few fentanyl patches which contain opioids to control pain. Reports show that the responding HazMat team had at first suspected the patches to be the reason, however experts later discounted the likelihood. They found nothing. “No source of the contamination has been found,” Sgt. Pat Downing told KVAL. “The vehicles, equipment and uniforms have been checked with no contaminates identified or located on or about them.” Not a blip in the patients’ blood samples, either.

What could bring about five random individuals, who’d spent just a couple of minutes together, to break into a rash of hallucinatory scenes subsequent to coming into contact with each other? Popular Science played investigator with Professor James Giordano, Ph.D. at Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Neurology and Biochemistry on how mental hallucinations function, and how this case could have unfurled.

Professor Giordano stated that drug induced hallucinations tend to be visual in nature, while those that are sound-related are normally psychotic in nature. There can be mixed hallucinations that are both visual and auditory. Others can be tactile where the patient can feel his skin crawling, his shoulders being touched, and more, but visual, acute-onset hallucination symptoms are usually triggered from something outside. The trigger could be mushroom spores, aerosolized psychotogen, hallucinogenic drugs, and — even some drugs used to treat Parkinson’s can have hallucinogenic effects. Even after a thorough search, the hazmat inspection team has found nothing.

There is something known as the “Campfire effect” where someone hears something around the campfire and everyone is anxious. This phenomenon could put all the five patients in the hallucinatory boat, but their job descriptions say otherwise. Each individual’s job description requires them to battle more stressful mental states than someone being anxious about car vandalism.

Professor does acknowledge that stress, dehydration, exhaustion, and more could be prime factors of breakdown. The two officers, and the hospital employee could be having a bad day but the probability of five people having a bad day altogether seems highly unlikely, if not probable.


This is the most improbable reply, however fascinating to consider: People living in nearness for drawn out stretches of time could begin to experience each other’s hallucinations as their own mutual conviction framework. A baby under the care of a sick patient might adopt some of the irregularities. Be that as it may, this hypothesis requires each of the five individuals to be segregated and living respectively or communicating each day for quite a while — something that didn’t happen in this particular case.

Because of the case’s limited details, the hypothesis Professor Giordano has drawn out mainly suspects the contaminant to be the certain cause for the contagious hallucinations. Although in the police research nothing out of ordinary came up, professor suspects that something has been missed during the search. It could have been a little convergence of an exceedingly powerful medication, carried by the patient to the hospital. The drug might have altered their brain chemistry and were influenced by the patient’s patterns to follow the same path. In conclusion, this is one of the many unsolved cases pertaining to our environment.


Works Cited

Bartholomew, Robert. “The Bizarre Outbreak of Hallucinations in Oregon.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 19 Oct. 2016, Accessed 24 July 2017.

MacDonald, Fiona. “A Hospital Ward Has Been Quarantined After 5 People Fall Ill With Mysterious Hallucinations.” ScienceAlert, 18 Oct. 2016, Accessed 24 July 2017.


About the Author

Arham Amani Ahmed
Vice President and Chief Editor of the
Global Environment and Health department

Arham is a student of William Carey Academy, currently in Class 10. Her interests include writing, listening to music, and reading. She is also an avid blogger on Tumblr and an award-winning MUNer.



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