Human Interest


Londoners Mistake Thai Dish for Terror Weapon

October 09, 2007 01:37 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Reports of “noxious” fumes close down a district in London, England, but investigators trace the suspect smell to an innocuous restaurant kitchen; the line between caution and hysteria can be a thin one. 

30-Second Summary

Oct. 3—Police closed roads and evacuated homes after several members of the public reported a suspicious, unpleasant odor in Soho, Central London.

First responders, dressed in protective suits and breathing apparatus, arrived on the scene to investigate.

A Turkish journalist working locally, interviewed by the BBC, said, “I was sitting in the office when me and my chief start coughing and I said this was something really dodgy.”

The terrorism squad forced entry into the kitchen of a Thai restaurant, where they traced the smell to a pungent 9lb pot of chilies.

The restaurant was cooking nam prik pao, a highly spiced dish made with burnt chili peppers.

The BBC online coverage of the story includes the recipe for anyone tempted to try it.

Although the incident ended in levity, it had its serious side. From the Salem witch trials of 1692 to a guerrilla ad campaign that alarmed Boston this year, it is apparent how mass hysteria might be provoked amid a nervous population.

Headline Links: Chili dish causes major evacuation

History: Scares and mass hysteria

The Peruvian meteorite

September 2007—Fear spread through a Peruvian town of Carancas following a rumor that a meteorite had brought disease to the community. The object reputedly left a crater 20 feet deep and almost 100 feet wide, from which, said witnesses, noxious gases were released. Later locals reported vomiting and nausea.
Bogus Boston terror alert

Police and terrorist squads closed central Boston in Jan. 2007 when a marketing gimmick designed to promote a cartoon set off a terrorist alert. First responders rushed to disarm “light boxes” that flashed images of a character from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”
The 1938 Martian 'War'

Oct. 30, 1938, the night before Halloween, thousands of residents in New York and New Jersey became convinced aliens were invading the Earth. They had mistaken a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel “War of the Worlds,” performed by Orson Welles’s theater group, for a genuine news report.
The Salem Witch Trials

In 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, a young woman’s mysterious illness set off a chain of events that led to accusations of witchcraft in the local community and the hanging of 19 men and women. One man in his 80s was crushed to death by heavy stones for refusing to submit to trial on charges of witchcraft. Many historians now think Betty Parris’s condition might be explained by “some combination of stress, asthma, guilt, boredom, child abuse, epilepsy, and delusional psychosis.”
'Mass Delusions and Hysterias: Highlights from the Past Millennium'

Reference Material: 'The Baloney Detection Kit'


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