Mad Gasser of Mattoon

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon is said to have been a mysterious being, described as looking human, who supposedly gassed residents in the town of Mattoon, Illinois, in late August and early September 1944. The first Mad Gasser attacks supposedly took place on August 31, when four people living in two different houses awoke in the night feeling so ill that they were unable to get out of bed. The next night, another person awoke with an odd paralysis and smelled an odd, sweet odor in her bedroom; around the same time, someone saw a mysterious stranger outside her bedroom window. After these stories were reported in the local newspaper, several other attacks were reported on subsequent nights, all of them involving a mysterious stranger, sudden paralysis, and an odd, sweetsmelling gas. A doctor called to the scene of one of these incidents smelled the gas, too, adding credibility to the reports. Police who investigated could find no evidence of gassing or of the mysterious stranger, however. Nonetheless, panicked residents began patrolling their streets each night. One of them claimed to see a woman dressed in men’s clothing lurking under a bedroom window, apparently spraying gas near the glass. The next morning a woman’s footprints were found in the same spot. Interestingly, similar stories had been reported in the winter of 1933 through 1934 in Botetourt County, Virginia. These stories featured a gasser, a sweet odor, a strange paralysis, a mysterious stranger, panicked residents, and even a woman’s footprints under a bedroom window. In both cases, public officials eventually decided that mass hysteria was the source of the stories rather than any real gasser. However, the Virginia stories were never reported in Illinois, leading some to wonder how hysteria in one town could cause mass sightings of the mysterious Mad Gasser in another. Those who believe these incidents were real attacks have suggested that one individual was responsible for the gassings— and that the Mad Gasser was not a human but an extraterrestrial. Some of these believers say they do not know why an extraterrestrial would attack humans in this way, but others suggest that the extraterrestrial was performing some kind of experiment on the humans. (Supporters of this theory also believe in alien abductions, whereby aliens are said to hold humans captive in order to perform experiments on them.) Skeptics, on the other hand, accept the official explanation: that the supposed gassings are examples of mass hysteria. This hysteria, they argue, caused fearful people to imagine that they smelled, felt, or saw things that were not really there.

SEE ALSO:

  • Alien Abduction Experiences

SOURCE:

The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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