Grease Devil panic was mass hysteria

Similarly the “oily man” phenomena of Malaysia made people guarded and nervous.
A new study by doctors who examined supposed victims of Grease Devils report that it really was mass hysteria, not a real creature.
The “Grease Yaka” phenomenon which created quite a furore last year was a vast hoax according to a scientific paper presented yesterday at the Academic Sessions of the College of Forensic Pathologists of Sri Lanka held at the Auditorium of the Sri Lanka Medical Association.
Doctors Tikiri Gunathilake and Vidanapathirana said in a paper that the “victims” examined bore injuries “not compatible with their stories” with such injuries being either self-inflicted or caused by a “friendly hand.”
The two doctors had examined six so called victims of the grease devils.

Tip: The Anomalist

Hang on… A scientific paper that looks at six victims? Is THAT going to overcome superstition? No. The Grease Devil phenomena is certainly more complicated than one paper would suggest. Politics and cultural aspects played a role that resulted in a serious outbreak that included violence. People died.

In the U.S. we have our own outbreaks of mass psychogenic illnesses. The latest one is in upstate New York.
Communities are prone to experience these things, the social aspects of being human overcome us and we respond to a stimulus that is not physical.