Following the 1973 release of The Exorcist, six people who saw it had to be admitted to a Chicago hospital "straight from the theater." Psychiatrist James Bozzuto examined four of them and concluded they were suffering from "cinematic neurosis" — a term he coined. Basically, this was neurosis caused by watching a movie. Symptoms of this condition included "anxiety, helplessness, sleeplessness and repetitive post-traumatic dreams."
San Francisco Examiner - Dec 14, 1976
The 1975 release of Jaws also caused an outbreak of cinematic neurosis. Here's a description of a case from a December 1975 Knight News Wire article:
Three months ago, a 17-year-old girl from a small town in western Kansas was admitted to Wichita's Wesley Medical Center with a strange malady. Her neck was stiff, her hands trembled, and she was periodically seized by fits of terror. She would jerk her arms spasmodically and scream, "Sharks! Sharks!"
During these attacks, which always occurred at night, she appeared to be unaware of the world around her, and she didn't respond when people spoke to her.
Over the next three days, while doctors ruled out the possibility that she had meningitis or some other neurological problem, she had five of these attacks.
In between these episodes of terror, she talked with neurologist Arnold Barnett about her problem.
It seems that three days before admission, she had seen the motion picture "Jaws," movie history's biggest money-maker, which chronicles the bloody activities of a shark that terrorizes swimmers off the shores of Long Island.
Later that evening, after discussing the film with her friends, she became frightened and upset. She had her first attack the next day.
Barnett treated the girl with sedatives and reassuring conversation. He emphasized the unlikelihood of a shark attack in western Kansas.
Oct 5, 1977: Maria Rubio was preparing a tortilla in a skillet in her home in Lake Arthur, New Mexico. When she looked down, she realized that a burn mark on the tortilla resembled the face of Jesus.
The Rubio family created a small shrine where they displayed the "Jesus tortilla". Over the years, tens of thousands of people came to see it. Many of the pilgrims believed that the tortilla had the power to heal.
According to Roadside America: "In late 2005, Mrs. Rubio's granddaughter took the Miracle Tortilla into school for Show and Tell, and it was dropped and broken! The shed shrine has been closed and the remains retired to a drawer in the Rubio's home."
Offered for sale at the height of the Farrah Fawcett mania in the late 1970s — an "authentic deed to a small piece of land that was Farrah Fawcett's early childhood home in Corpus Christi." Only $4.95 each!
The ad doesn't say, but the amount of land a purchaser received a deed to was exactly one square centimeter.
The entrepreneur behind the scheme was Corpus Christi realtor Sam Allen who dreamed up the idea when he learned that a house Farrah had lived in as a child was up for sale.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Mar 5, 1978
So what was the address of the house? I'm not sure, because Farrah lived in four different houses in Corpus Christi, and Allen didn't reveal which house it was, saying that he didn't want treasure hunters damaging it. Two of those houses have sold in the past ten years.
I don't know enough about real estate law to know how, or if, his sale of all these micro-deeds would have affected if the house could ever be sold again. Could the house be sitting empty to this day because random people still own various square-centimeter pieces of it? I'm guessing not. Any claim to ownership must have lapsed if they didn't pay property taxes.
1978: The final act of a British play titled The Last Temptation involved a goldfish bowl, with a live goldfish inside, being thrown across the stage, causing the fish to tumble onto the ground, where it died. Outraged animal lovers sued, prompting a two-year legal battle in which the courts deliberated on whether it was possible to be cruel to goldfish. Or rather, should goldfish enjoy the protections given to other animals such as cats and dogs?
The first court ruled that goldfish enjoyed no such protections, but in 1980 the High Court overturned this decision, ruling that it is, indeed, possible to be cruel to goldfish, and that the law should not allow such behavior.
I'm not sure if there's any equivalent American law pertaining to goldfish. But I imagine that if there was then surely boiling lobsters alive would also be illegal.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.