BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Urdu Hindi Pashto Bengali Tamil Nepali Sinhala
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: South Asia  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Indian 'face scratcher' sparks hysteria
Armed policemen in India
Police had to open fire on a panic-stricken mob

In parts of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, an unknown creature has been terrorising people.

Local people are calling the mysterious object of their fear and loathing "muhnochwa" or "face scratcher".


The creature suddenly erupts in the dark and brutally scratches the faces of its victims, leaving them bleeding and traumatised

Victims of attack
They claim that the so called "face scratcher", which has been causing mass hysteria, has attacked about 100 people.

On Monday, the police opened fire on a crowd which attacked a police station.

The mob was angry at not being adequately protected by the police from what they described as a mysterious flying object which attacks people at night by scratching their faces.

Spreading panic

The police opened fire to disperse the crowd. One man died and several were injured in the firing.

People who say they have been attacked by the "face scratcher" make it sound like something out of a B-Grade horror movie.

They say the creature suddenly erupts in the dark and brutally scratches the faces of its victims, leaving them bleeding and traumatised.

The alien object first spread panic among the villagers in the eastern districts of Uttar Pradesh.

It is now terrorising people near the state capital, Lucknow, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's own constituency.

Many theories

A journalist in Lucknow says that people are staying awake through the night, taking turn to guard their homes, and their faces, against this monster that some say comes out of space.


A couple of years ago, the papers were full of stories of a mysterious monkey man who would attack people viciously and then disappear

Many people have removed their TV antennas fearing that these might attract the "face scratcher".

All kinds of theories are being bandied about - from extra-terrestrial beings to a sinister force brought into being by India's enemies.

The state government in Uttar Pradesh is harnessing the latest technology to explore the phenomenon.

'Monkey-man' hysteria

The hysteria seems to be infecting the police now.

One policeman said he had come across a large insect which he suspected had been wickedly introduced into India by its enemies, a view which some of his superiors seem to share.

They have sent the offending insect to a laboratory for examination. This is not the first time that mass paranoia about apparently imaginary phenomena has broken out in India.

A couple of years ago, the papers were full of stories of a mysterious "monkey man" who would attack people viciously and then disappear, never to be sighted by the police.

Several people died on the outskirts of Delhi when they jumped off high buildings thinking that the "monkey man" was after them.

The story eventually faded away.

Mysterious phenomena

A more benign version of make-believe phenomena was the mysterious case of statues of the Hindu God Ganesh drinking milk.

People from all kinds of backgrounds swore that if they put a saucer of milk in front of Ganesh the idol would lap it up.

Fascinated by these stories, Indians flocked to temples to see it for themselves or stayed at home trying out their own experiments.

This phenomenon too faded within a few days and like the "monkey man", nothing more of it has been heard since.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Hindustan Times editor Sunita Aron
"I personally think it is a case of mass hysteria"
See also:

18 May 01 | South Asia
17 May 01 | South Asia
15 May 01 | South Asia
09 Jan 01 | South Asia
14 Apr 00 | South Asia
07 Aug 02 | South Asia
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes