The Mad Gasser of Mattoon: Mystery or Mass Hysteria?

By Sarah Norman | January 30, 2024

The Quiet Town of Mattoon

In the 1940s, the quiet town of Mattoon, Illinois, became the center of a bizarre and unsettling wave of illnesses. Victims reported smelling a foul odor and subsequently falling to the ground, paralyzed. Dubbed the "Mad Gasser of Mattoon," this mysterious figure sent shockwaves through the community, leaving residents in fear and confusion. But was there truly a Mad Gasser, or did mass hysteria grip the town? Let's dig into the strange events of Mattoon in the 1940s, including the theories, investigations, and enduring mysteries surrounding this truly weird case.

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As World War II raged across the globe in 1944, Mattoon, Illinois, appeared tranquil and far removed from the conflict. However, a series of inexplicable events would soon disrupt the peace of this Midwestern town.

The First Victim: Aline Kearney

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The Dispatch

It all began on a seemingly ordinary night when Aline Kearney put her children to bed while her husband was away working as a taxi driver. Kearney's sister and nephew stayed over that night, but little did they know that their lives were about to take a chilling turn.

Kearney initially detected a sickeningly sweet odor in her bedroom, which she attributed to the nearby flowers. However, the smell soon became overwhelming, and she began to experience paralysis in her legs and lower body. In her distress, Kearney called for her sister, who rushed to her aid and opened a window, dispelling the mysterious fumes.