It now seems fairly likely that we will never officially get to the bottom of what caused the mystery outbreak of headaches, dizziness and nausea among people who visited a pet shop in Hoogeveen.

Judging by today’s news reports, the authorities have all but given up. Rather strange considering so many people were affected and the story doing the rounds is that the cause was an explosive and toxic chemical.
Today’s Volkskrant carries anonymous chit-chat from locals who say the mystery chemical was a revenge attack carried out on the pet shop by enemies of the owners. After all, their other pet shop burned down in a fire a few months ago.
A deliberate chemical attack? You would think the men in protective clothing would manage to find just a teeny trace of this toxic substance somewhere. Apparently not. Not in the shop, not on the victims – nowhere.
So either these scientists are not good at their jobs or, perhaps, there never was any contaminant in the first place.
It would not be the first time that hundreds of people have reported headaches, nausea and dizziness with no known cause. They are common symptoms of mass hysteria or mass delusion – a socio-psychological phenomenon which occurs when something, often a strange smell, triggers people into believing they are suffering from a similar ailment.
Mass hysteria’s existence is well recognised by psychologists. And it is a lot more likely explanation for what happened in Hoogeveen than a mysterious chemical which magically disappears without trace.

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