Hysteria High: How Demons Destroyed a Florida School
October 29, 2019 4:18 PM   Subscribe

A riot had broken out at the Miami Aerospace Academy, a private military school in Little Havana, where screaming students were said to be “possessed by spirits.” This was no trick-or-treat prank. One teenager was unconscious; others injured. Kids had smashed windows and ripped doors from their hinges. Police and firefighters who raced to the scene found hundreds of hysterical high schoolers fleeing the building as if it were ablaze. The Devil, it seemed, was to blame.
posted by COD (42 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Did we learn nothing from The Devils of Loudun?
posted by Chrysostom at 4:49 PM on October 29 [5 favorites]


My spouse is from Miami. I keep reading him quotes and he just keeps shaking his head and saying, "Miami's a real weird place."
posted by hydropsyche at 4:52 PM on October 29 [15 favorites]


That was like reading a fever dream in print.
posted by frumiousb at 5:12 PM on October 29 [7 favorites]


"Miami's a real weird place."

And from the stories my parents have told me, even weirder in the 60s-70s. Like this story mentions, in many ways a libertarian free-for-all with few rules or government oversight.
posted by Pfardentrott at 5:14 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


Was just visiting Miami and my impression is that the place is absolutely nuts. Everything just exudes crime (money laundering, drugs, weapons, etc.). I met an elderly woman at a bus stop and commented that I liked the casual multi-ethnicity of the place and how people seemed to get along. She corrected me, "Oh no, they all hate each other." A Lyft driver blew through three red lights, drove twice the speed limit and tried to sell us coke. But my impression was that this was all just... normal.

Of course first impressions can be wrong and all that. For instance either I or the bus-stop woman was wrong, but I defer to her experience.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:30 PM on October 29 [6 favorites]


Born in a castle in Budapest in 1912, Count Szechenyi was reportedly fifth in line to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

Was not expecting that.
posted by clew at 5:38 PM on October 29 [12 favorites]


Lived for 5 years in South Beach in the mid '90s. Nuts.
posted by SoberHighland at 5:39 PM on October 29


Some guys read "Florida Man" stories and say, "Thank God I don't live in Florida."

Others think to themselves, "Oh man, that's the life I could be living."
posted by at by at 5:52 PM on October 29 [21 favorites]


Wolf said he recognized the student, but said he had transformed into “pure evil.” The boy’s eyes had “turned red, bloodshot, no pupils,” he said. He growled like a rabid dog.
“Leave me alone!” he barked at Wolf.


This guy is having way too much fun with this story.
posted by benzenedream at 6:08 PM on October 29 [7 favorites]


Hail Satan!
posted by hilberseimer at 6:08 PM on October 29 [7 favorites]


Shoot, I wonder if this is why even the public schools I attended were so paranoid about Tarot cards and Ouija boards and stuff.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:10 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


This story was fucking wild. I lived in Miami for a couple years as a kid, in the same subdivision that served as the setting for this episode of '80s ritual abuse hysteria, though that happened before I moved there. While I was there, however, my cop neighbor was shot dead by his teenage daughter for abusing her. The year after I left, Hurricane Andrew flattened everything in the neighborhood.

I've only been back to Miami a couple times since then, but as far as I can tell, it's still a world unto itself. Fuckin' A.
posted by heteronym at 6:21 PM on October 29 [6 favorites]




Holy cow, robbyrobs... One of the pics in your link is of the Leslie Hotel. I worked there briefly when I lived in South Beach. It had been repainted a lovely mix of yellows then. Was one of the hotels owned by Chris Blackwell of Island Records fame. I worked at another of his hotels called the Marlin, too.

Sorry for the derail. It was an amazing place to live back then, before all the gigantic condo towers.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:12 PM on October 29 [6 favorites]


None of the demons I asked have ever heard of the place. Must have been Grays.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:17 PM on October 29 [11 favorites]


Jesus Christ! And I thought my high school was fucked up!
posted by Naberius at 7:42 PM on October 29 [3 favorites]


at by: Some guys read "Florida Man" stories and say, "Thank God I don't live in Florida."

Others think to themselves, "Oh man, that's the life I could be living."


As Dave Barry pointed out in his book on the topic, so much of Florida’s population comes from out-of-state, giving way to “don’t laugh so hard at Florida Man, he probably came from your neck of the woods and brought that crazy with him”.
posted by dr_dank at 9:48 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


This story is insane.

Yet, totally believable for Florida Crazy.
posted by Windopaene at 9:51 PM on October 29


Yeah, it was the craziest of my uncles who moved to Florida.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:53 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


My mother moved back there for a while to look after her father; she was still working as a RN. And whoa, was that depressing, because her patients were almost all mean and friendless. Didn't seem like age -- geriatric patients other places hadn't been so uniform; didn't seem like location -- she grew up partly there, people were, uh, normal enough.

We decided that the people who move to retire break most of their social ties, if they aren't self-selecting for not having many in the first place, and get mean because they're lonely.
posted by clew at 10:40 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


It was an amazing place to live back then, before all the gigantic condo towers.

Still is, actually. Worse in a few ways, better in a few ways, but mostly the same as it ever was, just with different faces and fewer gunshot wounds.
posted by wierdo at 10:59 PM on October 29


"MTV Cops"
posted by Chrysostom at 12:15 AM on October 30 [1 favorite]


Of course first impressions can be wrong and all that.

this is not one of those times
posted by poffin boffin at 1:39 AM on October 30 [4 favorites]


As someone who heard these kinds of stories fairly often in the 70’s, back in the day we would have assumed it was PCP, otherwise known as Angel Dust.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:29 AM on October 30 [8 favorites]


Thinkin' 'bout movin' to Florida
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:33 AM on October 30 [6 favorites]


Miami Aerospace Academy

I wonder if it's not just about Florida/Miami but also about the weird theocratic culture associated with the US Air Force (which, from what I've read, was infiltrated by Dominionists in the Bush II era if not earlier). Is there an expectation that young people who go to private schools streaming into the USAF are embarking on a spiritual crusade against Satan or similar?
posted by acb at 2:37 AM on October 30 [3 favorites]


Remember, Florida Man exists in Florida not only because of Florida’s inherent weirdness, but because of its laudable open government records laws.

This story, however, predates those laws, so it’s pure weirdness and hysteria. Thanks, Florida!
posted by ocherdraco at 5:18 AM on October 30 [5 favorites]


It sounds very similar to something that happened in Malaysia recently

---

Robert Bartholomew spent decades researching the phenomenon in Malaysia. He calls the South East Asian country "the mass hysteria capital of the world".

"It is a deeply religious and spiritual country where many people, especially those from rural and conservative states, believe in the powers of traditional folklore and the supernatural."

---

Fear overtook me. I felt a sharp, splitting pain in my back and my head started spinning. I fell to the floor.

Before I knew it, I was looking into the 'otherworld'. Scenes of blood, gore and violence.

The scariest thing I saw was a face of pure evil.


Siti's outburst triggered a powerful chain reaction that ripped through the school. Within minutes students in other classrooms started screaming, their frantic cries ricocheting through the halls.

One girl fainted after claiming to have seen the same "dark figure".

Classroom doors slammed shut at the Ketereh national secondary school (SMK Ketereh) in Kelantan as panicked teachers and students barricaded themselves in. Islamic spiritual healers were called to perform mass prayer sessions.

By the end of the day, 39 people were deemed to have been affected by an outbreak of "mass hysteria".
posted by xdvesper at 5:25 AM on October 30


Doesn't Malaysia have a number of culture-bound forms of psychosis such as amok and latah?
posted by acb at 6:08 AM on October 30


We decided that the people who move to retire break most of their social ties, if they aren't self-selecting for not having many in the first place, and get mean because they're lonely.

Wow, that's judgy. There but for fortune go you or I.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:04 AM on October 30


To the merits of the post: first of all thank you for posting this, I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

There's so much here that led to this explosion: the nascent fascism, the physical and mental abuse, the frustrated political ambitions, the cutting of corners, the kids far away from home in a scary place.

I'm more than a little put off by what look to me like mentions of Santería and voodoo as tantalizing tidbits in a story about what many of the players believe to be satanic possession. They are centuries-old, beloved religious practices that shouldn't be exoticized: voodoo in particular was a psychological survival mechanism for slaves in Haiti and is still a weapon against oppression in the same way. I'm pretty sure that the abuse rampant at the school had a lot more to do with the spectacular manifestation of trauma (or whatever you believe it was) here than any chant or spell did.

But on the whole this is just a hecking fascinating read, and I would bill it as "Cuban antiCommunist at the center of a high school Satan scandal."
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:56 AM on October 30 [12 favorites]


Anyone have a link for this that doesn't require me to sign up to pay a monthly 5.00 USD subscription?

I do believe in paying for content, yes -- I support Mefi, and pay for the Guardian, and the NYT, and the Washington Post and the New Yorker and the Toronto Star -- but I'm suffering from subscription fatigue.
posted by jrochest at 9:32 AM on October 30


I want to believe that humankind is mostly good and we should work to insure it continues to exist. Really I do.
posted by eotvos at 9:52 AM on October 30


In the '80s world I grew up in, satanic panic was a much bigger deal than nuclear war. I was apart of two mass hysteria events, one satanic. So very surreal when you are surrounded by true believers (adults and children) and there is nothing you can do or say to get people to snap out of it and get out of their own fantasy world.

This place sounds like it totally sucked as a school and The General sounds like he was a power hungry nutcase. Either way, it's a pretty good case study in how those who are power hungry can be internally motivated enough to do anything.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:54 AM on October 30 [1 favorite]


jrochest: "Anyone have a link for this that doesn't require me to sign up to pay a monthly 5.00 USD subscription? "

Pastebin

posted by Chrysostom at 10:40 AM on October 30 [2 favorites]


I knew a woman who had gone to high school in Malaysia; she described the uniform requirements being so strict at her school that she, whose hair was unusually light for a native of the area, was required to dye it black. So if rebellion against rigid conformity is a possible contributing factor to these events, I'm not that surprised.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:19 PM on October 30


So many of you conflate Miami with Florida. Miami is not Florida. Miami is Miami and any Floridian with any sense stays far away from Miami. It's another world down there and it's not even a fun visit. It's next level insane and it's no wonder our money-launderer-in-chief calls it his home.

Long-time Miami resident and film maker Billy Corben was interviewed by Joe Rogan recently. I'm not a Rogan fan but it's worth a listen because Corben sums up Miami perfectly in the podcast.
posted by photoslob at 2:01 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]


My family has lived in North Central Florida since 1802, and you are right, Miami is not the same as Florida. But you are wrong, too. Lime City in Miami, Davie, a little cul-de-sac right off of Hwy 1 near downtown -- there's a lot of cracker culture in Miami that is as North Florida (read, Southern) as Nassau County, and made me feel like I was in Valdosta or Waycross. And this Floridian loved loved living in South Beach in the late '90s. Wouldn't trade it for anything.
posted by staggering termagant at 3:02 PM on October 30


Palm Beach is not Miami, thank you very much. Neither is Davie. There's still some cracker in Miami-Dade, though it's shrinking every year as the suburbs continue to sprawl. I should probably go visit one last time before they get pushed out. I doubt they'll last another decade.
posted by wierdo at 3:29 PM on October 30


They'll probably be underwater.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:08 PM on October 30


We decided that the people who move to retire break most of their social ties, if they aren't self-selecting for not having many in the first place, and get mean because they're lonely.
Wow, that's judgy. There but for fortune go you or I.

As an alternate take, the observation didn't seem "judgy" to me, it seemed like an observation. And the explanation didn't seem "judgy" either, it seemed like a hypothesis to explain an otherwise-puzzling observation. As for "there but for fortune go we" I don't think that people that move away to Florida when they retire are abducted by the gray slave trade--they mostly do so by deliberate choice.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:32 PM on October 30 [5 favorites]


Thank you, Chrysostom!

That had to be a combo of 80s satanic panic, fascism (the dude was Batista's 'director of public order'?) and physical/sexual abuse. Everything about that story suggests that the kids in the boarding school dormitories would be ideal targets for rapes and beatings, and the kids who were attracted to the authoritarian atmosphere would be the ideal abusers.

Now, it would be a kid with an assault rifle rather than an ouija board.
posted by jrochest at 8:54 PM on October 30


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