‘Monkey-man’ panic ebbs in India’s capital
NEW DELHI, India (AP) – The mass hysteria over reports of a ”monkey man” that attacks people sleeping on roofs in the sweltering heat has disappeared as mysteriously as it came.
Police blamed the panic for three deaths this month – one victim leaped screaming from a roof; the others were trampled in a stampede by terrified people fleeing their houses.
Last week, New Delhi police received more than 100 reports nightly about a swiftly moving 4-foot hairy creature who could jump 20 feet. More than 125 people showed police scratch marks, blaming them on the monkey man.
By the weekend, the calls dropped sharply, and on Tuesday there was only one call.
”The panic is almost over now,” Suresh Roy, New Delhi’s joint commissioner of police, told The Associated Press.
At the fear’s height, young men marched through their neighborhoods, beating up people suspected of being the elusive creature.
Asked whether he thought the creature existed at all, or was the result of pranksters, Roy said: ”The final word has not been said yet.”
Some witnesses said the ”monkey man” wore helmet or a mask, and some said it could disappear when it pressed its chest.
Roads in several parts of New Delhi and its adjoining towns, Noida and Ghaziabad, were deserted during the panic.
Police announced a reward of the equivalent of $108 for anyone who could capture the creature on film, and sent 1,000 additional men to patrol the streets.
Newspapers ran front-page stories and published computer-generated images based on eyewitness accounts.
Most victims were poor, uneducated people vulnerable to superstition, their fears magnified by intense heat and rampant power cuts at night, psychologists said.
An association of doctors ridiculed the police Tuesday for fueling people’s fear by offering a reward.
”There is no monkey man. If at all it exists, it does so only in your mind,” the Delhi Medical Association said.
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