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That Shrinking Feeling: The Oddest “Disease” You’ll Ever Hear Of

There are a few diseases and conditions known to exist that are so strange, they might as well have been conceived in a bizarre medical thriller on the silver screen, rather than even the most deranged mind of any mad scientist in an underground military test lab.

One might be the infamous Morgellon’s Disease, which began appearing around the southern United States a few years ago, described by the Centers for Disease Control as an “unexplained dermopathy” characterized by a range of bizarre symptoms that include feelings of crawling, biting, and stinging, as well as the physical appearance of weird, colored “fibers” growing on or out from under the skin. In short, yuck.

As strange as Morgellon’s sounds, there are claims sometimes made of far stranger afflictions in various parts of the world. Take, for instance, the recent scare that occurred among workers in a work camp near Aarey Colony, Goregaon, who panicked when they suddenly felt their masculinity was diminishing; in a physical sense.

The website Mid-Day reports with more on “Koro,” one of the most unique afflictions to ever strike a man’s… er, manhood:

Several labourers living in a work camp near Aarey Colony in Goregaon have been spending sleepless nights since Saturday after they found that the size of their genitals have been gradually reducing and getting inside the lower abdomen (Koro: see box). The panicked sit in a bathtub and family members pour water on them to cure them.

The condition known as Koro, meaning “turtle’s head,” is fairly common in Malay-Indonesian cultures, but is largely the result of a psychological condition where men begin to obsess over their genitalia. In short, it is generally believed to stem from mental duress arising over other concerns.

Other instances of “folk devilry” related to sexual-panics of this sort have been recorded. Paul Deane, in his book Sex and the Supernatural, notes a number of these instances, including a 1996 occurrence where three men were hanged in Cameroon after being accused of magically stealing the penises of villagers in their locale. Singapore, Nigeria, and Cameroon all had similar circumstances take place as well, generally attributing the thievery of sexual organs to black magic and witchery in the various locales (with the exception to Singapore, which believed tainted pork had been the culprit).

Much like Carl Jung felt that UFOs were the result of people’s Cold War tensions being projected symbolically into the skies (author’s note: in retrospect, this now seems unlikely at best), it seems that much the same could be taking place with panics associated with the theft of sexual organs, particularly among men. Could this sensation/condition result from a general sense of emasculation–mental or otherwise–due to concerns and inward fears that begin to manifest otherwise? It seems likely… almost as likely as the fact that various instances of magical “sexual theft” will no doubt continue, especially as long as people in any given locale can find something to worry about.

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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