The funeral procession for a victim of the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident. Maurice Jarnoux/Paris Match via

What Drove an Entire French Town Mad on a Summer Day in 1951

A boy tried to strangle his mother, the postman claimed he was shrinking, a man smashed furniture to ward off imaginary beasts. What made residents of a small French town lose their minds – and some lives? A journey back to the site of madness

August 16, 1951, started off like any other summer’s day in Pont-Saint-Esprit, a small town in southeastern France. But then, at around 10 A.M., a young farmer staggered into the clinic of the local physician,...

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