Bizarre Health: Koro

When discussing those things in this world that are simply bizarre, it is hard to ignore certain emotional and psychological disorders. The pain that individuals suffer when they deal with these health issues is not humorous. However, they can certainly be described as bizarre. One such psychological syndrome goes by many names. It is called Koro, genital retraction syndrome, shrinking penis or simply penis panic. It is an intense fear that involves disappearing genitals. In cases of Koro, this is simply a perception that is thought to be brought on by psychosexual stress.

Partial genital retraction syndrome is the fear that the penis is shrinking or pulling back into the body. In women, it is the same fear regarding the vulva and/or nipples. This is most common in Westerners who are afflicted with the syndrome, which is far less common than it is among Chinese and Southeast Asians. Total koro is primarily experienced in these areas. It is the same as partial genital retraction syndrome coupled with conviction that death will follow the disappearance of the genitals and attempts to halt the retraction. People can seriously injure themselves by trying to insert objects into their flesh that they believe will stop the genitals from shrinking.

It is important to note that individuals with Koro are not actually suffering from shrinking or retraction. Doctors who observe these individuals are agreed that it is occurring in the sufferer's mind. The cause, apart from a cultural propensity toward this belief, is thought to be feelings of sexual inadequacy and/or shame. Therapy to treat the underlying cause may be beneficial in many cases. However, the syndrome can be chronic; something like a general anxiety disorder or it can come in attacks, something like a panic disorder. Some cases may also have an underlying physical cause, though there are only six of these cases reported.

Bizarre Stories: Lal Bihari and the Walking Dead

Lal Bihari Mritak is an Indian man who holds the rather rare distinction of having been dead for 18 years before being legally declared alive again. In 1976, Mr. Bihari was declared dead by the government at the behest of his uncle, though he was still alive. The uncle, like any good villain, was motivated by greed. With just a simple bribe, the uncle was able to have his nephew Lal declared dead so he could then assume ownership of his property. Thankfully, he did not see to it that Lal was actually dead, though that seems to be a common fear among people like Lal Bihari. Yes, there is more than one case of a person being declared dead in India, despite the obvious fact that he or she are still living.

Over the course of the 18 years following Mr. Bihari's untimely legal death, he struggled to overturn the declaration. He ran for public office, held his own funeral, fought for widow's compensation for his wife and repeatedly appealed to local officials. These tactics only served to get him beaten on occasion. However, through this process, he also found others like himself. In order to gain support for himself and others, he formed Mritak Sangh -- an association for the dead. The Mritak stands for "dead," which is why Lal had the word added to his name. He was desperate for his plight to be recognized and his living status to be upheld by the law.

In 1994, Lal Bihari Mritak finally got his wish. Strangely, he did not take his land back from his wayward uncle. Even more surprisingly, Lal is one of very few who have lived again after being wrongfully declared dead. There is real resistance to overturning these decisions by officials. That is likely because the plague of the dead in India is caused by corrupt officials who are willing to take a few dollars to end a person's life on paper.

Bizarre Events: Mumbai Sweet Water

Mahim Creek in Mumbai, India
Courtesy of Nicholas from Wikimedia Commons

On August 18, 2006, a bizarre phenomenon occurred in Mumbai, India. It is known as the Mumbai Sweet Seawater Incident. What was bizarre about it was not really the allegedly sweet seawater as there were a number of logical explanations for comparatively sweet seawater. The really bizarre aspect of the incident was the reaction.

Early on August 18, 2006, reports started to spread that Mahim Creek was delivering sweet water. That very same day, the same phenomenon was reported with ocean water in Gujarat. People flocked to Mahim Creek and the waters of Gujarat to collect this supposedly sweet water in containers. This was not so people could wash their clothes in Willy Wonka water. This was so they could drink it!

Some might think drinking some creek or even ocean water that suddenly turned sweet is not such a big deal. However, Mahim Creek is notoriously polluted. Not only is it inundated with industrial waste but it is also inundated with raw sewage. That is right. Fecal matter, urine and any number of unhealthy chemicals lurk in the water, no matter how sweet it is. In fact, it is known for having an awful stench. Besides, drinking seawater is a bad idea even if it is clean.

Luckily, there was not widespread cholera or other such waterborne disease epidemics. There is some speculation that the recent monsoon season not only purified the water, insomuch as such water can be purified, but that it also caused the sweet water. It may have also been a case of mass hysteria. Whatever the cause, drinking that water was surely a bizarre reaction. It makes one wonder who drank it first to discover it had turned sweet.