Psychological distress may explain ‘ghost’ sighting at Bangladeshi garment factory

Claims by Bangladeshi workers that their garment factory is haunted by a ghost may be a sign of a mass psychogenic illness.

As AFP reports, 3,500 workers stopped work at the plant in Gazipur, north of Dhaka on Tuesday. They smashed furniture as they protested and demanded action to remove the ghost.

"The agitating workers refused to join duty and vandalised the factory after the management did not take any steps to drive out the ghost," Gazipur industrial police inspector Showkat Kabir told AFP.

According to a medical expert, this behaviour may be a sign of psychological distress within the workforce.

The Bangladeshi garment industry is still recovering from the April collapse of a garment factory which killed 1,129 workers. In addition, there have been several recent cases of factory fires and water contamination for the workers to deal with.

"The garment workers are panicked. The memory of the death of so many of their colleagues at Rana Plaza is still fresh," Mahmudur Rahman, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) told AFP.

He suggested the ‘ghost’ could point to a "mass psychogenic illness" or "mass hysteria". What’s more, recent illnesses experienced by workers could have been caused by this condition which affects groups of mentally and physically vulnerable people.

"One worker might have hallucinated on a ghost-like object and as the news spread other workers started to think that they also saw that ghost or (thought) it attacked them," Rahman said.