In Wetumpka, AL

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Copyright 2003 Edit Thursday December 20, 2014

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Jumping Frenchmen of Maine

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Nineteenth century neurologist George Miller Beard learned of bizarre behavior of French Canadian lumberjacks near Mooselake, Maine and investigated.  His publication of that investigation eventually circulated around the world.

He did not resolve the cause.   It appeared predominately in French Canadian lumberjacks with a concentration in four families . A study by M.H. St Hilaire concluded that the behavior could be caused by operant conditioning due to "special circumstances" in the lumber camps and bunkhouses.

Upon startle victims will copy  any action demonstrated to them or perform any command given to them even if it harms themselves or someone else They have tics, hyper startle sensitivity, repeat their last words, and repeat other's words spoken to them..That behavior is usually seen in catatonic schizophrenia. 


One of the proposed causes was that it was a form of Tourette's.

None of those who have investigated the phenomenon has been aware of Subliminal Distraction.

Since that 1880's incident startle matching behaviors have been found as Culture Bound Syndromes around the world.


Startle matching behaviors appear as Latah in Malaysia.  It first appeared in older men but now in more modern times has switched to older women.   In earlier periods entire villages lived in longhouses. Men  would have worked and stayed in those circumstances. Today men leave villages for employment and only women remain.  That complete shift of the group effected could not have happened if Latah was an inherited neurological problem. 

There is a similarity in the living arrangements for lumberjacks and those longhouses in Malaysia.    

Trees were felled in cold  weather, dragged then stacked on the banks of frozen rivers to await the spring thaw.  They were released together so that a small number of men could control huge rafts of floating trees directed down stream to be converted into lumber. Short daylight hours, long dark cold nights kept lumberjacks inside for longer than in summer months.   Repairing or sharpening tools for the next day's work would have been done inside the warm lighted bunkhouse. In fact, foot powered grinding stones in water baths would have stood near the fire or stove. If sharpening were attempted with the stone outside the water bath to keep the blade edge cool and wash away metal particles would freeze. 

The concentration to carefully create a cutting edge on tools, and touch up each tooth on a huge saw,  required mental investment.   That would create the basic circumstance for Subliminal Distraction. Other bunkhouse occupants would supply the movement in peripheral vision for those who worked with their peripheral vision sweeping the room. 

The choice of where to work determined if Subliminal Distraction happened.

With longhouses in tropical climates there were large porches for village residents of the longhouse to perform tasks. Without glass windows inclement weather work areas inside must be near doors. That meant that someone sitting just inside a door working in a pool of light would constantly detect movement of others moving in and out of the door.

There were few doors so  traffic between family living areas all happened within the longhouse. But lower levels of light would limit Subliminal Distraction inside the longhouse.

In other locations where startle matching behaviors have appeared the local living arrangements were too-small single-rooms.  The arrangement conserved fuel required to heat the living space.

Today there have been cases of startle matching happening to factory workers in the United States


This generally argues that the many disorders are related with some common element but experts cannot find that commonality. It has been noted that panic attacks happen with the different disorders of the DSM too frequently to be random chance.      Panic attacks are one of the first outcomes of Subliminal Distraction.




Seizures and Tourette's like behaviors appear from time to time where conditions for Subliminal Distraction are created such as Mahjong epilepsy in Hong Kong and as an unresolved episode at LRroy High School, in LeRoy, New York. The episodes usually spontaneously remit thus  will seem to respond to almost any treatment modality.