Periods of great unrest are often characterized by the spread of wild rumors. In the excitement real dangers are magnified and completely new ones conjured up out of thin air. People, in their unbearable thirst for information, seem willing—or better, compelled—to believe almost anything they hear. Most often these conditions lead to amorphous feelings of dread and unease. But occasionally sensibilities become strained to the breaking point, and apprehension gives way to outright panic. Fear, no longer a disembodied and shapeless cloud, now finds a receptacle. The panic begins with an avalanche of terrible rumors, all testifying to the immediacy of a specific danger. Fear travels in well-defined currents, engulfing whole communities and regions in its path.