The contagious mass psychosis that occurred exactly one century ago today

By Tom Quiner

I was sitting on my patio one summer night sipping on a glass of wine and enjoying the company of some good friends when the conversation took a mysterious turn.

Carol told of something extraordinary she witnessed years ago at Veterans Auditorium here in Des Moines, Iowa. She was the reluctant attendee of something called a “Marian Conference.” For my non-Catholic readers, a Marian Conference is devoted to the study and veneration of Mary, the Mother of Christ.

Carol was roped into attending by an aunt. She admitted she was a little tentative attending an event that seemed a little “out there” to her.

These photos were taken by a visitor on September 27, 2005 atop Holy Family Hill on the grounds of Sylvan Springs in Rome City, IN. This event took place shortly after a small group of people making an Our Lady of America pilgrimage prayed The Divine Mercy Chaplet.

These photos were taken by a visitor on September 27, 2005 atop Holy Family Hill on the grounds of Sylvan Springs in Rome City, IN. This event took place shortly after a small group of people making an Our Lady of America pilgrimage prayed The Divine Mercy Chaplet.

During a break, she stood outside with a group of people when it happened. She saw the sun begin to move erratically in the sky.

Does this sound a little crazy to you? Well, it did to me, which is why Carol is reluctant to talk about it. And yet other people saw it, too. I know, because when Carol told her story, our friend Jeane exclaimed: “You were there, too? My parents were there and saw the same thing.”


This phenomenon of the dancing sun is known as the “miracle of the sun.” It has been witnessed by thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people over the past century.

It is always associated with the Blessed Mother.

What would modern day scientist, Stephen Hawking, have to say about such nonsense? Something like this:

“The universe is governed by scientific laws. These laws must hold without exception.”

So what are we to make of this miracle of the sun?

The phenomenon was first observed on October 13th, 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. (Read my earlier post on the subject, “May 13th, 5 PM”). According to published reports, somewhere from 30,000 to 100,00 were present to witness this event.

That’s a lot of witnesses!

So what happened? The sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky. It cast multi-colored lights across the ground and the people watching the phenomenon. It danced and zigzagged in defiance of Mr. Hawkin’s scientific laws. It even careened toward earth leading some frightened observers to think it was the end of the world.

The anti-clericical Portuguse newspaper, O Seculo, reported on the event as follows:

“Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws — the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.”

Here’s what a doctor saw, Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for another newspaper, Ordem:

“The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.”

And then another reporter saw the following as published in O Dia, a newspaper in Lisbon:

“…The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds… The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands… people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.”

The miracle of the sun phenomenon has been witnessed on other occasions, each associated with a “Marian” site including in

A photostatic copy of a page from Ilustração Portugueza, October 29, 1917, showing the crowd looking at the Miracle of the Sun during the Fátima apparitions.

A publication of the day, Ilustração Portugueza, October 29, 1917, shows the crowd looking at the Miracle of the Sun during the Fátima apparitions.

Lubbock, Texas in 1989 and Denver, Colorado in 1992 to name a few.

Interestingly, not all present at these events witnessed the phenomenon.

Interestingly, there were people present who witnessed the event who were not the least bit religious. By the same token, some in attendance who were very religious did not see anything unusual.

We’re left with the following possibilities:

1. The tens of thousands of people who witnessed the event suffered from a mass psychosis, sharing the same delusion at the same time. Even more, this mass psychosis proved to be contagious as others contracted the same delusion over the years, including my friend, Carol (she seems normal to me otherwise!), and the parents of my friend, Jeane.

2. Perhaps that’s what happens to folks who stare at the sun too long. In other words, maybe it’s their retinas playing tricks on them. (What’s wrong with this hypothesis is that it rained in Fatima immediately preceding the event, and people’s clothes were totally dried within minutes. Heat goes beyond a phenomenon of the retina.)

3. People lied about the story and made it up. But this doesn’t make much sense since so many detractors of the Church witnessed the same phenomenon. We’re talking a ton of witnesses, too many for a lie to be believed.

4. A miraculous event took place.

This leads me back to Mr. Hawkings. The miracle of the sun seems to have been an event outside the system of natural causes. I agree that the laws of nature must hold without exception … unless the Designer of natural causes, God, wishes to “bend the rules.”

As the philosopher, Peter Kreeft, puts it:

“Now the Creator of the universe has authority over all creation. It is truly odd to call his suspending this or that regularly observed sequence a ‘violation,’ as if it were something he should feel guilty or embarrassed about. A miracle violates nothing. When one happens, God has (mercifully) modified the scheduled of the day.”

Scientists rightly revere the laws of nature. They lend a certain order to our lives. But for Mr. Hawking to even discount the possibility that a Designer exists who created these laws is, well, just plain illogical.

In the meantime, let us ponder the miracle of the sun as one of those wonderful modifications in the schedule of our day.

If you see the sun dancing tomorrow, it might not be all bad!


  1. Tom Maly on October 14, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Thank you for writing on Fátima and Marian apparitions

    • quinersdiner on October 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      It’s an amazing story, isn’t it!