Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy 1.2.4:
Tully, in the fourth of his Tusculans, distinguishes these terrors which arise from the apprehension of some terrible object heard or seen, from other fears, and so doth Patritius lib. 5. Tit. 4. de regis institut. Of all fears they are most pernicious and violent, and so suddenly alter the whole temperature of the body, move the soul and spirits, strike such a deep impression, that the parties can never be recovered, causing more grievous and fiercer melancholy, as Felix Plater, c. 3. de mentis alienat. speaks out of his experience, than any inward cause whatsoever:
and imprints itself so forcibly in the spirits, brain, humours, that if all the mass of blood were let out of the body, it could hardly be extracted. This horrible kind of melancholy (for so he terms it)
had been often brought before him, and troubles and affrights commonly men and women, young and old of all sorts. Hercules de Saxonia calls this kind of melancholy (ab agitatione spirituum) by a peculiar name, it comes from the agitation, motion, contraction, dilatation of spirits, not from any distemperature of humours, and produceth strong effects. This terror is most usually caused, as Plutarch will have,
from some imminent danger, when a terrible object is at hand, heard, seen, or conceived,
truly appearing, or in a dream: and many times the more sudden the accident, it is the more violent.
Artemidorus the grammarian lost his wits by the unexpected sight of a crocodile, Laurentius 7. de melan. The massacre at Lyons, 1572, in the reign of Charles IX., was so terrible and fearful, that many ran mad, some died, great-bellied women were brought to bed before their time, generally all affrighted aghast. Many lose their wits
by the sudden sight of some spectrum or devil, a thing very common in all ages, saith Lavater part 1. cap. 9. as Orestes did at the sight of the Furies, which appeared to him in black (as Pausanias records). The Greeks call them μορμολύχεια, which so terrify their souls, or if they be but affrighted by some counterfeit devils in jest,
as children in the dark conceive hobgoblins, and are so afraid,
they are the worse for it all their lives. Some by sudden fires, earthquakes, inundations, or any such dismal objects: Themiscon the physician fell into a hydrophobia, by seeing one sick of that disease: (Dioscorides l. 6. c. 33.) or by the sight of a monster, a carcase, they are disquieted many months following, and cannot endure the room where a corpse hath been, for a world would not be alone with a dead man, or lie in that bed many years after in which a man hath died.
At Basil many little children in the springtime went to gather flowers in a meadow at the town’s end, where a malefactor hung in gibbets; all gazing at it, one by chance flung a stone, and made it stir, by which accident, the children affrighted ran away; one slower than the rest, looking back, and seeing the stirred carcase wag towards her, cried out it came after, and was so terribly affrighted, that for many days she could not rest, eat, or sleep, she could not be pacified, but melancholy, died. In the same town another child, beyond the Rhine, saw a grave opened, and upon the sight of a carcase, was so troubled in mind that she could not be comforted, but a little after departed, and was buried by it. Platerus observat. l. 1, a gentlewoman of the same city saw a fat hog cut up, when the entrails were opened, and a noisome savour offended her nose, she much misliked, and would not longer abide: a physician in presence, told her, as that hog, so was she, full of filthy excrements, and aggravated the matter by some other loathsome instances, insomuch, this nice gentlewoman apprehended it so deeply, that she fell forthwith a-vomiting, was so mightily distempered in mind and body, that with all his art and persuasions, for some months after, he could not restore her to herself again, she could not forget it, or remove the object out of her sight, Idem.
Many cannot endure to see a wound opened, but they are offended: a man executed, or labour of any fearful disease, as possession, apoplexies, one bewitched; or if they read by chance of some terrible thing, the symptoms alone of such a disease, or that which they dislike, they are instantly troubled in mind, aghast, ready to apply it to themselves, they are as much disquieted as if they had seen it, or were so affected themselves. Hecatas sibi videntur somniare, they dream and continually think of it.