“I had come all the way from America for this and did not know how many chances I would get to speak to someone whose penis had actually been stolen,” writes journalist Frank Bures in his recent Harper’s article, “A Mind Dismembered: In Search Of The Magical Penis Thieves.”
Bures traveled to Lagos to research the phenomenon — a phenomenon not of actual genitally mutilated men, but instead men who believe that their penises have been stolen or shrunken.
And as bizarre — or even comical — as the notion might sound, the belief has deep roots, going back as far as 300 B.C, and has had recurrent outbreaks in China, India and elsewhere, often with deadly results.
In April, lynch mobs in Congo pursued supposed sorcerers who were accused of stealing and/or shrinking mens’ penises. Police detained the would-be spell casters for their own protection. In 2001, at least 12 suspected penis thieves were not so lucky — they were lynched by an angry mob.