A heart attack is one of the major problems that hit numerous people each year. It occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked due to some reasons. The blockage is most often a buildup by the deposition of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries. However, this heart attack can also occur due to some psychological stress or extreme fear.


The term is derived from a novel featuring Sherlock Holmes, named The Hound of the Baskervilles in which a dog chases Sir Charles Baskerville who was a sufferer of chronic heart disease. According to legend in the novel the dog cursed his family and Baskerville runs in great fear and dies of a major heart attack with an expression of horror and fear on his face.

The Baskerville effect is named by David Phillips along with his colleagues at the University of California. They reported on a paper that the number of deaths that occurred daily of the Chinese and Japanese Americans from heart attacks between 1973 and 1998 was approximately 7 percent high on the fourth of the month when compared to the average for the other days in that month, while this thing was not observed in the general American population.


This effect came into knowledge when The Hound of the Baskervilles came up which was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In his description there was a person named Charles Baskerville who faced a fatal heart attack as a result of extreme psychological stress. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor as well as a very successful author and this story of him was said to be based on some kind of medical intuitions. His work aroused the question in many people and gave several answers as well that a fatal heart attack and stress are linked in fact. Conan Doyle’s intuition was considered consistent with many other laboratory studies which showed some cardiovascular changes after a person has been through a prolonged state of psychological stress. This lab studies only told and some proved, that some out of numerous cases in heart attacks are due to physiological stress taken for a long time but were not able to show or prove that in the real world, these fatal heart attacks increase immediately after psychological stress or not.


If we look at some Chinese and Japanese hotels and hospitals then we will find a very weird thing. That is, they do not use the number “four” as a room number in general. The authors also found evidence that the telephone line subscribers could choose the last four digits in their telephone numbers and that the number 4 is avoided among many Chinese and Japanese Americans. They found some evidence like these by searching the California Yellow Pages for the telephone numbers of Chinese and Japanese restaurants. The authors found out that these telephone numbers had significantly very few numbers 4 in it. This was such kind of a pattern that was not observed in restaurants that were listed as American. This proves that this concept was mainly followed by the Chinese and the Japanese. An analysis of the 20,000 computerized death certificates of Asian-Americans in San Diego,

Phillips, during an analysis of some computerized death certificates discovered that there was a 13 percent increase in the death rates on the fourth of the month. The hypothesis was that the increase in these death rates was caused by the stress induced by the superstition surrounding this number four. The Baskerville effect or the Hound of the Baskervilles effect is the discredited idea that there is an increase in the rate of deaths through heart attacks on days considered unlucky because of the psychological stress that is inside the people since so long and this causes on superstitious people. Gary Smith in around 2002, commented that Phillips and colleagues had omitted all data from many heart disease categories and tried to pick up only those that happened on the fourth of the month and called them “chronic heart diseases”.

According to Smith, there was no statistically relevant increase in death rates on day 4 in data from 1969-1988 and 1999-2001 for total deaths from heart diseases as used by Phillips and his colleagues, he also added that there were more deaths on day 5 and day 3 of the month in some of the years. In 2003, Nirmal Panesar and colleagues looked for this Baskerville effect on the Chinese population of Hong Kong. And when they compared the mortality rates from 1995 to 2000, they found no statistically significant differences. Unlike white people, the Chinese people and the Japanese usually associate the number 4 with death.


We thus studied that the cardiac mortality in the Chinese and the Japanese Americans show an increase on the fourth day of the month, even though this date is not consistently associated with the changes in any kind of the physical or medical environment. As we know that in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Charles Baskerville died from a heart attack which was induced by stress this “Baskerville effect” seems to exist for both, in reality as well as in fiction. We can also see that this effect which showed a peak on the fourth of a month was only seen in Chinese and Japanese and not in the white Americans, hence, we can conclude that this is all about our thoughts and our mindset that induces stress and pressure in people. There was a fear among the people for number four and hence the maximum deaths according to the above researchers were due to the stress that grew up as soon as the date arrived closer.

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