A crime wave is spreading through rural areas in parts of central Africa. The stolen property? Penises.

Anthropologist Louisa Lombard writes that the phenomenon of penis-snatching has left the gritty confines of the city and begun to show up in villages in the Central African Republic:

A traveler passing through town on a Sudanese merchant truck had, with a simple handshake, removed two men's penises.

As best I could reconstruct from witness accounts, the stranger had stopped to purchase a cup of tea at the market. After handing over his money, he clasped the vendor's hand. The tea seller felt an electric tingling course through his body and immediately sensed that his penis had shrunk to a size smaller than that of a baby's.

Authorities later apprehended the penis thief and executed him.

Penis-snatching is a common fear the world over, with reports from Europe in the 16th century and the famous outbreak of "koro" in Singapore in 1967, when men reported en masse that their penises had retracted into their bodies.

Anthropologists have attributed the phenomenon to "an increasingly mystifying and capricious global economy" which has give rise to beliefs in "occult economies."

As Lombard points out however, penis-snatching is no weirder a response to global capitalism than "Americans who starve themselves near to death because their reflection in the mirror convinces them they are fat."

[Pacific Standard, Image: Shutterstock]