The Flogsta Scream: It’s only weird if you’re not doing it.

By Braden Bjella and Gayil Nalls

April 7, 2017

It is not uncommon to hear cries at night from different species of the animal kingdom. It could be the barks of foxes, the howl of coyotes, the honking of geese flying across the moonlight. In the city, nocturnal calls can take on a darker character; hearing the cry of a human in the middle of the night is generally a cause for concern. However, in one Scandinavian city, there might be an exception. 

Located in western Sweden, the city of Flogsta is inhabited primarily by students attending Uppsala University. As a result, the majority of residents follow a similar schedule; the people of Flogsta are not only citizens, but peers.

As anyone who has been to university can attest to, the stress of the seemingly endless exams, papers, and research can seem at times insurmountable. Rather than repressing this anxiety or blowing it off through violence, Flogsta residents engage in a behavior dubbed Flogstavrålet, or the “Flogsta Scream.” Every night at 10 P.M., students and frustrated persons howl from windows and rooftops throughout the city, engaging in an act of sonic catharsis possibly unmatched anywhere in the world.

No one is sure how the Flogsta scream began. The University’s website says the behavior dates back to the 1970’s, but some claim the practice began during a particularly difficult exam season in the 1980’s. 

Regardless of the practice’s origins, the scream is a beautiful display of group emotion. It serves as a bonding tool for students, reminding them that no matter how difficult their struggle may seem, they are not going through it alone. 

Shared catharsis is thought to be cleansing, with a discernable healing effect. The benefits of venting suppressed emotions through a primal scream both serial and en masse seem to have become a communal adaption in Flogsta. 

This is actually backed up by research. In the new field of scream science, it has been found that screaming not only serves to convey danger, but also induces fear in the listener, calling on their brain, in particular, their amygdala, to respond to their environment with heightened awareness. By inducing this reaction, the students of Flogsta warn others of their heightened stress and emotional turmoil, and hearing the response call from their fellow students reminds them that the experience is shared.

There are numerous videos of the students performing the Flogsta scream across the internet, reacting to exams, bad weather, and even the election of Donald Trump. This playful and emotional practice has spread to other university towns in Sweden and beyond. 

Braden Bjella is a writer, musician, and recent NYU Graduate. You can follow his work here.