Topic 6: The Dancing Plague

July the 1518 in Strasbourg, France, people literally danced them selves to death; it only lasted for a few months. It has been a huge mystery that scientist are struggling to solve, although there are many theories but little evidence to solve the mystery. It all started with one lady her name was Frau Troffea, she began to dance in the street for no reason, there was no music playing and she had no expression on her face, it almost seemed like she couldn’t control her own body. She kept dancing and wouldn’t rest, eat or drink; with in a week she had 34 others do the same and with in a month there where about 400 people dancing in the street. Many of these people died from starvation, exhaustion, heart attacks and strokes. Medical and civi authorities came to see what was happening after hearing of the people dieing. Oddly enough they believed that to cure the people from this ‘plague’ was more dancing, they built a stage from wood and brought along musicians. Slowly but surly the dancing stopped, person by person the dancing plague stopped just as mysteriously as it had started.

I know that all of this sounds made up or a story for little kids but there are indeed notes in medical, civic, and religious chronicles of the 1518’s. There are lots of theories of why this happened some of them include:

mass hysteria, where a couple of people believes they are affected by a disease, soon other people believe they have also caught it. This normally happens in times of stress, such as famines, malnutrition, sickness-which is exactly the things happening in France at that time.

Many people believe it was  Ergotism, this is when grains of rye are eaten and attacked by a specific type of mold. The rye can then cause seizures-although the dancing of these people looked more like dancing than seizures.

At this time the Christian Church was a very big deal, many priest would tell their church that if anyone provoked satin that there would be plagues of compulsive dancing- although this was told around 303 A.D if it was still being told in 1518 people could believe this.

Although these theories are very believable they don’t explain every detail of the plague.

“My first wish is to see this plague of  mankind, war, banished from the earth”-George Washington



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