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The Bizarre Dancing Plague of 1518 Had People Dancing Uncontrollably Until They Died

People dropped dead dancing for days.
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In 1518 in France, the most bizarre plague in history occurred: The Dancing Plague. For no apparent reason, hundreds of people began dancing in the streets uncontrollably and unwillingly for days on end.

Everyone, including doctors, priests, and ordinary townsfolk were gripped by the mania. People actually died of exhaustion because they couldn’t stop dancing. People afflicted with the Dancing Plague showed no signs of convulsions or epilepsy. 

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Dancing Plague in Strasbourg, France started with a woman named Frau Trauffea. One morning, she stepped out into the street and began dancing. She kept dancing until she fainted from exhaustion.

But after resting for a couple of minutes, she stood up again and resumed her uncontrollable dancing, and this continued for days. Her dancing proved to be highly contagious. Within a week, at least 30 people in her town also experienced the compulsive and uncontrollable dancing.

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By the second week, hundreds of people were dancing unwillingly. The mania alarmed government officials, but Church leaders decided that the cure to the craze was more dancing.

It turned out to be the craziest idea of the century.

The town set up a dancing hall where people could dance the Dancing Plague away. They gathered all the dancers and set them loose in the dancing halls. At least 400 dancers gathered, but instead of tiring, they infected more people with their hysteria.

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Many people died of exhaustion during the dancing party.

Interestingly, the Dancing Plague disappeared just as quickly as it had come. People were suddenly cured of the dancing illness two months after Frau Trauffea started the most bizarre mass hysteria in history.

The Dancing Plague of 1518 is the most documented mass compulsive dancing, with similar events occurring in 1374 in Germany, and in 1625 in Britain.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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