Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Dancing Plague Of 1518...!

Over the years, many strange and often terrible plagues have visited man. This is the story about one of the strangest and, as of yet, unexplained.

What was the dancing plague of 1518?
SEPTEMBER 14, 2015 By Evan Andrews



In July 1518, residents of the city of Strasbourg (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) were struck by a sudden and seemingly uncontrollable urge to dance. The hysteria kicked off when a woman known as Frau Troffea stepped into the street and began to silently twist, twirl and shake. She kept up her solo dance-a-thon for nearly a week, and before long, some three-dozen other Strasbourgeois had joined in. By August, the dancing epidemic had claimed as many as 400 victims. With no other explanation for the phenomenon, local physicians blamed it on “hot blood” and suggested the afflicted simply gyrate the fever away. A stage was constructed and professional dancers were brought in. The town even hired a band to provide backing music, but it wasn’t long before the marathon started to take its toll. Many dancers collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Some even died from strokes and heart attacks. The strange episode didn’t end until September, when the dancers were whisked away to a mountaintop shrine to pray for absolution.

The Strasbourg dancing plague might sound like the stuff of legend, but it’s well documented in 16th century historical records. It’s also not the only known incident of its kind. Similar manias took place in Switzerland, Germany and Holland, though few were as large—or deadly—as the one triggered in 1518.

What could have led people to dance themselves to death? According to historian John Waller, the explanation most likely concerns St. Vitus, a Catholic saint who pious 16th century Europeans believed had the power to curse people with a dancing plague. When combined with the horrors of disease and famine, both of which were tearing through Strasbourg in 1518, the St. Vitus superstition may have triggered a stress-induced hysteria that took hold of much of the city. Other theories have suggested the dancers were members of a religious cult, or even that they accidentally ingested ergot, a toxic mold that grows on damp rye and produces spasms and hallucinations.

This is just one of the many strange things you can find over at sites like History.com. Great site for gaining a bit of history you probably won't find in the history books!

Coffee out on the patio this morning!

7 comments:

Chickenmom said...

Maybe they all ate a bit of "strange" mushrooms someone found!

Sixbears said...

It'd be funny if people hadn't actually died.

About to try another batch of coffee. Still trying to get Florida water to make a cup of coffee that tastes right. Hope the new water filter does the job.

linda m said...

How bizarre! I'm inclined to think it was something they ate or drank. Maybe they were infected by some "bug" that caused uncontrollable spasms. Anyway, good one for today.

Wade Herod said...

So that's where the St Vitus dance term came from!

JO said...

Good one this morning I'm going with the mold. to bad it killed so many before it cleared up.

Coffee outdoors sounds like a place to go.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
Yep...that would certainly do it!
Thanks for stopping by today!


Hey Sixbears...
The water sure does affect the taste of coffee, that's for sure.
Thanks for coming by today!


Hey Linda...
I'm sure that there were many things back then that could have caused it. Strange that folks were infected at different times, don't you think?
Many thanks for the visit today!


Hey Wade...
Must be. I haven't found any reference to it before this.
Thanks for stopping by today!


Hey Jo...
I think the mold would be my choice as well. Happened before in the witch trials, ya know?
Thanks for dropping by today!

Dizzy-Dick said...

When I was a boy, I heard the old folks talk about that disease. Until today, reading your blog, I really never knew what it actually was. Thanks, Mr. Hermit.