The Dancing Plague of 1518 – In the year 1518, women randomly took to the street and started dancing, but the problem was they never stopped!
The Dancing Plague of 1518, dancing epidemic or dancing mania as it’s also known, was an event in Strasbourg, Alsace, France, just west of the German border, where as hundreds of people took to the street to dance continuously without rest. The event lasted around a month and many of those affected by the phenomena died due to exhaustion. Many even had heart attacks and strokes which resulted in their lives being taken by this mysterious need to dance till they dropped.
In July of 1518, a woman took to the street and starting dancing, this was the beginning of the outbreak. She caught many people’s attention, and within a week, 34 people joined her. In the weeks to follow, more and more people joined the dancing woman, and after a month there was over 400 people dancing in the streets, the phenomena was later known as the dancing plague of 1518.
As the dancing became more intense, locals became concerned and decided to seek advice from physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes. Instead, they announced that the dancing plague was a “natural disease” caused by “hot blood”. Authorities decided against bloodletting, and instead encouraged more dancing. They opened two guildhalls, a grain market, and even constructed a wooden stage in the hope that the dancers would continuously dance night and day and eventually recover. To increase the effectiveness of their plan, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving. John Waller, a historian, stated that a marathon runner could not have lasted the intense workout that the men and women died from that year.
To this day, the dancing plague of 1518 is a complete mystery. There are no answers to why hundreds of people decided to take to the street and dance to their death, and there probably never will be.
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