Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wednesday Weird: The Dancing Plague

Aww! A dancing plague, you say? That sounds kewt!


It is not cute and leads to death.

The Dancing Plague was an actual disease in France in the early 16th century. One day, Frau Troffea started dancing in the streets in Strasbourg, France. 6 days later some people joined her. After a week there were 34 people dancing. After a month this number had climbed to 400.

That's 400 people dancing in the street.

Aww! It sounds like a fun party!

Wrong again.

By that point the dancers started to die from starvation, exhaustion and strokes. You know. From dancing.

If a lot of this sounds ridiculous, prepare to scoff even louder when you hear what the solution was. (Keep in mind, this was in the early 1500s. Medical science just wasn't, back then)

Strasbourg officials thought the best way to handle this situation was to encourage the dancers to dance even more. They rounded them all up, put them in a building, and hired musicians to play music for them, like some sort of ass-backwards homeopathy.

The results from this treatment? More death.

Then, one day, the Dancing Plague just stopped. It never happened again, and despite it no longer being the 16th century and medical science existing now, there still is no solution or answer to why 400 people danced themselves to death.

Two of the biggest theories are Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI) and ergotism (ergot poisoning)(which is poisoning by a certain fungus and causes convulsions (it may also be the culprit for the Salem witchcraft accusations)) but both of these theories have big problems.

For ergotism, one of the common side-effects is a loss of muscular control, which makes complex muscle movements pretty much impossible.

As for MPI, it would require 400 people to, more or less, develop the same mass hysteria at a staggered pace, which is really unlikely.

So, there you have it. The Dancing Plague. Any thoughts are theories?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is the weirdest thing I've ever heard. Had to be something mental to make those people do that.

Maria Zannini said...

Dancing zombies! There's got to be a book in that.

It's a shame it couldn't have happened at a later period when we could've had photographic evidence and blood tests. Until it happens again, we may never know.

Rena said...

I'm going to go with Aliens.

I think that the aliens were just flying around with nothing better to do. One said, "Hey, there's Earth. Let's screw with them again."

I like to imagine these aliens explaining this to their commanding officers. (I hope they got bilge duty for the dance party).

Josh said...

That is super weird. The one thing I will say for the MPI theory is that it has been documented for rashes of suicides in certain communities (like, all of a sudden everyone thinks offing himself is the thing to do.)

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