History: The Strange Disease That Made A Village Dance To Death

  • The dancing plague (or dance epidemic) of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (modern-day France)
  • It took place in the Holy Roman Empire in July 1518.
  • Somewhere between 50 and 400 people took to dancing for days.

In July 1518, a woman named Frau Troffea walked into a narrow street in Strasbourg. Without further ado, she began to dance non-stop for six days, by the end of the week another 34 people had joined her.

Within a month, the crowd dancing without explanation reached 400 people. Although it may seem even funny, this episode was called “The Plague of Dance” and was considered a strange disease.

Many of those unhappy dancers died of cardiac arrest, blisters, fractures, and other ailments resulting from the tireless dancing.

For centuries this strange event has stumped scientists trying to find a cause for this intense and deadly dance.

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People thought that people infected with the plague were possessed by the demon who made them dance to death.

Historian John Waller studied the disease in detail and has solved the mystery. The explanation he gives is about a possible time of extreme famine, which could give high fevers and promote moments of uncontrolled debauchery. Everything was a consequence of despair, devotion and, above all, suggestion.

Thus, the plague began to lose strength at the same time as the supernatural beliefs that had produced it.

During the following decade, the city of Strasbourg was converted to Protestantism and ceased to be susceptible to such epidemics.



History: The Strange Disease That Made A Village Dance To Death

History: The Strange Disease That Made A Village Dance To Death

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