The Dancing Plague of 1518

Dancing Plague of 1518

The dancing plague of 1518 occurred in  Strasbourg, Alsace which today is in the Eastern part of France. Roughly 400 people took to dancing for days without interruption or rest and this resulted in some of them dying from exhaustion and heart attacks.

The “mania” as it is sometimes referred to started with one person thought to be an adult lady who danced in the street for hours or possibly days on end. Others began to join her until there were some 400 people dancing. Some to their death.

Physicians of the day could not explain what was causing the group to dance. Instead of stopping people from dancing they formulated the idea that people to dance the illness out of them and actually promoted the idea of continuing to dance until they were cured.

Modern theories believe that it could have been caused by an LSD related fungus that grows on rye. The fungus ergot when consumed in the bread made from the contaminated rye could cause delusional behavior.

Other believe that it was a mass psychosis brought on from stress related to superstitions. People when living in a close society or group may start to exhibit the same ticks or actions brought on from stress or from superstitious notions.