This article will be covering the reports of the mass hysteria dancing plague of 1518 – what was behind this strange event that took place in Strasbourg?
The Frau Troffea Boogie
The strange events started in Strasbourg during the month of July, 1518, when a lady named Frau Troffea appeared on the street and started dancing…she didn’t stop for six days.
For some reason, some three-dozen other Strasbourg locals decided to join in with her performance – by the month of August, over 400 other locals had decided to join in with the trend.
Nobody knew what was happening – why were so many people breaking out in a dance?
Expert physicians came up with a possible answer – maybe it was something called ‘Hot Blood’
So, what is Hot Blood?
Well, it was more or less a new fever that the local experts invented to explain the strange occurrence. They figured that this ‘new’ fever needed to be gyrated out of the sufferer’s system…so people had to dance to get rid of it!
Tackling The Plague
To be fair, the town officials tried everything in their power to bring this ‘fever’ to an end. They constructed a main stage and even brought in as many professional dancers as they could get their hands on…they even hired a band.
I’m not really sure what they were hoping to achieve here…but the dancing carried on…and on…and on…
It was only a matter of time before the first casualties started rolling in – first of all it was cases of exhaustion…followed by strokes and death through heart problems.
Eventually the religious side of Strasbourg got involved.
When the death toll rose in September, they decided to take the afflicted to a mountaintop shrine to pray for absolution. This seemed to do the trick, and the strange dancing plague was stopped.
I know this sounds like a bit of a joke…but it really did happen!
It’s actually well documented in 16th century historical records and similar dancing outbreaks took place in Switzerland, Germany and Holland.
But, the Strasbourg dancing plague of 1518, was by far the deadliest.
The Dancing Plague of 1518
So what was the reason behind this strange dancing frenzy? Why were so many people caught up in the event?
What could have led people to dance themselves to death?
A well known historian named John Waller thinks he’s discovered the answer…
During the years surrounding 1518, Strasbourg had seen it’s fair share of disease and famine. Around this time there was also a legend of a Catholic saint named St. Vitus…who had the power to curse large groups of people with a plague that made them dance.
Waller believes that the two somehow combined – the disease and the legend.
So the legend, myth, whatever you want to call it, got mixed up with their modern day problems. This resulted in mass hysteria…and dancing!
Not everyone goes along with this theory – religious cults, poisonous moss and even alien infections have been suggested…
What do you think was behind the dancing plague of 1518?