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The Unexplained Dancing Plague & Other Epidemics of Yore

Throughout history, there have been outbreaks of strange symptoms or behavior that no one could explain. Or explain adequately, that is. Some of them in the distant past might have a microbial explanation, but they could also be a contagious mental illness. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but you've seen how fads and trends spread through mass communication, so is a mania any less susceptible to spreading? One of the more famous examples is the dancing mania of 1518.

It was the summertime dance that just didn’t stop. Dancing mania (also known as dancing plague was a social phenomenon that occurred primarily in mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. One of the first major outbreaks was in the Holy Roman Empire, in 1374, which quickly spread throughout Europe. The most notable outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518 when one Frau Troffea broke into a jig on a hot summer’s day in July. Pretty soon, dozens of others had joined, then hundreds — mostly female — who couldn’t stop busting a move. In all seriousness, the condition was horrifying, and the afflicted died from exhaustion and heart attacks.

Even weirder are the manias that spread from person to person in more recent times, even in the 21st century. Read about ten of these strange plagues at Messy Nessy Chic.


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