June 24th, 1374 – A group of people in Germany started dancing uncontrollably and hallucinating. As they started to dance in the streets more and more people joined in, saying that they were taken over and couldn’t help but to start dancing. Many blamed spirits and were given exorcisms while others danced to nearby statues dedicated to John the Baptist and prayed for their condition to go away. Many of them danced until they dropped to the ground. It was like a wide spread panic that traveled through several countries like a plague.
The people affected by the dancing plague would often behave and dance erratically, often thousands of people would dance at the same time. Some would dance without stopping for so long that they would break their own ribs and some would die.
In an attempt to stop the dancing the locals would call upon musicians to play along, thinking it might relieve them of their urges and sooth their condition enough for them to calm down and eventually stop. The music only inspired their condition even more. They all believed they were cursed and/or possessed.
One theory blames flooding that had ruined the local crops and their lifestyles which had fallen on hard times and poor living conditions. Stating that they may have been eating rotted or bad foods that in turn caused the uncontrollable urge to dance, and the hallucinations. Dance Mania is the earliest form of mass hysteria known to be recorded.
Kind of sounds like a modern day rave, right?
(insert cliche raver-like drum pattern here)
Until next time…
~William C. Raustler