One summer day in 1518, a woman named Frau Troffea started dancing. She didn't stop. Her dancing compulsion was contagious, and spread to hundreds of people before it turned deadly.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Who doesn't love to dance swing by any club, wedding or zumba class, and it will be full of people getting their groove on
but in the summer of fifteen eighteen about four hundred people in Strasbourg, Franz actually found themselves compelled to dance as in
literally couldn't stop one man,
they're going about their ordinary lives. The next they're out, swaying in the streets they twirled until their feet. Bled and both
and were visible through their legs, some even die
themselves to death.
Horrible phenomenon was so contagious. It actually became known as the dancing play and people were convinced
It was the result of a curse.
this is supernatural power cast original
your host Ashley flowers everywhere
this day, I'll be taking a deep dive into a real unexplained occurrence to try and figure out the truth you can find.
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spoken, Instagram at park asked and Twitter at Park ass network this week, I'm talking about the dancing plague of fifteen.
T nobody knows why, but for about two months hundreds of people in France literally danced until they dropped and the scariest part. Is there
been dozens of similar events. Some,
even in modern times, we'll have all that and more coming up stay with us. This episode is brought to you by progressive
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fifteen. Eighteen, a woman named Frau trophy. I went for a walk with her husband, hair travail. Now that is
historical record from fifteen. Eighteen is really vague, so we don't even know Frau trophy tropes first name row is
similarly the german version of MRS, but for clarity, all
her Inez and her husband Sebastian
like a ones didn't, have much social standing in sixteenth Century Strasburg, which is the city in France, where Inez lit girls off
and got married. When they were teenagers, then they were expected to spend their entire lives, cooking and cleaning for their husbands. So it say
you say in essence: abashing relationship is probably more like one between a servant, a master than actual partners anyway, on this point
Geller Day their walking down the street and Sebastian
and to do something and I'm not,
What it is he asked for, but whatever it is and refuse it
it's not enough for her to just say no four Inez.
This is the last straw
she lashes out in maybe the most creative way. I've ever heard up she's, so
angry she starts dancing and
ok. This sounds like a wild way to deal with your frustrations, but first
reason: Inez suddenly start jumping around she's kicking
waving her arms in the air as though she's dancing to music, even though there isn't any people
at the same way they always have. Whenever someone does something bonkers, they stare a few people point
and laugh, and they basically assume and as is trying to make a scene and that she wants to embarrass her husband.
Sebastian must think so too, because he's furious. He starts screaming at an es in front of everyone and and
Is that she needs to stop immediately except Inez. Can
and if she wants to would like some
unseen force has taken over her body. The dancing is total.
and sure she could just be saying that she can't control herself, but there were a bunch of eyewitnesses,
they all said, and Anne was grimacing and wincing like she was really unhappy to be dancing and possibly even in pain,
even though one says she can't control her movements. Apparently some of the onlookers say that she's lying, but if, as is faking, it
She'd have to be really stubborn because a full hour goes by and she still doesn't stop. It's unclear
Sebastian gives up and goes home, but it seems like he must have at some point because, as keeps on dear
Until it's been two hours, then three
and then for my early.
Evening and as is still dancing and fine.
The every one starts to wonder at this compulsion is real one
I won. They leave her alone
Meanwhile, the sunset it gets dark and Inez is still
swaying and spinning which, if you think about it, is kind
sad I mean I have this mental image of a ne exhausted in the middle of the street, just dancing by herself
This goes on for hours, passed, dark, then
finally, some time during the night she collapses and passes out, I'm not sure
Sebastian or someone took her home, but it sounds like a ne spent. The night sprawled out on the cobblestones like she was out
old for a while- and she doesn't wake up until early the next morning-
keep in mind. Anne hasn't hasn't had anything to eat or drink. In about a day. This is
MID July, in France, she's gotTA
hot dehydrated and starving, but in it
literally can't grab breakfast or a cup of water because the minute she opens her eyes, she gets up and starts dancing again
This whole situation was already weird, but now it's truly unheard up, like nobody,
and this is a prank or tantrum anymore and Inez
more miserable than ever. Her feet are literally swollen and bleeding, but, as pain
full as it is, people can't bring themselves to look away the whole second
a passes with crowds of people staring at a net until one.
again. She collapses. She sleeps
through another night. But surely
As soon as the sun rises and roosters crow. Her feet hit the ground she's right back to kicking and swaying which at this point-
and then has been dancing for almost forty eight hours. It's past the point of best
thirty and it's starting to look like a serious problem and theirs
get really sick or injured, and that's not even the worst of it. So the records get get really vague. At this point, I'm not
hundred percent clear exactly how this happens. But after it,
days and Nez ends up with a couple of dancing partners, I'm assuming she's on day three or four of her compulsion, maybe she's, swaying through a crowded town square or marketplace. The streets are packed
even though this has been going on for a while people still stop with their doing to stare, but at some point someone drops their shopping bag,
it or they wonder away from their spouse, and they start kicking
spinning with Inez
in other words, this dancing compulsion or
whatever strange thing is happening to Inez, is actually contagious.
The end of the week there are
something like thirty four people all dancing until they drop this
in an isolated incident anymore. Something is serious
wrong wrong. There is just
no good explanation, even if it was a prank, almost
three dozen people, I mean they can't all be in on it. It's so just
and it's spreading so rapidly that people start referring to it as an epidemic.
They even given it a name, the dancing plague up Now-
city officials try to keep the outbreak in check list.
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some time in July, fifteen eighteen, a whole bunch of people started dancing in Strasbourg and they couldn't stop the records,
a vague. So I dont know who they were or how many, but they all seem to be in the same situation as Inez, their dancing
all day in collapsing at night, just to get up the next morning and started all over again and
there are more of them every single day now
we are leaving their homes and their jobs.
others are refusing to feed their kids bakers, leave of bread in the oven to burn society
is breaking down because the streets are packed with people who can't do anything but sway and twirl. Angela,
twenty five th. So not even two weeks since, as first developed symptoms, a whopping, fifty people are damn,
sing in the streets, and the numbers only seemed to grow from their its spreading just like a plague which terrifies the people of Strasbourg. At this point, any one could get
fact it. Luckily they have someone looking out for them. There called the twenty.
Wine, which is a group of wealthy nobles who serve as a sort of town Council,
I'm not sure where their name comes from, but the twenty one has been ruling the area around Strasbourg for centuries and they're not happy about it.
so the twenty one pool their resources to hire the best doctors they can find to solve this dancing plague. But the physician
turn around and give a medical opinion. That's just baffled,
even by sixteenth century logic. They say the victims of the dancing plague have quote over heated blood,
end quote now. They're basing this off this outdated medical idea called humeral theory
It basically says that if you do some
wrong. Your blood could get too hot
and maybe that would make you start dancing with total
nonsense, but the doctors insists that the only way to stop the dancing is to encourage more dancing,
basically there saying the victims just need to get it out of their system, and then everything will go back to normal.
your thing is: there's nothing in the medical research from the time to suggest that this will work, but the
twenty one doesn't have any better ideas, so they just go with it. So, first the twins:
one builds a dance hall and a stage in the middle of town. They hire
all these musicians to play music day and night. They eat
bring in these professional dancers to join the people caught up in the plague, which
all this sounds kind of fun and honestly, in fact, some people even baked the dancing plague just
they could join this giant rager at the center of of town for the
real victims who couldn't just stop whenever they wanted. This
situation causes a pressure cooker. Remember prior to this point, a lot
The dancers would at least take a break overnight, but now is
like this rave is going twenty four seven people go days without stopping
Some of them wear out their legs and feet until you can literally see their bones poking through their skin like this is disturbing
will finally collapse, sometimes after days of nonstop partying there, anyway,
dehydrated flushed dry,
aged in sweat and they're. Not
going home to sleep it off
which means a few people pass out and they're just lie.
In these hot stuffy dance halls without receiving any kind of care, meanwhile,
their condition just gets worse and worse until finally, they die of heat exhaustion. The dancing plague has just turned fatal you'd think
the twenty one would stop the party right then, and there were they actually thing
this will start working at some point? Meanwhile, the who
think it so bad that people are literally carding bodies off the dance floor, while others are still,
twirling around the corpses, eventually,
the twenty one admit this isn't going to work, so they decide
to go in the opposite direction. They bear.
All music and dancing in Strasbourg, but it
really matter, because the infected people are
still added they keep grew
Meanwhile, the city officials take down the stages and board up the dance halls. The victims
please do their best to hide their sick, loved ones from view, but so
As far as anyone can tell Strasburg is doomed
according to a local family. There are four hundred people who have been caught up in the plague and
other merchant name. Lucas REM says that fifteen victims are dying every day, that's over a hundred a week, so a lot at that rate every and-
did. Person will be dead in a month. Luckily, the
Twenty one has a final ace up their sleep. Remember, Frau hope.
women I've been calling Inez she.
The one who started the whole play, but she isn't a big part of the story after that point, that's because about
week after she started dancing, she actually left town to go. Trying to help
So there was this belief in one thousand five hundred and eighteen, that if you had an irresistible urge to start taking and swaying, you might actually be possessed
it was even something known as the evil dance which base.
basically means Satan has cursed. You
and if you're a medieval catholic. What better way to remove a Satan occurs then to pray to a saint in Anne's case,
town officials wondered if she shouldn appeal to this one third century martyr named Saint Vitus, supposedly Saint bite has had the power to cast out there,
Devil would there was something else that meet him special
according to legends. He also had the power to curse sinners with a wholly compulsion to dance, in other words,
If you do something that really crosses a line, Vitus might zap your feet and suddenly you won't be able to sit still
Obviously this is a little far fetched, but the Strasbourg officials are desperate. They ve tried everything to the point that there can
and this has to be some sort of demonic or saintly curse. Luckily,
There's a chapel dedicated to Saint Vitus, its
Ok about thirty miles, north West of Strasbourg in a town called severe every one hopes that it
never goes there. The saint will either exercise
is the evil spirits or lift the curse that he put on a es. So they put a ne in a cart and take her to severe the whole time. She's
king and bouncing because she still can't stop dancing
sing, even in a small space.
The whole journey probably takes a few days and eventual
they see the chapel in the distance. It's not the world
most impressive, building its pretty small and modest, but now
by there's this cave with a shrine in it.
a nurse is supposed to go inside and supposedly the saint will heal her. So she gets there and then her story just kind of ends.
nobody ever bother to record whether or not it worked, but most
Historians treat this as a no news is good new situation like there's no
record of anes dying, so she probably stopped dancing at some point after her trip.
The main reason people thing she probably got better is because the twenty one decided you try the same tactic with the rest of the dancing plague, victims,
in late August, about a month after this whole thing started, they say
all four hundred or so dancers off to Saint Biases Chapel, which is
way easier said than done me we're talking a journey of about thirty miles and
Twenty one spends a ton of money on wagons to carry all the victims. In some cases, they're, probably packing. Thirty people
into these tiny little carts, and of course I mean there,
dancing the whole time. On top of that, the twenty one,
As everyone appear of red shoes and then
light sound like an odd fashion choice, but apparently, Ruby footwear was a sign of penitence. It's supposed to be pleased
to Saint Vitus
These shoes just show how big of a deal the dancing plague was red dye.
Is really hard to come by in sixteenth century Europe. So four hundred pairs of shoes
whose is not cheap, but the twenty one
is willing to do whatever it takes. They just want to put an end,
to this disturbing disease once and for all. The whole trip probably takes a few days
and and when they arrived. These come come out of Saint Chapel Chapel they grapple with the
trying to get them to hold still just long enough to shove these red shoes on their feet once the dancers are dressed appropriately.
Lee. The priest led them into the church
they all listen to a mass and the victims are still bobbing the whole time itself.
Weird, but they all dance in a circle around the altar, even
clergyman who aren't infected. Apparently it's this specific kind of holy dance has. Actually, apart
some exorcism rituals when their finish
everyone who can afford it donates a penny to the chapel and the local monks promised
to use the money to care for the poor.
not only have the dancers done within needed to do to possibly lift the curse they perform to good deed there. Really
hoping there on Saint biases good side now. Finally, it's time.
they all step outside to see if they're going to keep dancing because of it,
get a miracle. There do up. Next, the fate of the dancing
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When the four hundred or so dancers, finished dancing for Saint Vitus and giving their pennies to the chapel they step outside and some are cured right away
a few others notice. Other symptoms get a little bit better, but it takes a few more days
or weeks before they can actually hold still, which may be this
was a placebo effect, like maybe some of the deal
sir, is believed they'd been cured, so they were.
finally able to stop dancing and others- saw it and eventually followed suit, either way
The dancing stops. Finally, at this point, its power
some sometime in September, fifteenth eighteen, not quite two months since Inez became the first victim and
twenty one and all other people in Strasburg. It's like a miracle has just happened. There. Loved ones are
cured and the city is safe, still
there's, this big mystery about where this compulsion came from in the first place, but if there's
one thing: almost everyone in Strasburg agrees on its that they must have brought the dancing
leg on themselves and this isn't
religious, religious guilt talking because the plague isn't the first.
I'm the town seems to have been cursed? It's actually the second, so
eleven years before the dancing plague broke out in the summer of fifteen o seven. This huge
he'll storm, destroy all the local crops.
pre said it was a sign of divine rat bathos. God was angry because
The upper Rhine Valley in France, where Strasbourg is located, was basically grounds
this huge, this huge anti catholic movement sweeping the country right is right in the heart of all of this,
dancing plague happens years later, every one kind of assumes that the low
are still getting their due,
definitely not scientific but for more
decade. This is the prevailing theory until
Physician named Paracelsus decides he is gone
to solve the mystery Paracelsus
visit Strasbourg in fifteen twenty six so eight years later, and he finds
plenty of eyewitnesses to tell him what happened. In fact,
Paracelsus. His work is one of the main reasons we know as much as we do about the dancing plague after
analyzes all the data Paracelsus gives the condition a name. He calls it
coral mania mean
dancing madness and he base
Glee decides that the Choreo mania outbreak was a feminist protest.
Obviously he didn't use those exact words, but the gist of
His theory is that, as was so fed up with her husband, she started dancing just to mess with him. Then
other local women join in because they want to enjoy their husbands to and they
I'll. Just keep it up to the point of injury, exhaustion and death, beak
as women are just silly
and stubborn and do
rational, thinks so Paris
Celsus's way of explaining this is obviously sexist, plus it seems
like there were men and children dancing to like you'd thing. Other accounts
mentioned mentioned, if it were just women dancing any case.
Four literal centuries. Nobody came up with a better explanation, at which point like maybe this whole thing was a
but for the most part, historians have always agreed that the dancing plague really did happen, largely be
there are so so many records from the time mean I'm talking
diary, entries letters and even notes that the twenty one took during their meetings plus there's a whole
other reason to take the dancing plague of fifteen eighteen seriously, which is that there has been other dancing plagues to, in fact,
as many as ten happened before the fifteen eighteen outbreak, so
nine to eleven. Eighty eight c over three hundred years earlier, a bunch of people danced
till they collapse at a church in South Wales, then in thirteen seven,
for this massive outbreak of the dancing plague spread all through the Rhine Valley in France. It even
two people in Strasbourg so that fifteen eighteen in
it is even the first time quarry. Romania has hit the city, it's the second, but I think
the saddest dancing plague story comes from Airport Germany around twelve forty seven about it.
hundred children danced right out of town. They ended up hopping.
An twirling, nearly a hundred fifty miles, that's practically like going from Detroit to Cleveland on foot. They keep going right up until they reach this village called hamlet by this.
they're exhausted. So they all collapse right in the middle of town and
up sleeping in the streets. Sadly, once their parents
finally find them most of these children have died of exhaustion and most
survivors end up with lifelong ticks and chronic anxiety, then
sixty years after this happens, storytellers in Hamblin start spreading the legend of the Pied piper he's basically
this vengeful musician who plays beautiful tunes that are a form
of mind. Control meant to lure
children out of their homes and to their debts.
The legend seemed like people's way of making sense of a very real tragedy that had happened to them. Not only that its further proof that the dancing plague is a real.
not just a creative feminist protest or a hoax, and it's actually
enough, though after the incident in fifteen eighteen Strasburg, there was never
large and outbreak in all of Europe, but the dancing plague has popped up in other places around the world. Like I
eighteen. Sixty three thousands of people in Madagascar started. Inexplicably, swaying and kicking, they couldn't stop dance,
and they actually believe they ve been possessed by the spirits of the debt, which would be too
the terrifying and then
We're even more recent examples. They dont involved dancing
but they include other strange, an involuntary behaviors, a nineteen.
due to a bunch of students at a girl, school in Tanzania started laughing and they couldn't stop. It became known
as the laughter epidemic and its spread to a thousand people before it ended just like the dancing play
nobody could figure out why it was so contagious. So Basque
were to two thousand nine. This off
In historian, named John Waller decides to solve the mystery Waller is a
sir of history and his specialty is old, tiny, science and medicine. The dancing plague store
He is right up his alley.
In two thousand nine. He publishes this book. Full of his theories is called the dancing plague.
the strange true story of an extraordinary illness, Waller doesn't
I think it was a demonic, curse or an act of God or a feminist protest. Instead, he thinks the people of stress.
may have shared a case of mass hysteria, now
Hysteria can only happen in certain circumstances.
You need to have a close knit group of people who are all in the same physical location and all with the same stressful situation. Everyone's anxious
Then one starts to twitch or get severe headaches all
friends see this and pretty soon, they develop the same symptoms almost like its contagious,
in ness case. Her dancing seemed to be some sort of stress response triggered by her husband's expectations. Then
gradually other witnesses caught on which
still seems a little hard to believe. But if you think about the historical context, it actually makes a lot of sense in one thousand, five hundred and eighteen, the people of Strasburg had just survived.
Deadly famine from the year before, plus the bubonic plague was
sweeping through the region, and then there were all the Anti Catholic uprisings.
Literally thought they were living in the end times, and just because we don't hear about this stuff,
day doesn't mean it's not happening, because the way that mass hysteria spreads is through empathy,
like if there's mass hysteria outbreak today, big news stories and internet threads would only drum up more attention and exacerbate the problem. So now
days of a doctor or psychologist thinks mass hysteria is at play. Bell actually take steps to keep the story. Quiet
which is why we should probably treat the dancing plague of fifteen eighteen like this giant
flashing caution sign
If it was all in everyone's head, the fall out was very real, we're talking about
be hundreds of deaths and those
the days before social media or the twenty four hour news. So next time, you're in a crowd
that's working themselves into a tizzy or you read an internet threat of people all freaking out about the same thing:
you remember not to believe everything. You see your life
literally depend on
thanks for listening I'll, be back next week with another episode
If you want to learn more about the dancing plague of one thousand five hundred and eighteen, I found the dancing play the strange, true story of an extraordinary illness by John Waller, especially helpful to my research. You can find all episodes of sue,
natural and all other originals from podcast for free on Spotify, and if you like, this show follow PAR podcast on me.
And Instagram, and at Parkes Network on Twitter supernatural was
aided by MAX Cutler and Stars Ashley flowers, and is a Parker Studios original its executive produced by MAX Cutler
sound designed by carry Murphy with production assistance by RON Shapiro and Carly Maden. This episode
supernatural was written by Angela Jorgensen with writing assistance by alley. Wicker do here
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Transcript generated on 2020-11-29.