10 Bizarre Cases Of Mass Hysteria

9. The Dancing Plague (1518)

Wikimedia Commons

One day in the summer of 1518 in Strasbourg, Eastern France, a Mrs. Troffea wandered out into the street and began to dance. Six days later, thirty four others had joined her. A month later four hundred more had joined in.

This was not a festival or a celebration, it was an uncontrollable urge. The dancing crowd was mostly made up of women and many of them died of strokes, heart attacks or exhaustion. Some reports say around fifteen people died every day during the dancing plague.

Nobles and physicians didn’t know how to treat the hysteria and believed if they could keep the dancers moving maybe they would get it out of their systems. To that end they built a stage and had musicians play for the crowd.

It is now believed a fungi (ergot fungi) that grows on grain in the region and contains ergotamine - a psychoactive product that is structurally similar to LSD - caused the event.

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