Thursday, 29 October 2009

☠ La Danse Macabre

Halloween is approaching, so spooky strange stories and tingling tales of terror are creeping out of the dark and dusty closet...Or something like that...
Anyway here is one such yarn I heard recently, apparently true...
This tale begins in Strasbourg, in July, 1518. Mysteriously, a woman, Frau Troffea, begins to dance fervently in the street one day and forgets to stop to take a bow, continuing to dance in this crazy fashion for approximately four to six days (what?!). Within a week, even more mysteriously, 34 others had joined in with this crazy foxtrot (or some other 16th century dance) , and within a month, there were around 400 dancers. 
400 people dancing in the street! 
As the dancing plague worsened, concerned nobles sought the advice of local physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, instead announcing that the plague was a "natural disease" caused by "hot blood". However, instead of prescribing bleeding, authorities encouraged more dancing, and even constructed a wooden stage (the show must go on...!) The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would only recover if they danced continually night and day( and lo, was born the * not really). 
To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving.
It will come as no surprise that most of these people eventually died from either a heart attack, stroke, or just being too pooped to party!
Historical documents, including physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council clearly record that the victims danced and that many danced to their death.
Many reasons have been put forward  to the cause of the epidemic, such as mass hysteria, prevalent diseases, ergotism (a mold which grows on rye and induces hallucinations), part of a ritual and heretical sect (they were all a bit bonkers back then) or a form of epilepsy....
However, it is not known why these people danced to their deaths, nor is it clear that they were dancing willfully.

{*affectionate term for a ballet dancer...Honestly!}

Find out more at Wikipedia 

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