There are moments in history that are considered too strange to be true.

One of the most famous military minds, Napoleon Bonaparte, was once attacked by a horde of rabbits.

Eccentric British poet, Lord Byron, kept an actual bear in his college dormitory in order to defy the college rules banning students from keeping dogs as pets.

But there is one story which is so strange and mysterious, that to this day, the reasons behind it are still unknown.

That is: ‘The Dancing Plague of 1518’.

In this video made exclusively for The Circular, the plague of dancing mania is explained:

 

Dancing mania was a phenomenon which affected Europe several times between the 13th and 17th centuries. It involved groups of people dancing together for days, weeks and even months until they collapsed due to exhaustion and even in some circumstances, due to heart attacks and strokes which ended up killing them.

Bouts of dancing mania occurred in 1247 in Germany; in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg in 1374 and several other cases across mainland Europe through the next few centuries. The dancing plague of 1518 is one of the most well-documented cases and therefore the one which confuses most people.

For historians, figuring out the causes of these manic episodes is pure guesswork. There are several theories including ingesting a psychotropic mould called ergot. This is a fungus which has also been used as a theory for the devil sightings and bewitched madness during the Salem Witch Trials in the 17th century as it can cause hallucinations and convulsions if eaten.

 

Original caption: Dancing mania sweeps through Europe during medieval plague. Photo Credit - Corbis

Original caption: Dancing mania sweeps through Europe during medieval plague. Photo Credit – Corbis

What caused this? No one really knows. It could have been a mass poisoning; it could have been religious worship, or perhaps it was a social phenomenon. But whatever caused it, it serves to show how strange human history can be.