Dancing Plague of 1518
Hendrik Hondius' depiction
Type Event
Continent Europe
Country France
One-Time? Yes
Theories None

The Dancing Plague of 1518, also known as the Dance Epidemic of 1518, was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Around 400 people took to dancing for days without rest, and, over the period of about one month, some of those affected died of heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.


The outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman, Mrs Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. This lasted somewhere between four to six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers. Some of these people eventually died from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion.

Historical documents, including "physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council" are clear that the victims danced. It is not known why these people danced, some even to their deaths.

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, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would recover only if they danced continuously night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving.


  • Food-poisoning caused by the toxic and psychoactive chemical products of ergot fungi.
  • "Stress-induced psychosis" on a mass level, since the region where the people danced was riddled with starvation and disease.


  • Historian John Waller stated that a marathon runner could not have lasted the intense workout that the men and women died from hundreds of years ago.
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