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Endeavour. 2008 Sep;32(3):117-21. doi: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2008.05.001. Epub 2008 Jul 7.

In a spin: the mysterious dancing epidemic of 1518.

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  • 1Department of History, Michigan State University, East Grand River, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


In 1518, one of the strangest epidemics in recorded history struck the city of Strasbourg. Hundreds of people were seized by an irresistible urge to dance, hop and leap into the air. In houses, halls and public spaces, as fear paralyzed the city and the members of the elite despaired, the dancing continued with mindless intensity. Seldom pausing to eat, drink or rest, many of them danced for days or even weeks. And before long, the chronicles agree, dozens were dying from exhaustion. What was it that could have impelled as many as 400 people to dance, in some cases to death?

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