Five outbreaks of mysterious mental illness that covered whole cities or villages, and then disappeared.
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1. Medieval dance plague
In 1374, dozens of villages along the Rhine gripped a deadly disease – a dancing plague or, scientifically, choreomania (or the dance of St. Witt). Hundreds of people on in the streets they jumped and worked their knees under nobody (except, probably, themselves dancing) can not hear the music. They ate almost nothing and didn’t slept, sometimes for many days in a row, until the feet broken in blood refused to keep them.
And then the plague stopped – almost as suddenly as has begun.
The next outbreak occurred in Strasbourg in 1518, when a woman named frau Toffea suddenly went outside, started dance and could not stop for several days. In a week 34 more people joined it, by the end of the month the number dancing increased to 400. Dozens of people fell and died from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion. And in this case the disease disappeared just as suddenly.
Scientists of all stripes tried to find an explanation for this riddle. For some time, the explanation was considered the most likely, according to to which people were poisoned by bread affected by ergot – a fungus, which grows on wet stalks of rye. When ingested, it causes seizures, fever and delusions.
Professor of history John Waller of the University of Michigan with this I don’t agree with the version – in both cases it was about dancing, not about cramps. Another popular theory is that victims become part of some dance cult, too, seemed to Waller unconvincing.
Professor Waller proposed his theory: it was massive psychogenic (due to mental trauma) diseases, caused by fears and depression. Both outbreaks were preceded hunger, harvest loss, floods – what could be regarded as signs of an approaching bible disaster. Horror before supernatural could bring people into a kind of state trance.
In addition, the dance plague associated with the name of St. Witt – a Christian martyr, dancing in front of a statue of which, according According to belief, it was possible to regain health. That is the idea of dancing for the sake of salvation already sat in people’s heads. All that was needed is one the person who would start this marathon.
The Strasbourg outbreak was not the last – in 1840, something similar happened in Madagascar.
2. The epidemic of laughter in Tanganyika in 1962
This nightmare began on January 30, 1962 with an ordinary joke. Three schoolgirls in girls in Tanganyika began to laugh and could not stay. Soon, 95 schoolgirls laughed. Epidemic scope turned out to be quite serious, and the school had to be closed by two months.
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Laughter gave way to sobs, accompanied by bouts of fear and, in some cases, outbreaks of aggression. These symptoms quickly distributed throughout the school (possibly through contact with infected), and could last from several hours to 16 days.
The school was closed in March, when the number of infected reached 95 out of 159 school students. 10 days after closing a new flash – in one of the neighboring villages. Several girls closed schools were from this village and apparently brought the infection home. As a result, from April to May in this village, victims of the mysterious 217 people became epidemics.
All the victims were mentally healthy people. They have not neither heat nor cramps were observed, nothing was found in their blood unusual. Theories about the effects of a certain psychotropic fungus with the absence of other symptoms did not materialize. The mystery to this day remains unsolved.
3. Dromomania, or pathological tourism
Most of us like to change the situation from time to time. But there are those who, once started, are no longer able to return to sedentary lifestyle. The epidemic of dromomania or uncontrolled attraction to a change of place swept France 1886-1909.
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The man who served as a model for dromomania for European medical establishment, was a gas fitter from Bordeaux by named after Jean-Albert Dada. In 1886, after he returned from his truly epic journey, he was placed in a hospital Sant Andre. The man was, of course, exhausted to the extreme, but this is still half the trouble – he was in a fog, could not remember where he was and what was there did.
Doctors managed to recreate his story bit by bit a medical magazine called Mad Traveler. It turned out that a passionate desire to travel appeared in Dada’s 1881, when he left the French army somewhere in the south of Belgium and moved first to Prague, then to Berlin, and then through the eastern Prussia reached Moscow. In Moscow, Dada was arrested (just the assassination of Alexander II) took place and was expelled to Turkey. IN Constantinople received him at the French consulate and sent to Vienna, where he again found the job of a gasman.
Shortly after his story became widely known the public, Dada had followers, anyway, it’s known a few more cases of dromomania in France around this time. There were not many cases of the disease itself, but there was so much talk about this phenomenon in medical circles that quite drawn to a real epidemic. They gradually subsided about by 1909.
4. Koro or retractable genitalia syndrome
Koro syndrome is a panic fear that arises in men when they think that the penis begins to be drawn into the abdominal cavity. This misfortune appeared in the form of an epidemic, the first known case of which refers to 300 BC Most often, caro manifestations were observed in Africa or Asia and were accompanied by fear of imminent death. Last Koro outbreak occurred in 1967 in Singapore, when more than a thousand men tried to prevent the retraction of their male advantages with the help of improvised items – different clamps and sticks.
Women also observed something similar – they experienced panic that their breasts or nipples disappear. But among the men the victims were yet immeasurably more. Psychologists believe that similar epidemics characteristic of cultures in which a person’s value is measured by his ability to reproduce. Most often, epidemics have followed periods of social tension and general anxiety. In China the culprits of fox are considered to be culprits, that this is the result of witchcraft.
5. Motor hysteria
In the Middle Ages, reports of various hysterical conditions among the inhabitants of the monasteries were not uncommon. In one cloister for example, the natives suddenly began to meow and climb trees and generally behave like cats. Similar epidemics arose on for 300 years (starting from 1400) throughout Europe. One of The last cases occurred in 1749 in Würzburg (Germany), when, after massive fainting and foam from the mouth among the nuns, one the woman was accused of witchcraft and beheaded. Usually epidemics ended after the visit of the priest and the rite of exorcism strength.
Waller (the one who studied the possible causes of the dancing plague) proposed a theory that a strange disease epidemic among the nuns were caused by a combination of stress and religious trance.
Women were often sent to monasteries by force, and besides, they were places with rather harsh laws, especially since 1400. Religious zeal for spiritual struggle was not for everyone and many lost their nerves. Any strange behavior was interpreted the intervention of dark forces:
“They themselves admitted the possibility that they might become obsessed and unconsciously assumed this role, “Waller wrote.
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