June 24, 1374 – A sudden outbreak of St. John’s Dance breaks out in Aachen, Germany.
St. John’s dance was a sudden affliction which caused people to dance, jump, and twitch uncontrollably. Foaming at the mouth and epileptic convulsions were also signs of the illness, in addition to seeing hallucinations. Some people claimed to see spirits and would yell out the spirit’s name. Many who have seen people experiencing St. John’s Dance compare it to seeing a person who is possessed by a demon.
There were three ways a person could be cured of the infirmity. A person could simply collapse from exhaustion, a “friend” would thump and hit you in the place that was most afflicted, or the most popular method of ceasing the dance was putting a cloth around your wait and pulling tightly. Priests even performed exorcisms. The cures for St. John’s Dance would cause the ill person to drop to the ground in exhaustion and agony.
This mysterious illness was not only confined Aachen. It spread from throughout the whole of Germanyand to the North West neighboring countries. Was St. John’s Dance a demon epidemic running wild? Or was it possible that a toxin was making these people act strangely?
Kerri L. Schultz