A ‘dancing mania’ was something that happened many times, mostly in mainland Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. It occurred when groups of people, sometimes up to a thousand at a time, started dancing in the streets for no apparent reason. It wasn’t an organized event or a planned gathering, but a seemingly spontaneous happening.
At first glance, it seems quite harmless and even fun, but it wasn’t all joy and happiness that came with it. People – adults and children alike – kept on dancing, as if in a trance, until they collapsed from exhaustion and injuries. There are even known cases where people danced themselves to death, for example a monk during an outbreak in 1428 in Schaffhausen, Germany.
Witness reports from such dancing manias also show that it wasn’t just joyful dancing what the participants did. While some people were only dancing and singing, others were screaming, yelling, crying, imitating animals or parading around naked. Some reports describe how ‘dancers’ turned violent on observers and forced them to join.
This harmful outcome resulted in a lot of people trying to find remedies to
‘cure’ the dancers or to stop the happenings from taking place. The problem was that nobody understood
why they happened, so everybody was just guessing at how to prevent them. Even at this moment, it is still not fully understood what caused the dancing mania and why they abruptly stopped occurring halfway the 17th century. Theories range from religious cults to a collective mental disorder, but the actual cause may never be discovered.
In the ‘The Mysterious Case of Dancing Mania’ game you get the chance yourself to become an investigator and try and find the cause of one specific dancing mania event. During renovation works, a time capsule from the early 16th century was discovered. It contains notes and witness reports which you can use to unravel the chain of events that lead to this famous dancing mania.