An interesting article about the dancing sickness that broke out in Strasbourg five hundred years ago and what might have caused it. The epidemic started with just a few people dancing, and ended with hundreds seemingly compelled to dance until they fell – with many of them dying. It’s a topic I explore in my novel Dark Tracks, when the dancing sickness hits a village and not all can resist it.
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Order of Darkness
The two young men stepped out of the front door of the inn and found the quayside now crowded with boys and girls, some of them barefoot, some of them dressed in little more than rags, all of them travel-stained and weary. Most were seated, exhausted, on the cobblestones; some of them stood looking out to sea. None were older than sixteen, some as young as six or seven, and more of them were coming in through the town gate all the time, as the gatekeeper watched in bewilderment, racking his brains for an excuse to close the gate and shut them out. - Stormbringers
The five travellers on horseback on the rutted track to Pescara made everyone turn and stare: the woman who brought them weak ale in a roadside inn; the peasant building a hewn stone wall by the side of the road; the boy trailing home from school to work in his father’s vineyard. Everyone smiled at the radiance of the couple at the front of the little cavalcade, for they were beautiful, young, and – as anyone could see – falling in love. - Stormbringers
It was the strangest sight. The girl’s hand had swung down as they lifted her; now she was quite unconscious. It seemed that she had fainted when they had pulled her from the barred gate. Her head was rolled back, the little laces from her nightcap brushing the ground as they carried her, her long nightgown trailing in the dust. - Changeling
Slowly, some hours after, the sky grew bright and the five travellers got up from where they had been sitting at the back of the boat and went to the prow to look east where the rising sun was turning the wispy clouds pink and gold with the dawn light. From the back of the boat the boatman called to them that they were entering the Lagoon of Venice, God be praised that they were safe at last after such a night, and at once they felt the movement of the ship quieten as the waves stilled. - Fools' Gold