Top 5 Weirdest Medical Phenomena in History


While we have undoubtedly come a long way in terms of medical advancement, there are still some bizarre illnesses and epidemics from the past that still leave us scratching our heads. For this week’s list, we’ve compiled some of the strangest medical mysteries that are as mystifying now as they are then.

5. Jumping Frenchmen of Maine

In 1878, neurologist George Miller Beard encountered a community of French-Canadian lumberjacks that seems to obey any sudden command. Their abnormal reaction to stimuli causes them to jump, yell, and be susceptible to immediately follow orders such as hitting, dropping, throwing or jumping. Theories for this disorder ranged from it being hereditary to being a culture-bound syndrome.

The loss of free will has never been this fun!
4. Stone Man Syndrome

This incredibly rare disease occurs when a glitch in the body’s bone repair mechanism causes tissues to turn into bones. Muscles and tendons stiffen and fuse from the neck down throughout the lifespan until it envelops the lungs. One of the most famous cases is that of Harry Raymond Eastlack who developed the disease at age 9 and died days before his 40th birthday.

There is such a thing as too much milk, apparently. 
3. Sweating Sickness

This highly contagious disease has plagued England on numerous occasions, sending one shocking death after another each time. The disease can kill the victim within 24 hours after the manifestation of symptoms. An affected person would first experience sudden cold shivers, severe pains in the neck and shoulders, and intense thirst. Hours after the cold stage, the characteristic sweat would break out suddenly without a cause. Palpitations and chest pains would be felt, giving way to general exhaustion, collapse, and the imminent death.

Is it just me or did it get hotter in here?
2. Sleepy Sickness

At the height of World War I, an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica made its way across Europe, leaving its victims at an endless state of slumber. What begins as a collection of standard flu symptoms (fever, sore throat, headache, etc.) escalates to the patient’s fully-awake mind being held hostage in a coma-like sleeping body for a lifetime. Between 1915 and 1926, the disease affected about 5 million people. It disappeared as quickly as it came, leaving behind one of the greatest medical mystery of the modern times.

When you're this sleepy, everything is a bed.
1. Dancing Plague

A woman by the name of Frau Troffea went to the streets of 1518 France and began dancing uncontrollably. She went on for days, eventually gathering more people to join in. Their group grew to 400 within a month of non-stop dancing. This collective manic episode killed about 15 people due to heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion. This phenomenon occurred frequently in other European countries throughout history. Its actual cause remains unclear to this day.

Medieval flashmobs can get pretty intense.