This week, join Emily and Rachel as they travel to Manhattan, NY and our first international story in Strasbourg, France. If you’re interested in psychology, sociology and human behavior… this episode is for you! Both Rachel and Emily dive into the human psyche; Rachel covers the lesser-known cult of fake therapists, The Sullivanians, and Emily talks about the 1518 Dancing Plague and sociologists’ theories on mass hysteria. Hopefully, you’re horrified!
Content/Trigger Warnings: child abuse, sexual assault
Unknown Speaker 0:12
We’re on Okie doke.
Welcome to horrible history. I’m Emily Barlean.
And I’m Rachel Everett Lozon.
Every city has its own horrible history full of events that you won’t read about in the travel brochures. So each week Rachel and I visit to New spots and do deep dives into a piece of history that will make you not want to travel there.
This week, we’re heading to Manhattan, New York City and Strasburg, France, our first international trip. Listen, it’s after the holidays. We’re still recovering from Thursday. I just woke up from a nap deal with it. I also not today Seriously though,
I just like I think it’s the post Thanksgiving. I’ll just hang over and I of course took on baking a bunch of things today for my holiday delivery boxes. And I’m very tired now. And I had amigos for at times how good.
Amigos was the place that you eat when you’re drunk because it was like the only place so I don’t know if I have ever soberly met him. He goes.
Well, it’s funny because for anyone who’s not from I don’t know, is it just Nebraska or like the very close near near to Nebraska Midwest?
I don’t know. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. But Nebraska is the most whip Midwestern I’ve ever been. Yeah, well, it’s really dead center. But it’s right in the middle of the West. It’s legitimately right in the middle of the West. Yeah,
so if you haven’t been to Nebraska, there is a fast food chain called amigos that is kind of like a taco bell. But like greasier and grocer. But it was one of the few fast food places in town in the town that Rachel and I went to collagen, which had like, what? 6000 people in it, Max?
Yeah. When college was in session? Yeah, I was closer to like, 4000 when the school was there, there were maybe 2000 people at our college and half of them commuted.
Yeah, exactly. And so it was like the place you went, it was open until one and so bars closed at one. So we’d usually leave like 15 minutes early so we could drive or walk or you know, somehow drunkenly get amigos. We did not have to go far. Don’t drink and drive but and so I have this like nostalgia for amigos because it reminds me of college. And like every single weekend in the summer, me and my friend Christie would go to the gallery, which was the only bar in Seward, Nebraska. That wasn’t also a bowling alley. And then we afterwards go through amigos. And so I just have like fond memories from there. So whenever I’m home in Nebraska, I’m like, I have to get amigos but it’s really really bad like, Huh, it’s not good for your body.
Should we bleep out the name of the restaurant? where like, restaurants and good places to sponsor us, but we’re just going to talk shit.
Maybe we shouldn’t sleep him out. Except if you google Seward, Nebraska and look for a place similar to Taco john. You’ll probably know but if you do your homework on Mexican restaurants, Amiga Baltimore. of Mexican restaurants. Something about their ranch dressing is like what puts it over the top for me. I don’t know if you’re a ranch like,
Oh, I am. I’m a ranch. Yeah, I can dip almost anything into ranch.
ranch ranch. I something about there’s it’s like water here which… I am not selling this place? It’s good for dipping and also pouring directly into your burrito. Oh, yeah. Yeah. My garbage person. Oh my god.
Only on the inside where it counts because you’re full of Mexican food.
Oh, thank you. You’re welcome.
You’re welcome on the outside gorgeous. I so my, my daughter Veera, she loves food. I love it. She’ll eat raw sushi, obviously raw sushi, but she’ll eat sushi and she’ll eat filemon yon she’ll eat stuff that you wouldn’t expect a two year old to eat. So I’m a dip in ranch friend type person. And my mom makes fun of me for that because apparently ketchup is the way to be. But I think ranch and french fries is just a classic combination. So anytime Yeah. So Anytime we get chick fil a bureau will ask for a ranch because she knows it’s so good. And my mom’s like, You’re ruining her. You’re making her awesome is more likely. I’m expanding her palate.
Yeah, just dragging her back down into the garbage. Yes, pallets that we are.
Speaking of things that went into the garbage this week, I have a quick holiday firstworldproblems story. And then I want to jump in soon today because my story’s long and batshit. And I cannot wait to tell you about it. So our fridge caught fire this week, which you know, but it’s just such a good story. Basically, in case you don’t know, if you have a fridge that’s almost as old as you are, and I’m in my 30s, then what can happen is, it can leak from the water compressor and get on to the electrical wiring insert a small fire in your kitchen, the week of Thanksgiving, when your turkey is in the fridge and everything’s in the fridge.
I have so many questions for you. First of all, I want to know exactly how you realized it was on fire. If it was like, Oh my god, there’s smoke situation or whatever. And I want to know if anything got ruined, like if any food was.
Okay, so we Lincoln, my son, he has speech therapy at home on Tuesday afternoons. And so Colorado has a mask mandate, not in your home. But we are still wearing masks in our home when people come over who are not in our COVID bubble. And so anytime a speech therapist comes over, I still have a mask on. So my husband comes upstairs for lunch because he’s working in the basement and is like, What is that smell? Oh my god. And I’m complimented at first because I’m making a chicken tortilla soup. And I’m like, Oh my God, thank you so much. It smells so good. And he’s like, No, do you smell an electrical fire, like a burning electricity. And I said no. And I’m in the dining room and not in the kitchen and he goes, come in here and take your mask off. Because I’m wearing a mask, I can’t really smell anything. And I walk in and I’m like, Oh my god, something’s on fire. And he says it’s either the fridge or the crock pot. So I open the crock pot, everything smells fine. And suppose delicious. I make a great chicken tortilla soup, then humblebrag. And so then he goes, Oh my god, it’s the fridge and he scoots it and there’s just an orange Ember on the wire. No. And so and then this is a really good time to realize we did not have a fire extinguisher in our home. But it didn’t catch nothing got ruined, he was able to unplug it as close to the wall as possible. And it’s such a, it’s such a first world problem because we’re about to redo our kitchen. So we already bought our new fridge. It’s just that it doesn’t really fit in our kitchen because of the layout. So we had to take out the cabinets above it because it’s way bigger. And then it’s got drawers, and there’s a fatally placed Island in our kitchen that now you have to stand to the side, but you want to open the drawers and the fridge. So everything turned out fine. But long story short, I didn’t think Lincoln was paying that close of attention because he was with his speech therapist. And so I was really thankful that he was there to talk with Lincoln. And so the next day, we’re looking at our new fridge and we have it all set up. And Lincoln goes Mama, do you like our new fridge? I said, Yeah, buddy. I really do. Because it’s awesome. I said, Yeah, yeah, it’s awesome. And he goes, it’s not on fire. Like, you’re right. You’re right there, sir. And also, things to be thankful for this year. My son is not in school, so he can’t go to say, Hey, everyone, our fridge is on fire.
Because kids love to tell only the worst things that happen.
Yeah, the most memorable part of the day, so and even on Thanksgiving when my parents came over, they were like, do you love your new fridge? Lincoln? And he goes, Yeah, it’s not on fire. The best feature of this fridge.
Number one, not the fact that I can access it with my app. Or that I can open just the condiment section, but it’s not on fire. I’m having adult jealousy of your fridge. FYI.
It’s my dream fridge. We got it half off at Lowe’s because it was slightly scratched up and I’m like, I don’t even care. I have toddlers. It’s gonna get scrapped. Yeah, if it works, and it’s the fingerprint proof stainless to wear resistant, so I’m like, oh, amazing. I’ve never had fantasies about an appliance before until this. Seriously,
oh my gosh, I’ve been having fantasies about like home things in general because I am living in Nebraska right now with my parents. But when I go back to St. Louis in January, I have big plans to remodel several things because I’ve been just sitting around doing nothing. Saving money and cooking up ideas. I’ve been having, oh my gosh, so many Pinterest fantasies.
I cannot wait to get to the horrible another minute. And the more that we talk about beautiful homes and redecorating. It just sets it up so perfectly for Manhattan, which is where I’m going. Yeah, because literally the only thing I know about New York City I’ve learned from sitcoms, like friends and How I Met Your Mother and Sex in the City. And it’s all drinking alcohol or drinking coffee and living in beautiful apartments.
And apparently not having jobs. I love on friends how they’re just sitting around drinking coffee at all times.
Yeah, yeah, I’ve a reference point. Yeah, they’re like, Oh, I think my boss hates me too. Maybe it’s universal? Or maybe because you’re all sitting around here. 1130 on a Wednesday. God, I love it. I love it so much. Have you been to New York City?
I’ve been to New York many times. I really love New York. I have had two friends that have lived in New York. They neither of them do anymore. But so I went to visit both of them. Named drop one of them is Carson Stoker brand. It’s not really a name drop, because he’s not really famous, but he might be someday he will be he shalvey Carson’s gonna be famous for sure. He’s like, behind the scenes famous. So he worked for Good Morning America. And the two and his first job in New York was a David Letterman. And I went with him to go to his interview. So I like quizzed him right before he went in, you know, on interview questions. So I claim, of course, that it’s my doing that he got the job and therefore is where he is. So he owes me millions of dollars, obviously. Yeah. So I’ve been there for that. And then to visit him, I he lived in Harlem for a little while, and I went to visit him while he lived there. And I’ll never forget, waking up. It was such like a quintessential heart Harlem experience. I woke up in the morning to a woman in the alleyway just screaming. Fuck you, Fuck you, like over and over and over again. And I was like, this was when I was probably 22 or something and still mildly innocent. And I was like, oh, New York is sort of scary. But now I’m like, yeah, girl, he probably did something wrong. Really? Yeah. I’m sure he deserved that. For sure. And then since then, I’ve been there for business trips and things like that. Sowhat am I yeah, cities though. I would not want to live there. I don’t think unless I could live on Fifth Avenue.
Yeah, yeah, I think there’s just too many people. For me. I don’t like people that much to want to be constantly surrounded. And I can’t. I’m not incredibly frugal. But I’m frugal enough to know that I don’t want to spend more than I pay for a house in the suburbs in Colorado for a studio apartment in New York City. 100%. And I’m like you, I don’t like people that much. And I have a space, a space thing where if people walk too close to me, like crowd me at a store and kind of I want to kind of be like, like, get away. Like, what are you doing? Ashley Park cat, we should warn our listeners.
And so I just remember being in New York, and everyone’s so close to you. And it feels like you could get pickpocketed at any second or like just people breathing down your neck all the time. And I I feel like I’m just like, there’s too many people in this world. Like, get out of here. Yeah.
I have not been to New York City since I was about nine years old. I went with my mom. We should go. I went. This is the whole premise of this podcast, we talk about places we would like to go. I really wanted to do. I was researching we do on our Instagram at horrible history pod a this day in horrible history. And I was looking ahead to see if there are any cool things around Christmas for Christmas stories that we might be able to do because our podcast will drop on Christmas Eve. And Fun fact, Ed Dean was actually found what not guilty by reason of insanity on Christmas. But I don’t want to visit the town in Wisconsin, where he’s from. I’m so sorry if any of you are from there. Maybe like Milwaukee. But I love your cheese curds. no judgment, but I don’t necessarily put small town Wisconsin, really high on my trip list. So I couldn’t do it based on the premise of this podcast. But eventually maybe we’ll do a tiny episode on something on some of the heavy hitters like again, because he is one of my favorite stories to talk about. I would visit there just because that gain is from there. So I haven’t been to New York since I was a small child. I actually have it’s it’s so weird to think about it now because we went obviously we did the whole touristy thing. We did the Empire State Building. And I had my little It was a 90 so I had my throwaway camera as always about it. And I took pictures of the Twin Towers from the Empire State Building. Uh huh. And I still have them, which I think is kind of cool. I just
911 is one of those things like, it’s, it was in our lifetime, so we won’t do an episode on it, of course. But that’s one of those things that it just like is such a heavy moment. And like, I can just picture every second of that day in many ways. I remember, one of the first times I was in New York with Carson, and we went to ground zero and visited and he still makes fun of me, because I kept I just like, kept saying over and out. Like, I couldn’t find the words to describe what I was feeling. And so I just kept saying, like, gosh, just Can you imagine? Like, at some point, he would be like, Can you imagine? Making fun of me? So now, I was being so dramatic. Can you imagine? But seriously, like, Can you imagine that day?
But that’s what we talk about right? is we put ourselves in this empathic place where we can we try to figure out what’s going on with people. And so today I’m going to be doing 911 No, kidding. I dammit. You said not to and I just love breaking the rules. No, speaking of psychological shit, I’m doing a psychological twofer. Because not only am I incredibly fascinated by cults, and what possesses people to join cults and stick with them, but I’m doing a cult rooted in Super unethical therapy. I’m so fucking excited right now. Oh, yes, yes. For those of you who have not listened to episodes one and two, I Rachel, I am a marriage and family therapist. So I have a slight qualification to talk about therapy things. So if this episode gets a little bit, too therapist D, yell at us on Instagram at horrible history pad, slide into our DMS tell us everything that you did not understand. And I’m happy to message you back and explain it in hopefully regular people language. I really try. I really try. You’re very good at that. So thank you. No worries. Are you ready to hear about the sell of Amiens? Yes, and I’ve never even heard that word before. I hadn’t either. I hadn’t either. I’m so excited. Okay, so I’m gonna start with a little history. This is a history podcast, to really just in case you didn’t know, Emily, this is I know, I know. To really understand this call, we have to start way back in the day with Harry stack Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan was a psychoanalytic psychiatrist, think Freud. He was a contemporary of Freud. Shortly thereafter, he didn’t die until 1949. One of his contributions to the field included removing schizophrenia from the class of incurable disorders. It’s a huge deal. It basically means schizophrenia isn’t just, well, I don’t know what to do with them. So let’s send them off on a farm somewhere. It means with with medication with psychotherapy, we can treat it it’s treatable. And he added that to the field. It’s huge. I work with more, because I do marriage and family therapy, I work with more relational therapy. And that’s actually an even when I do individual, my, my theories are more like we’re not an island. We are relating to people all of the time. And I think a lot of our depression and anxiety is based on how are we handling issues that come up in relationships, significant relationships. And so I do a lot of that, which is why this call is so interesting to me, because Harry stack Sullivan, developed this interpersonal theory of personality. So his idea is that our personalities are developed psycho socially. In less therapist he words, our interactions with others, especially significant others, determine our sense of self. So and even less therapist words, were talking about Harry stack Sullivan theory of personality, good experiences lead to a good self esteem. We get anxiety through validation, I validate you, or we avoid anxiety, I’m sorry, through validation. So I validate you, you feel good. You validate me, I feel good. I didn’t see this written out anywhere. But I definitely got the vibe that Dr. Sullivan felt like we don’t really exist as whole people. Unless we are with others. I find that really interesting, especially during COVID. As a single person, I take offense. It’s not really the framework that I use to understand people. Like I said, I think more we’re definitely influenced by relationships, but Harry stack Sullivan really felt like if we have a lot of anxiety from our family, we need to find A way to go and fix it essentially. And I, I believe that if we have a lot of trauma from our family of origin, we need to find healing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean going to that person and healing those relationships. Because that’s not always safe or healthy.
It’s hard because you can’t control the other person. Right? So if you’re saying to be whole, I have to heal this relationship, that puts a lot of onus on you, but also on the other person. Right. So it’s like, what if that person’s not into it? And then what you’re just screwed?
Yeah, I think, for me, it’s more. one phrase I use really often in therapy. When we’re talking about our parents and particulars, which is huge with this call. Your parents did the best they could with what they have. And it’s okay if that’s not enough for you. Because it’s both and it’s I think, and as a parent, I definitely am doing my best and I know there are days when I lose my shit, and I’m not doing it perfectly. But I want my kids to know I’m trying and also if I’m not meeting their needs completely, and they need to go to therapy and work that out one day, that’s okay. Okay. Other than the call being named after him, Harry stack Sullivan really had nothing to do with this elevate Ian’s, like I said he died in 1949. And the Sullivan Institute wasn’t founded until 1957. So let’s talk about the founder salby Newton. I’d like to call him solly be like the DJ. He was actually born sabi Cohen. He was born in New Brunswick in 1906. And he attended the University of Wisconsin, and he dabbled in some like communism and anti fascism. Just a little, you know, just just the tip of anti fascism and communism. He served in the Spanish Civil War, and in 1943, was drafted into the US Army and served in World War Two. After World War Two, he started studying studying psychology. But this is important. He was never formally trained as a therapist. So keep that in mind and wait to hear what his career is. Yeah. At some point, I don’t know exactly when because this dude was married and divorced six times. He married Dr. Jain peers, they actually work together under a Harry stack Sullivan, the one with the theory of personality at the William allanson white Institute, which is still around and legit. It’s not part of the cult. But they decided to leave a couple of years after Dr. Sullivan died, he was kind of their mentor. But again, he was not a therapist. Together though. Newton and pierce founded the Sullivan Institute for Research in psychoanalysis in New York in 1957. So far, so good. Man serves in war, changes his name, study psychology marries up, she’s adapta and start his own business is going to get back.
Now, for a decade or so the Sullivan Institute is just this group of therapists and fake therapists who seem to be providing treatment loosely based on Harry stack Sullivan, interpersonal theory of personality. Before I get into where they went awry, I think it’s important to explain a couple of quick tips from your friendly neighborhood therapist. Two things number one, you cannot help someone without taking their culture and surroundings into account. So for example, if you are helping someone with addiction, but you don’t consider how their family might be contributing to their unhealthy patterns, you’re not actually helping that person, you have to talk about psychosocial triggers. If I stopped drinking away from my family, but then you put me back into a hectic family environment and everybody else is drinking or there’s a lot of screaming or drinking as a way I avoid my big feelings. It’s not helpful if we don’t talk about that in therapy. Number two, and if you cannot remember anything else, about the psychological code of ethics, you better remember this. Don’t have sex with your clients ever. Ever. We basically we have a lot of rules, but like this is the most important one. Don’t fuck your clients. Don’t do it. Even if they’re not your clients. If they’re your former clients. You cannot ever sleep with them. You can’t have dual relationships and the sexual kind is a big no no. So just keep that in mind. Back to the sell of aliens. They decided in order to help people they needed to separate them from their family and culture. Newton, a lot like Harry stack Sullivan, thought that the family was the root of all social anxiety. But he got into the treatment that is the literal opposite of Harry stack Sullivan, which was that strengthening family bonds helps people avoid long term mental health problems. He, Newton was more like, shut it down. Don’t strengthen it, just shut it down, which is a hallmark of cults. And we’ll get into what that looked like here. The Sullivan Institute was a mix of Therapy Center and polyamorous community, and it attracted some famous people, like writer Richard price, singer Judy Collins, and Jackson Pollock. Huh, huh. According to Pollock’s biography, he started seeing Ralph Klein for therapy in 1955. Klein was a close friend of Newton’s and would later go on to be a leader of the group. Okay, so they did have some real therapists and psychiatrists, but in my opinion, they were not providing ethical treatment.
I was gonna say, I was like, Huh, what you just said that they said, is the exact opposite of what you just referenced as being best practice. So
I’m just to throw it out there, not all. And I say this to a lot of my clients, it’s part of my intro. I don’t want my clients to word vomit all of their trauma in our first session, because even if you know that, therapists are supposed to be safe people, you don’t know me. And in order for you to feel safe with me, you need to get to know me, as a person, as a therapist. So just because someone is a therapist, or says that they’re a therapist, does not necessarily mean that they are the right person to help you. So if you’re looking for a therapist, and you don’t feel like somebody is a good fit, but you’re like, well, they must know what they’re talking about. Even if they do if it doesn’t fit, find your therapist, find somebody new, that’s totally fine. It’s kind of like dating, find somebody who fits with you. But remember, they will not fuck you. If they are unethical therapist. That’s the whole thing. I mean, obviously, there are lots of little ways that it might not be a good fit, but like that’s a big one. Okay. So back to this cult. I don’t know if you have a different idea about cults, but I think about people who join us people who are desolate or disconnected from their families or lacking resources, like the Manson family, they joined for community, but also for basic needs. Sometimes drugs, whatever. What do you think?
Yeah, I totally agree. I recently watched that Netflix show Waco, which was about waco. And that was the same kind of thing. It was like people who had nowhere else to go kind of gathered with this group. And so that’s definitely how I picture calls.
Yes. Oh, my God. Yes, exactly. And if you haven’t watched waco on Netflix, it’s so good. So. So the salivating Ian’s we’re not like that. in its heyday. Most of the members were young, well educated professionals. Emily, we’re talking our peer group people in their 30s and 40s. They bought and lived in three buildings on the Upper West Side, which is not cheap. No, in the early 70s, some of the therapists and clients associated with the institute were living in communal apartments, and spending weekends in summer houses and ama Gan set what I had to actually spell check and break it down to make sure I was pronouncing it correctly. It’s the fucking Hamptons. They are spending weekends in summer houses in the Hamptons, just like insects in the city. Damn it. I’ll join a call if I get to go to the Hamptons. Same And just a quick clarification. I am not trying to bash them for being this fancy polyamorous community. I don’t care about anyone’s sexual preferences. I’m simply saying as a therapist, you don’t fuck your clients.
We’re just gonna come right around. Back to that note, if you remember nothing else from this app is literally gonna have sex with your therapist.
It’s the one thing I don’t care what they show you on TV. It does not happen in real life. And it does. If it does, that person should lose their license because it’s, it’s so incredibly unethical.
This is why I see a female therapist because I don’t want to even have that nervousness of like, Oh my gosh, I think he’s hot or what?
Yeah, which is weird. So, Sally B. Newton pitched this group as expanding on the revolutionary promises of the 60s. members would find I know so it’s all free love. You know, it’s good times keep the good times rolling. I don’t know promises of the 60 promises of the 60s if you’re white and upper middle class ah members would find a social circle of people like them educated liberal, and committed to the type of therapy that they felt expanded their mind. Also their bodies because everybody was screwing each other. Oh gee, oh, orgies. Let’s talk about some of the core principles of the Slovenians. So, again, these are based on the idea that traditional families are the root cause of mental illness. So they encourage their members to live this lavish non monogamous lifestyle on the Upper West Side, which sounds fine, except for the part in which you’re expected to cut all ties with your family, classic cult,
classical, classic narcissistic boyfriend been there.
Also, psychoanalytic therapist of the time, like Freud saw themselves as the expert on all the clients issues. We’ve moved away from this quite a bit in modern therapy. And most therapists now lean toward the idea that the client is the expert on their own life. And in a lot of ways we defer to them. But there is still an imbalance of power, because as therapists we’re humbled daily by the vulnerability and raw motions that our clients share, but they get to know very little about our personal lives. So it’s part of how we try to stay objective. And also part of the reason we don’t have any kind of relationship with our clients outside of the therapeutic one.
It’s about that. I saw my therapist at Starbucks once. And that was the weirdest thing ever. I just avoided her. I didn’t know what to do. I was like, ah, but I pretend I don’t know.
My rule. And I sometimes say list of clients, it kind of depends. But I mean, no, I’m not going anywhere. And if I am, I’m wearing a mask, but my rule is kind of like seeing your therapist outside of therapy is the same kind of awkward as seeing your teacher outside of school, or your gynecologist. Oh, that’s worse, although I love my ob delivered my babies, but I deferred or whatever they do. So if they want to wave and say hi, I will if they want to duck and cover their faces and pretend we don’t know each other. I’ll do that too. My only rule is just, I don’t talk about your mental health outside of session where I can make sure it’s confidential and HIPAA approved. If you say hi to me, I’m just gonna be like, hey, yeah, I also like a cinnamon Dolce. Cool, cool. Cool. Cool. So aside from ethical boundaries, being casually tossed to the side, the sylvanian village had some pretty strict rules. They lived separately based on gender in these Upper West Side apartments, to discourage members from forming long term attachments. They were not allowed to engage in exclusive relationships, unless approved by Newton. They also were not allowed to have children. And there was a communal board. I’m picturing like a cork board where people advertise intermurals in college, but they were posting who their next sexual partner would be so everyone can see it. So it was like okay, dibs on this person. And then this person, people were essentially forced to share their beds with new partners on a nightly basis. And even if you were married, you could not live together. Yeah, because remember, the nuclear family is the source of all anxiety, says Sally B. Wow, crazy. And just because I’m realizing now after I’ve said it, like five times nuclear family as a relay therapist, each term basically means mom, dad, two kids, like it’s very much the their primary family and obviously now we’ve expanded it to be like, families or families or families. It does not matter if you have one parent, two parents, their genders, their sexual preference, or identity. In the 60s, it was a little different. In a group of people having a lot of sex. Of course, there were children born in the group. Like I said, most of the time, if they wanted to have children, they needed Newton’s permission. But when they did have children, they were quickly separated from their parents, and the children were babysat by other members of the group. Parents were allowed to see them about one or two hours a day and they did not live together. When they were old enough they got sent to boarding school. Jesus, that sounds traumatic as fuck for the kids in the parents. There are times that my kids drive me fucking insane. But I cannot picture being told I couldn’t see them or have them or be with them or comfort them when they were crying. I would punch someone to get to my children. Yeah. A lot of people if I had to, yeah, I believe it. members had mandated weekly therapy, in which the therapists advise them to cut off all contact with outside friends and family members unless they needed money. coltish pyramid scheme is kind of like listen, I want you to tell people you haven’t talked to in 15 years about what these essential oils can do for you.
I have one or two friends where it’s like the second is See their name pop up on messenger on Facebook or like in my Instagram DNS, I’m like, oh, what are they selling?
Now, I don’t know what wrote it and feels means Yeah. Former members have said that in these weekly therapy sessions, these therapists basically implied that their mothers hated them. And that mothers are the root of all evil and all mental illness. It is, as a mom and a therapist. Let me just throw in my two cents. So this is so insanely fucked up. Because instead of teaching clients how to heal from trauma or insecure attachment, they’re essentially saying they can’t trust their mom and that this cult is your family now.
question. Yes. They didn’t like call it a cult. Right? Like, no, no, it was a cult. They thought it was like just a polyamorous community any kind of preparation. Okay.
I think they just considered a commune, which is what most cult members wouldn’t say they’re in a cult. Yeah, I will say, if you are seduced, I guess into a group of people. And they’re saying you can’t have contact with your family. Your family is horrible. We’re so much better than your family. Right away. Call your mom. She might be horrible. call a friend. I don’t know. But just remember that there are probably people in your life who care about you. And if your therapist is telling you that they’re not a good therapist,
right? Yeah. Well, and I always feel like I don’t know if you do this. But sometimes when I make poor decisions that I know are poor decisions. I like seek out people to tell that I know well side with the decision I’ve made, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, so sometimes it’s like, I’m not gonna call my mom and tell her this, because I know that she’ll disagree with me. And I don’t want to be told no. So yeah, it’s like, totally, if you don’t feel like you can tell your mom about this, or whoever it is that like, you know, cares about you most in the world, maybe reconsider.
It’s so human, though. And it’s part of the human condition where we avoid things that make us uncomfortable. And so that’s why I tell almost all of my clients this really stupid joke when we’re talking about their family. And they’re like, well, if they would just do this, my life would be so much easier. And I’ll go Yeah, you’re totally right, it would be. And how many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change, you can’t change somebody who doesn’t want to be changed. So even and this is so hard, because I find that when people come to therapy to work on themselves, they realize how unhealthy some patterns from their families are. And the healthier you get, the more you recognize the shift that’s unhealthy. And it’s, I’m not ever going to be like, well, you’re healthy now. So force everybody else to be healthy, right? It’s more like you’re healthy now. So you can recognize this person is doing the best they can with what they have. And if something feels unsafe or unhealthy, you don’t have to challenge them on it, you can set boundaries, you can say, this doesn’t feel safe for me, I’m an adult, I can leave this situation, I can go process it with a friend or a loved one or my therapist and figure out how I want to handle it instead of just saying, fuck you, Mom, I’m never talking to you again. Right? Because people aren’t just all most people, obviously, we talk about serial killers and shit. But most people aren’t just 100%. Evil, there’s good at them. And so if you can focus on okay, but I do get these net needs met, or I do feel good about this interaction. And I can set boundaries about these things that are not safe for me. You can have both
Yeah, it’s so true. And it’s, it’s so nice to like, mature and get healthier and have that perspective of like, I don’t know, I feel like as a as a younger person, I was very, I’ve been wronged. I’ve been wronged, you know, like, everything’s bad towards me. And now as I get older, it’s more like, you can see the things they’ve gone through and where they might be coming from. And maybe you actually aren’t totally in the right time. And
I remember when I first started seeing when I first started being a therapist, I was seeing kids and teenagers and I was in my mid 20s when I started really practicing, and I would call my mom and just be like, Mom, I’m so sorry. You’re right. I was wrong. I was terrible. I said sorry. I was terrible. Exactly. Yeah. And I mean, that’s the thing is that’s part of being an adolescent slash early 20s young adult. We think we’re right. And sometimes we are and sometimes we’re not, but then we will back and we’re like, okay, we were wrong about that. And that’s okay. And also, our parents are probably wrong about some stuff, because they’re human people. And that’s okay, too. But being able to recognize that humanity and having some compassion and just said, instead of just being like that, bitch,
I think it’s so fun. It’s so true. As an adolescent, you don’t you almost don’t think of your parents as humans. Yeah, they’re just supposed to be solely responsible for taking care of you and like being your parent. And in reality, I mean, I’m not a parent, but as an adult person, I can, like I think, put myself in the shoes enough to be like, I fucked up all the time. What would happen if I had kids thinking that I had to be perfect always, you know, that would be awful and hard and so much pressure?
It isn’t it isn’t. Because I think, and this is just a note for any parents who might be listening. If you fuck up, turn it into a teachable moment, I back off, and I know what to do, because I’m trained in this, but I still, if I, if I yell at my kids, and then you know, they get frustrated, or they cry, and I will take some time, and I’ll Calm down, and I’ll go back to them. And my two year old doesn’t really do this. But my three year old will say, Mom yelled at me, I felt scared. You know, I’m sad when you do that. And I say, I get it. And I’m really sorry, that you felt sad. And I get really frustrated when I asked you to do something and you don’t do it. So it’s not your fault that I yelled at you. But can we figure out how to make it so that I don’t feel frustrated and you don’t feel sad. But at the end of the day, I realize it’s on me to keep my shit together. He’s supposed to be testing my boundaries. He’s a three year old, and it’s fucking hard. And I’m not perfect at it. And nobody is. and pretending that mothers have mothers in particular. And Freud was kind of like this to where women weren’t when we had big feelings. You know, we were hysterical, hysterical, hysterical women. And I’m really trying to teach my kids it’s normal, and it’s valid, and it’s okay to have feelings. And for mom and dad, too, because if we get angry, it’s because we’re feeling frustrated. We’re feeling invalidated. We’re feeling unheard. And we want to share those feelings with you. But you’re right, it’s not okay to yell. So let’s figure it out. And admitting fault with your kids is okay. Because the sooner they see you as a human that better in my opinion. So this isn’t, you know, Rachel’s therapy hour. So let’s talk about the salivate dance. Membership continue to grow into the mid 70s. At some point, and I’m not really sure when and I didn’t really care to do the research. tbh Dr. Pierce Newton’s first wife, she noted that there, I mean, again, he was married six times, and we’re not going to talk about all of his wives because I didn’t care that much about his personal life. I really wanted to check with the call. But his fifth wife, Joan Harvey, is a was a soap opera actor. And she was really influential on Newton and on the sell of aliens in the mid 70s. She urged Newton timbered, the therapy group, with a politically progressive theatre collective, which sounds pretentious as fuck. called the fourth wall. In 1978. The troupe signed a lease at the truck and warehouse theater in the East Village, for some reason, and I didn’t see why the previous Theatre Company refused to vacate the theater. So obviously, hundreds of Sylvania ins took over the space and destroyed their member sets, obviously, right. That’s what you do. Oh, you’re not going to leave. We’re going to destroy everything you hold here, burn it down. I don’t know why only three people got arrested. But either way, this is not great. One former member recalled, quote, all of the members were invited to come down and occupy the theater. The cops came in the middle of the night, and we had barricaded the doors. It was very exciting. Saul wanted to teach people how to stand up to cops. He liked that kind of confrontation. These people love the drama. So in 1979 sound, Newton’s behavior got even more erotic after the partial nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which is probably a story we should cover eventually. But I didn’t want to get into it here. Maybe there. He thought Manhattan would be destroyed. So he urged the group to migrate to Orlando, Florida. Obviously, they went to Florida. Of course they did. About 250 members went and when they realized in fact that Manhattan was not going to be destroyed. They came back because Manhattan versus Orlando. It’s like come up. Sorry, Orlando. We’d love you. We’ll go there. Should you have this more? Yep. Oh, we should do some horrible things that happened at Disney. Yes, yes. So when they came back Newton ostracize people who didn’t come with them to Florida. And members who spoke out against him would be kicked out around this time. So the late 70s Wait,
yeah, if they got kicked off, did they get to take their kids and husbands and things with them? Or they will have to say,
Oh, I’m gonna get into that. That’s part of the downfall of the cult, but you’re jumping ahead a little bit. So around this time in the late 70s, the group acquired another resort this time in the Catskills where paranoia flourish. Newton so remember to build a secret steel lined room so that john Harvey his wife could edit one of her films without CIA interference? I know that the CIA is very interested in the films that a soap opera star creates. I mean, yeah, that’s just the obvious. They also kept fleets of school buses and motorcycles in case they needed an escape route. At this point, Emily, this soul of aliens owned $12 million dollars and property and this is 1979 money. So I did a little googling guess how much in today’s money?
Um, I’ll say 35,000,040 $8 million in property. Damn. Yes. So like one or two, two bedroom apartments in New York City. Got it? Got it.
To people student loan debt? Yes, yes. Along with Newton, the therapists and the group and I’m using that term more and more loosely as the story goes on, began trying to control people’s relationships. They would decide if they could be an exclusive relationships and along with Newton control whether or not members should make babies. In the 80s, Newton began to show signs of dementia and also more violent behavior. He believed that violence and intimidation were the best way to deal with people who he thought were against him. What a former therapist from the group, Michael Cohen, no relation as far as I can tell. Yeah, so he attempted to leave the group in 1985. Two members, one of them Newton son, tracked him down and assaulted him at a subway stop. According to court documents that pair dangled Cohen over the subway tracks and threatened to kill him. Apparently, these men are now successful professionals in New York,they have never been prosecuted.
Holy shit. Also, at first, I thought you said subway like as in a subway restaurant, and now I’m just picturing someone dangling a person over like the cold cuts as a way of threatening them. And it’s a very funny picture.
No, I stopped by like in New York, how people travel. Yeah, we live in the suburbs. There’s nothing there. Well, you live in St. Louis, you’ve got some sort of public transit. 4
Yeah, it’s garbage, though. Only goes to like five different locations. So you have to drive to get to it. So it kind of defeats the purpose. Sorry, St. Louis. That’s the hard truth.
In July of 1985, the group apparently got into some arguments with their neighbors. So I can only imagine these people are living in this upper class neighborhood. And you know, these are mostly like white upper class, a lot of Jewish people in this neighborhood. So a lot of you know, doctors and people who are they’re wealthy in their fancy, I’m thinking of the marvelous, Mrs. nasal, but like, a couple decades later, so just like these fancy ass neighbors, and their neighbors are a commune valuing free love and little seed communism, they cannot be happy about that I
would be reporting them to every Hoa I was I could get my hands on I would go full care and totally I’d get the hair cut and everything.
There was an incident when which the Slovenian stuff that their neighbors poured paint on one of their buildings and probably this happened because the paint still there. But logically, cult members beat their neighbors with blunt objects and smash them positions before running away. Oh my god, I like how they are badass, but then they’re like Brandon, man. Yeah, yeah. aren’t even badass. It’s like, a little bit of vandalism means like, like, no, no. Oh my god. The group begins to crumble in the late 80s as two men who left I think Michael Cohen was one of them, but I can’t remember. They tried to sue the group for custody of their biological children. So like you were alluding to earlier, Emily when people left Their children had to stay there because the solid Amiens were like, well, the nuclear family isn’t a thing. So you can’t have these kids. They’re not really yours. The lawsuits brought public attention to the group’s violent tendencies and controversial child rearing practices. I know we’re supposed to stop our history in 1987. But the court didn’t officially disperse until 1991 when Newton died of sepsis after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it started in the 50s. And it’s my podcast, so don’t come at me. Most former members of this call don’t like to talk about it for obvious reasons. But I’m guessing that the majority of them are still wealthy, successful New Yorkers, probably ones that we’ve heard up before like seriously. Yeah, yeah. And that’s the whole thing. That’s the cell of Amiens that called full of fake therapists and unethical practices.
I am just one now I feel like I need to request not my therapist. I love my therapist, but like, how do you double check that your therapist is actually a therapist? And to I’m just like, picturing. Did you ever watch Arrested Development? I’m just picturing like, Lucille Bluth. Like a bunch of her like the blue family just yucky white idiots like who are just like drinking martinis and you know, getting away with shit because they’re wealthy New Yorkers, and meanwhile, they’re just menaces to society. It’s easy.
Talking about their kids like I love All My Children equally another the next phrase, I never cared for job.
Oh my god. Lucille is like my all time favorite character on TV. Yes, yes. So follow up questions on the sylvanian. So yes, Solomon’s I sell of Amiens is how I’m going to say it.
So there aren’t any more solid Amiens. Um, right. So I saw this one thing, they’re not really a group anymore. But apparently this guy, it was in one of the articles I read, but didn’t get too much into it, because the story was already so long, where he still has a lot of positive memories about it. And he basically made a Facebook group inviting Former members to talk about could we get back together one day, or it’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when. But I think as a majority, most of the members are kind of now like, this probably wasn’t healthy to cut off ties with our entire family. And maybe we shouldn’t have given Sally B so much of our money. And now we just live in New York and our lawyers, and thank god no charges wherever precedent time, I’m trying to understand what the draw was it just truly to be like, around your peers, other wealthy people slash having sex with as many people as you want. Like, you know, I’m thinking about the 60s and the free love movement, and this fact, authority less live. Because if you think about little C, Marxist type communism, it’s very much commune based. It’s everybody has a scale, and we’re gonna trade and we’re gonna support each other. And it sounds very utopian. But I think in practice, the reason that communism hasn’t ever been that effective is because it just doesn’t work because people are fucked up. And it just never kind of turns out the way that we think it’s going to. So I think it was probably the strap this utopian community, we don’t have anxiety, because we don’t have relationships in this way that’s going to cause us anxiety. And I, I mean, if you ask anybody, you know, your average person, what do you want out of life, most people will say, I just want to be happy. And it’s so I feel like I’m popping a child’s balloon when I say, but most of our lives are not spent being happy. Maybe we’re content, maybe we’re okay. But this pure joy, this happiness is not something that we have most of the time, we actually have a lot of other feelings that are more prevalent. And in order to really hold on to joy and this really, truly expansive and vibrant way. We have to feel pain, we have to feel anxiety. There There are two sides of the same coin. And that’s so hard.
Well yeah, it’s very true. Because if you only felt joy, would it even feel like joy? You know, like, right I feel like feeling the deep sadness of emotions in many ways provides you with the ability to understand and feel like the peaks that yes, I have the values as well.
Yeah. So I think I get it like I get the like I said it’s human nature to want to avoid suffering, but I can’t be done.
He just really targeted at people with anxiety like people susceptible to this vision of you can be happy all the time. I know the answer. And, and how shitty is it that it was from a therapists perspective, because so many people with anxiety and depression and like these issues, put so much faith into the hands of their therapists. And just like, I know, when I started therapy and was like, in a low moment, it’s like, please just tell me what to do. Yeah, it’s almost like, I just I’m relying on you as my Savior in some ways, which is not fair, either. But you eventually grow out of that as you go through therapy, you know, but, yeah, so if I went up first day, and the therapist was like, I have the answer for you, you’re going to join this group? I mean, I don’t know that I would have. But imagine there are a lot of people who’d be like, okay,
I’ll try it. I’ll try and think about our peer group, Emily, and our specific neuroses, in particular people who are very high achievers, people who want to do their best all the time, people who are prone to that kind of anxiety. Those people I think, are more vulnerable. I mean, even just looking at the people who complete suicide are usually not the people who seem depressed. They’re the high achievers. They’re the people who are putting so much pressure on themselves that people think, oh, no way, would they ever do this, but they’re pushing themselves to the point that they already maybe are kind of ignoring their family connections because they’re throwing themselves into work, then it makes a lot of sense why they would be vulnerable to that and want to release some of that anxiety. Check on your high achiever friends, people, they might not be okay. In COVID.
Yeah, especially right now. Seriously? Yeah. Yeah, I will tell you, they’re okay. And they will have started a Baking Company and a podcast, but I mean, not me.
Emily, do you want to talk later?
Yeah. Hang on after this
Yeah, just yeah. And seriously, like, a lot of people, just my final thoughts. As a therapist, a lot of people don’t see me because I do have a couple of clients who are like, Hey, I’m not doing that bad yet. But I know I have anxiety. And I know I need maintenance. But most of my clients, especially my couples, don’t come to me until they’re like, yeah, we talk about divorce every day, you know, or like, I think about suicide a lot. Don’t wait until you’re in a pit to seek therapy. Because it might take you a while to find a therapist that you like. So please, go when you think you’re starting to go on that downhill place, but not at the bottom of the well
yet so smart. That was so incredible. And like such a fun topic to talk about a horrible topic. Like it’s horrible to think about the disruption of these people’s lives. And, yeah, property apparently, and, you know, hit me right in the feels like this one fed me up so bad because of the psychological shit. That’s why I’m like, I have to go first, I have to get it out of my brain, and then listen to your shit. Well, and it’s so fascinating to me. And I’m so excited to tell you my story. Because I feel like it’s like a nice little lighter transition into the more psychology talk. Because if there’s something I love, almost as much as true crime, it’s talking about the human brain and human behavior. And like, that’s part of my job also. So I’m not a trained psychologist or anything, obviously. But so I work in internal communications. And so a lot of what we consult with our clients about his human behavior and talking about, like what that means in the workplace, I started my career in marketing. And I just didn’t really like that concept of like, selling like, it felt icky to me, but I love communications. And so I was so happy to find this career path in internal communications, because it’s like, I still get to do communications, but it’s more about laying the foundation for an employee’s life at work and their journey through their career and like how to make it the best it can possibly be from an employer’s perspective. So it’s interesting that Okay, so with all that in mind, I’m going to start today with a question I want to ask. So have you ever had an experience where you have like the strongest urge to do something but you don’t know why. Huh?
Yeah, yeah, I’m sure I have. I am a very gut instinct person. So I will feel like I need to do something and then just do the thing. Yes, I’m that way.
I can really only the only thing I can feel when I think about that. Quickly is like food. Like, I need this right now. But today, we are going to talk about a Very strong urge that a group of people had back in July of 1518, in the city of Strasbourg, France, which at the time was actually the Holy Roman Empire. But now it’s common de France.
So the urge to dance exist a public situation where you’re not allowed to dance or is this just regular Holy Roman Empire?
Regular Holy Roman Empire, but I do. I’m guessing I have Footloose joke written in here somewhere. I remember something about that. But so I guess before we dive into talking about this uncontrollable dancing plague, do you like to dance? I’m,
I’m a terrible dancer. And I do not like to dance. How about you? Oh,
I don’t dance like that much. at home. Like I wouldn’t say that. I like dance around my house or whatever. But let me live at a wedding. And I will be the life of the goddamn party. Like, I love dancing at weddings. I will be out on the dance floor the whole time. I think probably because there are standard dances. So it like gives me the confidence, you know, where I’m like, oh, like I do the cha cha slide. And I know I’m doing Oh, yeah. Or whatever. Well, I mean, the cha cha Slide it tells you what to do. That’s Yeah, I do it a lot. Yeah, exactly. And usually there’s alcohol, you know. So that’s, yeah. Unfortunately, that kind of fun. Wedding dancing is not the kind of dancing that I’m going to be talking about. Because this story is about the 1518 dancing plague of Strasbourg. So it literally they call it a plague because let’s get into it. I’ll explain. I can’t wait. So everything kind of kicked off when a woman known as frown. trofeo literally stepped out of her house into the street and began to silently, no music. No backup dancers. She just started twisting and shaking and twirling around. Okay, weird, right?
I mean, if there’s no music really weird, it’s not super, super weird. What is that thing called a flash mob? It’s not a flash. Yeah. Not a flash mob yet? Oh, no.
So at first people started gathering around her to watch you know, as one would if their neighbor just started dancing like a fool in the streets. But yeah, you know, so the onlookers are there clapping their hands and they’re laughing and watching her like busted move. But their excitement quickly faded, because Frau travia seemed unable to stop dancing until she collapsed from exhaustion. And then, after resting for a bit, she got fucking right back up and started her compulsive frenzy dance moves again. Know what the hell right? For nearly a week, she danced there. And in a shocking twist, other members of the town started to join her. So what did she do when she had to use the restroom? I couldn’t find any information on that. But I did look it up because I thought that exact same thing. Yeah, I assume. peed on herself. I don’t really know what she’s debated for a week or she just like there was a poop space outside. I have no idea. But yeah, I’m like, it sounds like they she literally only stopped when she got so exhausted that she fell down and stuff.
So no sleep be there for the whole week.
No. Nothing, just dancing. Just non stop dancing. Which sounds awful. So soon. three dozen people are silently dancing in the streets. three dozen. three dozen. That’s a whole 36 people. That’s crazy, right? Just tap into math in my head for a hot second. 36 whole fucking dancers. But so they’re sick. They’re seriously dancing silently in the streets. It’s not a flash mob. It appears that it’s not their own well, and they’re rarely stopping to eat or drink or sleep or anything. I have a question. Are they synchronized? doubtful. Don’t think it’s like a flash mob cha cha slide situation. I think I I’m picturing not dancing. Like it kind of looks like dancing, but it’s not like they kept referring to as frenzied and you know, writhing and things like that. So yeah, definitely. So it probably looked maybe like dancing at first, but really, it was this big group of people just convulsing in the streets while standing, you know, not like laying on the The ground so, okay. These people literally felt as if they physically couldn’t stop. As if they were just completely plagued by this uncontrollable desire to dance. Can you freaking imagine dancing for more than a couple of hours?
No. I mean, not without, you know, any sort of break. I guess I’m just, I’m picturing the Christopher Walken welfare or SNL sketch when it’s like, I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is mocap. But with
God can you imagine the blisters like I go to a wedding and I have so many blisters the next day from dancing like and there’s no way they had good comfortable shoes either. So it had to have just been a freakin disaster.
But yeah, 1500 so women are still wearing straight up corsets, right. course that’s heavy, like pantalones or whatever. And yeah, dresses and bonnets, probably Yeah. Cuz like at my wedding, I fucking I had my cute little heels. And then as soon as it was time to dance, I switch into top. So I was like, no more heels.
So basically, this goes on for weeks. I’m not saying days, I’m saying, weeks. So I heard you. That’s why I took a drink, because I need to get ready. And by August, nearly 400 people had joined in on the dancing frenzy. So with 400 pounds, people dancing nonstop for literally an entire month, people started to get concerned, you know, I would have probably gotten concerned a little earlier than a month in that’s 24 hours is too long. Yeah, I’d be like, Is this some sort of punk show like what’s happening? So they didn’t know what to do. And so they started, of course, they turned to local doctors to get counsel. But these were no ordinary doctors. These were doctors from the 16th century. So you know, they’re basically winging it. When it came to diagnosing diseases, I’m pretty sure. So after thinking it through, the doctors decided that these people probably had hot blood, which is a diagnoses that I spent a good chunk of time trying to look up and found absolutely nothing like the only thing I could find when I typed in hot blood.
Finding that, and then they kept going to bloodletting, which I’m like, that’s not what they’re talking about, I think but so I don’t think it’s a super scientific diagnosis. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised because the same doctors that had their hub diagnosis also had a really interesting solution. People should just dance the fever away. More cowbell, just keep on dancing. So no joke. These people clear out an open air grain market and erect a stage for the dancers to dance on. And then they take it a couple steps further, higher Pipers and drummers to play music and get this. They paid strong men to keep the afflicted upright. By clutching their bodies as they whirled around, it’s sane, l
ike, let me get this straight. It’s like, you guys are sick. So what we’re gonna do is we’re going to make you feel less awkward by adding music and putting some like sron Yeah, man there to make it feel okay.
It’s like, I have to keep dancing, you’re gonna dance, you’re hot blooded fever away. Here’s some strong men to hold you up. And to on some tap shoes man, like, perhaps a drum solo. It seems very unscientific. But you know, it was the 1500s. As I say, of course, this really only exacerbated the contagion because you’re providing more of a, you know, figurative and literal platform for them to continue on. And so more and more and more and more people just get consumed with this compulsion to dance hilarious to think about, unfortunately, not as hilarious because we’re talking about people dancing, a very physical activity nonstop for weeks and weeks and weeks. And so every single day, dozens of people are collapsing from exhaustion. Everyone has battered and bruised feet, and weak and weary bodies, and some people even died from strokes and heart attacks. So these people are literally dancing themselves to death. And so the town leaders are like, whoops, doctors were wrong and they started to switch gears. So now instead of thinking they have hot blood, they believe that the dancers are suffering from a holy wrath. Sure. And so then they went all Footloose on the town and decided to ban music and dancing in public. I knew I had a good footless line in there. Of course, this didn’t seem to help much because the dancers were not dancing on their own volition like they were out there doing. They were trying to stop, they didn’t want to be dancing. I was just like thinking unless the town’s gonna try to find a way to literally strapped down for 100 people, like a dance band isn’t gonna be super successful, but you do you townspeople whatever. And so, this goes on until September. So we’re two months into this. And they finally decide, we got to do something. they’re experiencing this holy wrath. We need to take these dancers to this mountaintop shrine to the St. vitus, who was the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers and epileptics throw the epileptics in there at the end. Also, he was said to protect against lightning strikes, animal attacks, and oversleeping. It’s such a weird combination. Can I get his number actually? Like, where do I go to pray to him? I mean, if we need to go to France, I’m here for it. Let’s do it. Yeah, I mean, once COVID is over, let’s go to France, please. So they have this shrine to Mr. vitesse, this St. vitus in the hills, which is above a nearby town. And they take the the dancers there to pray for absolution. And so at the shrine, their bloodied feet are put into these red shoes and they’re like, led around this wooden figuring at the St. To pray at the shrine, and I’m not gonna lie, there was this part of me that was like, is, quote, taking them to the mountain to pray for absolution, like a code for something else. Like when my dad told me that my pony was going to a next farm to live with other horses, like, where did they really do with those people?
I’m over here, picturing them walking around in red shoes, and I’m chanting in my head. Shame. Shame. Exactly. Oh, my God. Exactly.
So anyway, within a couple of weeks, as suddenly and oddly, as it started, the mania ended, it just stopped. And because this is so long ago in history, of course, there’s not really like a solid understanding of how many people died. Or were injured. So there was someone who lived nearby that wrote that at least 15 people were dying every day. Wow, other chroniclers say it was a couple dozen people who died in total. But whatever number it is, I feel like it’s kind of a mind boggling concept. Like, what causes a dancing fever? That leads people to dance themselves to death? Yes, what caused this? So there are lots of theories. So I’m gonna dive into many are scientific, and many are not so scientific. But I’m going to share, you know, three or four of them. So we’re gonna start with the ones that don’t hold that much water. Perfect. There’s, of course, the theory suggested by the great doctors have 1518 overheated blood. But as I said before, this is not the answer. We just have to say sorry, buds. Even back then people did not think you were right. So we’re moving on. Okay. Yeah. Another possibility that carries a bit more weight is that the people accidentally ingested? Fuck another thing that I forgot how to look up how to spell airgo or, or gut, maybe it’s er, g oT? That’s a talker and mold? Probably air go and go. Exactly. Yeah. They’re fancier than we are. Yeah, for sure. So that’s a toxic mold that grows on damp, right. And produces reaction similar to else LSD. That makes more sense to me. Yeah. So they’re kind of like, well, maybe they ingested this mold. And now they’re suffering from this violent twitching and hallucinations. But a lot of researchers kind of said, even if it was poisoning, it’s kind of unlikely that the dancers would have been able to keep dancing for so long. Right eventually gets out of your system, right? Or you die. I don’t know. But so yeah, some of these people dance for weeks. And so
and at some point, you have to be in withdrawals where you don’t want to dance. Exactly.
So that one is more likely still kind of iffy. Another reason offered was that it was the work of a heretical sect of a religious cult, or demon possession. Sure. But I think some, there’s some weight here because a lot of people were saying, you know, the dancers clearly did not want to be dancing. So this pot of possession or like a super strong influence from a cult leader, could be a more more likely solution. But whether or not it was a cult or a demon, is kind of where things get less likely, you know? Yeah, religious influence, they think now did play a part. So this is kind of the kind of fun brain Park. So American sociologist, Robert Bartholomew really leaned into this idea and said that it didn’t really seem like possession as much as it seemed like the dancers were dancing to attract divine favor. And so I’ll explain that a teeny bit more in a second, because it’s a likely component of what sociologists now believe is the answer to this dancing fever, which is which I was so excited because you mentioned this in your story. NASS, psychogenic disorder or mass hysteria. Whoo, thanks, Freud. Let’s talk about mass hysteria and like, define hysteria really quick. So, as you know, hysteria is hysteria is a psychological disorder, whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms. And some of those symptoms could be selective amnesia or shallow, volatile emotions or overdramatic and attention seeking behavior, perhaps, like dancing in the streets. And so usually, it’s when some kind of stress or fear manifests and the person that’s suffering from hysteria, it causes a reaction that is not really explained by any other physical symptoms. And then I have a side note, the term hysteria is derived from the Greek hysteria, meaning uterus, and reflects the ancient notion that hysteria was specifically a female disorder resulting from disturbances in uterine functions.
Yep. You know, when your uterus is just like, bitch, you gotta dance.
It’s time. I know when I get to MSCI. The next line is this has since been debunked. So hysteria is an individual affliction, technically. So that’s why there is a difference when you’re talking about mass hysteria. So kind of like, where is it that these 400 plus people are all experiencing the same dancing plague together? You know, what could cause that. And so this phenomenon where hysteria can happen to a mass group of people takes place when there’s this collective illusion of threat that happens through an entire population as a result of fear. And so this often really takes place under circumstances of extreme stress. And there are a lot of things to be stressed about and collectively fear in 1518. So in this year, famine was tearing through Strasburg, leprosy, and the plague were still around and some new diseases, a little something called small box and another little something called syphilis. We’re also being born great, not great. And so as one article stated, at this time, there were social and religious conflicts, terrifying new diseases that made her genitals edge. I added that part that wasn’t in the harvest failures, spiking wheat prices, just widespread misery. And one chronicler described 1517 the previous year with poignant brevity, calling it a bad year. And then the following summer, orphanages, hospitals and shelters, were all overflowing with the desperate people and so 1518 not a great year for friends. Yeah, and of course, back in this time, religion, also big deal, really permeating the ideas and values of people, right. So, as people continue to experience these terrible conditions, things just kept getting worse and worse. It felt like it was just a matter of time before they started to say what you know, oh, God’s angry. They also were in a time where it was commonly believed that when God was mad, he would send saints to punish them and St vitus was a really well known saint at this time. And so when these people started to dance uncontrollably they had that, like lightbulb go off of like, Uh huh, God must have sent St. vitus to punish us, you know, and make us dance. And so, you know, as the sociologist I referenced before mentioned, it seemed like they were dancing to a, to attract divine favor. Okay, so that is kind of setting the stage for this. So I was gonna say, as an aside, this kind of dancing mania had actually happened before, there was one more significant one in the 1300s. But like smaller groups were having these kind of issues over the past couple of centuries. And so it was likely in the consciousness of the people in this region already. And so when these circumstances started to, you know, keep getting worse and worse. And it seemed like all the elements were really there. They, they were primed to think that they were like, due to be punished any day. And they had this thought in their brain of like, one punishment. Is this dancing thing, right? Yeah. Yeah, they’re all set up.
Yeah. Well, and it’s this multi generational trauma, where we are like, Okay, this bad thing happened to my great, great grandparents. And so I’m still feeling the effects of that now.
Mm hmm. And so yeah, they’re all just like sitting around waiting. They think something bad’s gonna happen. They’re wondering what they’ve done to deserve this. They’re waiting for God to punish them. And then on that fateful day, Frau trophy, starts dancing. And it’s extremely easy for people who are suggestible. Basically. Yeah. And primed for this punishment to say, you know, here we go. St. vitus has finally come for us, you know, and, and to kind of have that feeling of like, well, it’s only a matter of time until we all join her. Yeah. And then those people who are devout Catholics or emotionally frail, you know, they start acting the way that their culture tells them, they should act when they’re possessed by St. vitus, aka dancing uncontrollably in the streets. So it’s like the suggestibility thing which is fascinating. Fascinating. That’s exactly the word I was thinking of. Yes. It’s so interesting. I was like, I was trying to break it down a little bit. Because some of that I’ll kind of like, feel like I repeated myself a couple times, but like, essentially, the town’s full of people who are devout Catholics, they believe if things are going wrong for them, it’s because they’ve sent with that thought in the back of their head. They’re on high alert for things that are punishments from God. And so when one person starts dancing, seemingly possessed, they think this must be the punishment they’ve been waiting for. And because they’re so susceptible to this idea, their brains actually start causing them to act the way they believe they should act in order to be punished.
It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Like, essentially, when we think, Okay, this bad thing is going to happen to me. I’m just going to act as if it’s already happened. And then the bad thing does happen to us now is demonic possession, but more like, Okay, I have a big test. I think I’m going to fail this test. So what’s the point in even studying for it? So I’m not ready for it. And then I fail the test. Yeah,
yeah, exactly. So they’re just like, self fulfilling prophecy, setting themselves up for dancing failure. And then on top of everything this one article was saying, that made this point. If the dancing mania really was a case of mass psychogenic illness, we can also see why it engulfed so many people in Strasburg, because few acts could have been more conducive to triggering an all out psychic epidemic than the councillors decisions, to corral the dancers into the most public part of the city. Their visibility, ensure that the other city folk were rendered susceptible, as their minds dwelt on their own sins, and the possibility that they might be next.
It is the literal fucking Game of Thrones, shame, shame, shame. If they could happen to Searcy, it could happen to
anyone. So yeah, so it’s, it seems to me like this mass hysteria is a strong option for what caused this dancing plague in 1518. And as you think about it, so mass hysteria is not combat confined to the 1500s. And there are a couple other instances that I’ll talk about. But the dancing hysteria is not necessarily something that happens anymore, but it did happen in the 1300s and 1500s. There was one in the 1700s I think, but it kind of makes sense to me because Religion kind of started to fade, you know, it wasn’t as strong of an influence more and more and more as the years go by. And so I think I can see why maybe this whole, like St. vitus thing is, has faded away.
I mean, at some point, I think we’ll probably have to cover the influence of religion throughout the ages, where it’s stronger when bad things happen, because people think either we’re being punished or we don’t understand it, and then we need to latch on to somebody who can help us, which means, right and like, we are in no way just a disclaimer, wherein no way knocking religious beliefs and we think, whatever gives you hope, and faith and grace is amazing, and that’s different for everybody.
Okay, so, I’m going to share a couple of other instances of mass hysteria, because again, fucking fascinating. And so, in the early 1700s, there were European convents that would become infected with possessed nuns. I’ve heard about this. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Like, okay, these nuns who would ride around and converse and foam at the mouth and like, make obscene gestures. And then it says, like, some of them even would climb trees and meow like cats. But the most disturbing part of this whole thing is that this article spelled me out. And I ate Oh, W. I’m sorry. No, I was like, that’s how you spell them. Yeah. What the fuck is wrong with you? And so it was crazy. It’s that damn uterus. And again, how dare you? Right? Oh my gosh, like that a whole roomful of women with a uteruses This is just bound to be a disaster. So these people were like, it seems like possession, right, but the nuns are also living in these communities that are encouraging them to obsess about sin. And so when one of them becomes convinced that a demon had entered their soul, you know, they’re all prone to fall into the state where they are all saying like, okay, we’re gonna do exactly what theologians and Exorcist say the diabolically possessed, do you know, and so then they start acting the way they think they should be acting as people who are possessed. And so this like infected again, hold convents where the whole group would be going through this possession situation. More recently, mass psychogenic illness has affected others. There was a school in Blackburn in 1965. That had as many as 140 pupils affected by psychogenic dizziness, nausea, spasms, and shortness of breath, after several girls publicly fainted, so like a few girls painted, and then like 140, other ones are like me, too. In modern day, Malaysia and Singapore, factory workers are often drawn in from rural communities steeped in beliefs about the spiritual world. And then those who find it hard to adjust to the regimentation of factory life sometimes can enter a disassociative state in which they will behave in a manner that’s shaped by their cultures understanding of spirit possession. And so you know, if a fellow worker shares the same beliefs and are experiencing the same psychological strain, then there’s again, an outbreak. And they often have to they bring those to an end with a religious ritual, generally involves the slaughter of a goat, Cheshire put a stop to it. And then kind of one last one was I read this really fascinating book a couple years ago called social contagion by Lee, Daniel krawitz. Recommend it’s a little slow in the beginning, but I definitely recommend it. And this book talks about this 2009 tragedy that happened in Palo Alto. And basically what happened was a student from the local high school, completed suicide by stepping in front of a train. And so you know, the community was, of course, grief stricken, and they mourned this, this child, and then they thought it was an isolated loss until a few weeks later, it happened again, another student from that school, completed suicide by stepping in front of a train, and then again, and again. And in six months, that high school lost five students, no train tracks, oh my god. And so this author went on to do research and found like what could have caused suicide to basically become like, quote, unquote, contagious and that’s kind of like a version of what we talked about today. It’s a little different, I think, but this like when the right factors come together psychological, physiological, you know, social factors. The brain is just so freakin susceptible, even to something as intense as suicide that it can actually be contagious, which is terrifying?
Well, and it’s so interesting, because when you are looking and assessing for risk factors of suicide, the biggest risk factor is whether or not someone close to you has completed suicide. So you are more likely to have suicidal ideation or suicidal attempts if someone close to you has done it. So again, mental health plug. If someone you know has recently completed suicide, and you’re having any sort of suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a therapist or a school counselor or a safe adult and get some help.
Yeah. And it just fascinates me and gives me chills to think about how powerful our brains are. Yes. Because I’m sure these dancers in the streets are not thinking, I think I’m going to go dance uncontrollably, because that’s what I should do. Like, their brain just told them to do it. Consciously. I’m sure. I know
that a lot the long lasting mental health effects of COVID How often are we going to be anxiety stricken when we try to hug someone? Or? I mean, my kids, assuming there’s a vaccine by the end of next year, which I really hope there is. My kids are probably not going to remember COVID Yeah. But my husband and I are going to be like, okay, where’s our hand sanitizer? Let’s hand hand sanitizer. Before we get in the car. Let’s make sure we wash our hands all the time. Oh, do we really need to hug that person? And how much of it’s like after the Great Depression? How many people in what is it the greatest generation pre boomers like boomers, parents, are hoarders because their parents didn’t have anything. So they save everything. And they taught them to save everything. And what is this going to mean for the next generation? I just think it’s so interesting.
I think about it all the time. Because Yeah, right. Like, your kids will probably not remember it. And in fact, I would venture to guess most children will now grow up with this being the norm. Yeah, hand sanitizer, wearing masks like, probably not sitting so close in school or whatever. Like, I feel like this has opened our eyes to cleanliness habits somehow or something. And like how germs can spread.
But it’s extra, it’s extra anxiety. Like, even when you came to visit me and I know you’ve not been around anybody for like six months. And you came and you drove eight hours. And I know you wear your mask. And I was like, should we hug? Like,
they’re like, you’re gonna be sleeping in my house. But sure. I’m like, yeah, so we get that close. Yeah. And so I do wonder, like, what will the long term effects be? Cuz I, for those who don’t know, like, I moved home to my parents house because I live alone in a big city. And now I was working from home. And I have terrible anxiety that often manifests as hypochondria. And so I just basically had a little mini mental breakdown, after eight weeks being in total solitude. And every time I felt a tickle in my throat thinking, this is it, I’ve covered and of course it like compounds into I’m going to die, you know. And so finally, I was like, I just have to go home because I can’t be alone anymore. But so I still have these these thoughts of like, well, should I go to the grocery store? how nervous should it be when I have a headache? Or a cough? Yeah, my mom has a cough right now. She’s had it for four weeks. Like it’s not good. She got tested. Like, it’s not but every time she coughs I’m like, leans as far away. You know, I’m like, wash your hands, you know? Yeah. It’s gonna stick with us, I think. Yeah. Okay, coming back to dancing mania. I have a couple more things. So like, one How are they supposed to solve these situations? So a lot of articles talked about how it really has to stop by stopping public perception of the threat. And so you know, like in Malaysia, they killed a goat and that in their culture says, okay, we’ve, you know, sacrificed something to the gods and now the threat is gone. And Strasburg. They took the people to the temple, and a couple of weeks later, the dancing had all stopped because I think they thought yeah, okay, we did what we need to do that day. And then in today’s world, I read a lot about how It’s so important that the media not amplify the issue and like keep it in the public eye. They talked about that a lot in the case in Palo Alto with this the completion of suicide by all the students, it was like in the news constantly, and they finally were like, you have to stop reporting on this not because their lives are not worth reporting on. But it’s obviously encouraging others. Yeah. And so and I also think there could be a lot could be said, just, we could do a whole hour on this, I’m sure of like, how the media has so much control
over our perceptions and our mental health and yeah, for sure. For now, tune in to terrible today, when maybe one day we’ll go there when we are sufficiently drunk. It’ll be fine.
Exactly. And that’s really all I have for you. Like, so good. Every story kind of, you know, horrible.
I just feel like it was. It’s kind of funny, but it was it was a horrible event. It was a deadly event. You know, we don’t know how many people died, but a couple dozen to a couple 100 probably. And I just thought it was so cool that it like, just vividly demonstrates the extremes that a brain can go to, you know, yeah, I just couldn’t, I couldn’t help it do the story once I read it, because it was so fascinating.
I loved it. I thought it was so interesting. And I loved that we both did psychological shit. It’s really fun to see what we gravitate towards. And I’ve never heard of this before. And I’m glad you get something overseas. And I’m glad you did something. Pre 1800s because this is the first for both of us. So I’m excited, man. I loved it. I
hope that people didn’t mind all of our psychology, Todd. Wow. Yeah. Like, this is a therapy session.
I mean, I really think mental health and horrible shape go together. And that’s part of the reason. Those of us who are you know, the morbid curious, as I followers are starting to call themselves and I love that we are so attracted to horrible shape, because we have anxiety and because we’re like, I have to understand everything. And I have to know and prepare myself for everything, which we know is not super helpful. You know, as your friendly neighborhood therapist. It’s still it’s like a fucking train wreck. You can’t look away. And we have to know and so morbid, curious population, people who are listening to us. Thank you for fucking listening to our mental health stories, too. We appreciate it.
Yeah, for real. Speaking of listeners, and followers, just like couple of shout outs, I just want to say like major thanks to everyone who has rated and reviewed us. The couple 100 downloads that we’ve had. So far our sampling is growing like we’re so grateful for you guys. And I do have to shout out one particular Instagram follower, mainly because we don’t know what you mean, help us feel so old. And it just like filled me I’m trying to like pull it up on my phone.
I will explain the concept. And then you can say the name. Somebody said that our episode was be you’d be why IoT. And we Google that. And so it either means bring your own oxygen tank or something good. We like to think it’s good. Like, oh, I’m on the floor. I’m dead break your own oxygen tank. But like we’re old and we don’t know. So if it was mean, don’t fucking tell us. But if it was nice, thank you. Thank you so much.
We’re so glad that you laughed so hard meaning the oxygen tank. Okay. Yeah, it was like, my I had a conversation with my parents about it is like, is it bring your own oxygen tank or my dad was like, maybe it’s just like saying be like, Oh, that’s a beaut. And but then we were like, Well, why don’t you try to shorten it? Because it’s the same amount of letters. So anyways, Instagram follower learned to lovely please share what you what this means.
It’s like, I have clients who are teenagers who are like, Okay bed and it means like, I got it bed on it. That’s right, which like, I understand from context, but on Instagram, there is no context. So like, we’re in our 30s help us help you. We want to shout you out. We’d love you. Thanks for following but help us send Tell us what I want to feel like one. And just everyone.
I know this was a long one. Thank you so much for listening. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our new series terrible today, new episodes drop every Tuesday. And in these lighter, more abbreviated episodes. We literally read news stories from more recent years to you and spend a little bit of time laughing at you know, stupid criminals and absurd events. So pleasecheck it out.
Yeah, we want to start adding emails from if you have like a crazy ass historical story that you’re somehow linked to, like, your grandparents knew what we were talking about in World War Two with the crazy religious shift, or whatever, email us if it’s post 1987 we might still throw it in there for a terrible today. But I mean, we want to hear from you. Definitely. Also, please remember to subscribe on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a review. Tell us why we should do your town we might do it. We are always looking for new interesting stories that we’ve never heard of. We’re still really new. We’re still finding our vibe. The way that more people hear about us is when you do the shit on I mean primarily Apple but all the places are great.
Exactly. And like Rachel said, sending us you know events to consider at our at our horrible history podcast at gmail, but also, you know, posting on our Instagram or Twitter at Instagrams at horrible history pod. Twitter is at the horrible pod. And you can not only just follow us there and get to know us but also, like rich said, sharing you know a post with your friends or with your follow follower group is a great way to help us get a little more publicity and get some new followers. So if you like us, share us with your friends, because I’m sure they’ll love us too.
And until next time, thank you for listening.
Hopefully you’re horrified.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
- The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James
- Genealogy Trails
- Dynamic St. Louis
- STL Today
- Lindenwood University
Intro Music: “Creeper” – Oliver Lyu