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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/161

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147
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

many temporarily or permanently of such little brains as they possessed; it was only when the violence had become an old story and the charm of novelty had entirely worn off, and the afflicted found themselves no longer regarded with especial interest, that the epidemic died away.[1]

But in Germany at that time the outcome of this belief was far more cruel. In 1749 Maria Renata Sänger, sub-prioress of a convent at Würzburg, was charged with bewitching her fellow-nuns. There was the usual story—the same essential facts as at Loudun—women shut up against their will, dreams of Satan disguised as a young man, petty jealousies, spites, quarrels, mysterious uproar, trickery, utensils thrown about in a way not to be accounted for, hysterical shrieking and convulsions, and, finally, the torture, confession, and execution of the supposed culprit.[2]

Various epidemics of this sort broke out from time to time in other parts of the world, though happily, as modern skepticism prevailed, with less cruel results.

In 1760 some congregations of Calvinistic Methodists in Wales became so fervent that they began leaping for joy. The mania spread and gave rise to a sect called the "Jumpers." A similar outbreak took place afterward in England, and has been repeated at various times and places since in our own country.[3]

In 1780 came another outbreak in France; but this time it was not the Jansenists who were affected, but the strictly orthodox. A large number of young girls between twelve and nineteen years of age, having been brought together at the church of St. Roch, in Paris, with preaching and ceremonies calculated to arouse hysterics, one of them fell into convulsions. Immediately other children were similarly taken, until some fifty or sixty were engaged in the same antics. This mania spread to other churches and gatherings, proved very troublesome, and in some cases led to results especially painful.

About the same period came a similar outbreak among the Protestants of the Shetland Isles. A woman having been seized with convulsions at church, the disease spread to others, mainly women, who fell into the usual contortions and wild shriekings. A very effective cure proved to be a threat to plunge the diseased into a neighboring pond.

But, as we near the end of the eighteenth century, a fact very

  1. See Madden, "Phantasmata," chap, xiv; also Sir James Stephen, "History of France," lecture xxvi; also Henry Martin, "Histoire de France," chap, xv, pp. 168 et seq.; also Calmeil, iiv. v, chap, xxiv; also Hecker's "Essay," iv, 5; and, for samples of myth-making, see the apocryphal "Souvenirs de Créquy."
  2. See Soldan, Scherr, Diefenbach, and others.
  3. See Adams's "Dictionary of All Religions," article on "Jumpers"; also Hecker's "Essay," iv, 6.