Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Do a little dance

If you spend any time on social media, you've undoubtedly seen the Serbian Dancing Lady.

She appears in short clips, taken at night, almost always when no one else is around.  She appears to be middle-aged, and wears a dress -- sometimes rather plain, sometimes ornate-looking.  She always starts out with her back to the camera, and is doing a dance with her arms outstretched, a kind of side-to-side shimmy that some have compared to steps from Balkan folk dances.  The person filming her approaches, calls out to her something like, "Hey, what are you doing?" or "Are you okay?" -- both, you have to admit, reasonable questions to ask someone out dancing alone in the middle of the street at night.  The Dancing Lady sloooooowly turns...

... then charges at the person filming her with a knife.

Here's a compilation of a few of the video clips:

She's always seen in the Zvezdara municipality, near Belgrade, we're told.  The police know about her and are "very concerned" but have been unable to apprehend her or even figure out who she is.  You are then solemnly advised that if you see her, you shouldn't speak, approach, or make eye contact with her.  

Just run.

I did a bit of digging, and I found out that claims of the Serbian Dancing Lady go back to 2019, when some probably deranged person was out in Zvezdara stumbling about and lunging at cars and passersby.  Some of the footage on YouTube and TikTok seems to date from these early sightings.  Then there's not much until this February, when a TikTok user called @aatc13 posted a clip of her with the caption "be careful guys," and in a couple of weeks it got 78 million views.

Explanations, as usual, vary.  Some people take the more prosaic approach that she's a violently insane person who somehow has eluded the police.  Others claim that she's an evil spirit, demon, or witch, and that if she pursues you, you'll never be seen again, which raises the awkward question that if that's true, who's posting the videos?

In any case, since the post in February, you can't get on TikTok without seeing a new clip of the Serbian Dancing Lady.  Some are just reposts, but what's struck me is that the vast majority of these are different people in different places wearing different clothing.  So are there multiple Serbian Dancing Ladies?  There'd have to be, to account for all these videos.  In fact, there are so many videos, with new ones popping up every day, that you get the impression the women in Serbia do nothing at night but dance by themselves on the street and wait for someone to come up and film them.

Serbian woman's boss: Here, can you get this paperwork done this morning?

Serbian woman: I'll try, but I'm pretty tired today.  Rough night.

Serbian woman's boss: Too much dancing?

Serbian woman: You got that right.  Spent six hours shimmying on the street, and not a single person asked me if I was okay.  I haven't had a good chase in two weeks.  Not gonna lie, it's kind of discouraging.

Serbian woman's boss: That sucks.  Well, better luck tonight.  

Serbian woman: Thanks.  I'm keeping my knife sharp, just in case.

The sudden alarming proliferation of different Serbian Dancing Lady videos is undoubtedly because the whole thing would be so easy to stage.  Unlike (for example) Bigfoot videos, you don't even need an elaborate costume; just a long dress and a scarf.  All you have to do is get a female friend to dance for a few seconds on the street while you video her, then have her slowly turn toward you and give chase while you feign alarm and run away.  Done.  Anyone could make and upload their own Serbian Dancing Lady videos in under three minutes, and that's even if they don't live in Serbia.

Not that I am in any way recommending this, mind you.

So my suspicion is that while the original 2019 video might be of some actual deranged person, the recent ones are very likely all hoaxes.  Just as well.  It'd suck if this spread to the United States, because we've got enough to deal with over here.  Last thing we need is demonic dancing ladies accosting people on the street.


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