New England's Dark Day was so eerie some thought it was the Day of Judgment

·3 min read
New England's Dark Day was so eerie some thought it was the Day of Judgment
New England's Dark Day was so eerie some thought it was the Day of Judgment

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.

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On Friday, May 19, 1780, parts of New England and Canada went completely dark during the day. This event is known as New England's Dark Day.

"This extraordinary darkness came on between the hours of 10 and 11 a.m. and continued till the middle of the next night," said Professor Samuel Williams from Cambridge, Massachusetts. In Rupert, New York, the skies were already obscured during sunrise.

People at Harvard College, the undergraduate college of Harvard University, reported the obscuration at around 10:30 a.m., reaching peak blackout at 12:45 p.m.

Animals were acting like it was evening in the middle of the day. Someone who experienced the event said that the air smelled like soot and that rain was covered with an ashy film.

In New Hampshire, the fallen ash measured up to 15 cm deep.

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Before the Dark Day, people in New England reported that the sun looked red and the sky yellow. And when the Dark Day turned to a dark night, the moon appeared red as well.

Because it was 1780, communication was limited, so it was difficult to explain the phenomenon. In Connecticut, Abraham Davenport, a member of the Governor's council, thought that the darkness was a sign of the Day of Judgment.

Courtesy New England Historical Society
Courtesy New England Historical Society

Courtesy of New England Historical Society

"I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought," said Davenport.

The Dark Day is thought to be caused by the perfect blackout conditions of thick fog, smoke from forest fires, and clouds.

Those in affected areas needed to use candlelight to see in the middle of the day.

To learn more about New England's Dark Day, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: Courtesy of New England Historical Society