With the full moon come “the crazies.”
At least, that’s what working in a newsroom for years would lead me to believe. My paper’s former news editor and police beat reporter were convinced that there’s some truth to the legend that full moons make people act a little batty.
The full moon
The funny thing is, some statistics do seem to back up the idea that bad shit happens during a full moon, like one from the British Medical Journal that concluded, “the increased incidence of crimes on full moon days may be due to “human tidal waves” caused by the gravitational pull of the moon.” Huh?
According to Scientific American,
“Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder suggested that the brain was the ‘moistest’ organ in the body and thereby most susceptible to the pernicious influences of the moon, which triggers the tides.”
The Farmers’ Almanac points out that humans are 60% water, so if the moon can affect ocean tides so drastically that they bulge the Earth’s crust, surely it can also work its lunar magic on us mere mortals.
Well, not really. This long-held belief is probably just the result of confirmation bias, Bustle says—the tendency to seek out and remember information that backs up something you already believe. So if anything weird happens during a full moon, it’s easy to attribute that weirdness on the moon instead of logic.
Consider the stat that dogs have a 28% higher chance of going to the ER on a night with a full moon than any other night, Matteo Cantiello, chief scientist at Authorea and theoretical astrophysicist at the Kavli institute, told Bustle. That’s probably because people are more likely to take their dog out at night during a full moon. It offers more light—but it’s still dark, which increases the chances of little Bailey or Gizmo getting hurt.
Similarly, as my old news editor, who spent nearly 20 years covering cops and courts, noted, crimes really do go up during a full moon. “Without fail, we’d start hearing strange calls for police service on the scanner, and eventually, someone would declare, ‘Yep, there’s a full moon!’” she told me.
Live Science, too, notes that increase of crime during a full moon, but it doesn’t blame lunacy.
“People are more active during full moons than moonless nights. An especially beautiful full moon may draw families out into the night to appreciate it and lovers to local necking spots. Muggers and other criminals who ply their trade at night also use the moon’s illumination to carry out their dirty deeds.”
The hunter’s moon
But, because it’s this year, Halloween’s full moon gets a few extra oddities. For one, it’s a blood moon, also called a sanguine or hunter’s moon. A hunter’s moon is the full moon that comes after October’s harvest moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox (that was Sept. 22 this year).
The hunter’s moon gets its name from Native Americans, who could hunt by its brightness to stockpile food for the winter, according to the Farmers’ Almanac.
The blue moon
Saturday’s full hunter’s moon will also be a blue moon, which has two definitions, according to EarthSky. A blue moon is the second full moon in the same month, which is not terribly common—the last one was in March 2018. A blue moon is also the third of four full moons in one season, which astronomers consider the time from a solstice to an equinox. It, too, is pretty uncommon: Most three-month seasons have just three full moons, not four. The next seasonal blue moon will occur in August 2021.
You won’t see another full moon on Halloween night until 2039—the last one happened in 1944—so enjoy the evening sky this Saturday.
And maybe stay close to home. And keep the dog inside.