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New England's Dark Day

Updated on February 25, 2015

Midnight at Midday

An Unsolved Mystery

On May 19th, 1780 a sense of doom swept over New England and parts of Canada at around noon. The darkness was seen as far north as Portland, Maine and as far south as New Jersey. However, it was not seen in Pennsylvania.

Much of the region was plunged into darkness. Chickens settled down to roost and frogs began their nighttime croaking. When night actually came in, the moon was as red as blood. There was no eclipse to blame for the blanket of darkness which would require the use of candles from noon on. For several days prior to this dark occurrence, the sun appeared to be red and the sky yellow.

Many people concluded that the Day of Judgement had come. Most people found the sudden darkness baffling and inexplicable. Science could not explain the phenomenon. Therefore, leaving it open to religious interpretations. The Dark Day of 1780 is still regarded by many as a supernatural event caused by God.

A response to the fears of his colleagues from Connecticut legislative, Abraham Davenport, made him famous. His response was, “I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, No faithless servant frightened from my task, But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls; And therefore, with all reverence, I would say, Let God do His work, we will see to ours. Bring in the candles.”

The only possible cause may have been a high-altitude pall of wind-bourne soot from huge forest fires burning in the West. During the “blackout,” soot was seen collecting in rivers and in rainwater. This suggests the presence of smoke. Some recalled morning rain, indicative of cloud cover.

The blanket of darkness would linger until the middle of the next night and to this day remains an unsolved mystery.

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