sjhstrangetales

DAYTIME DARKNESS

Posted on: April 12, 2018

This is a subject that has interested me for a long while, but it seems peculiarly apt during these hideously dark times we’re living through at the moment.  By “daytime darkness” though I mean it in a literal sense, a profound darkness which falls during daylight hours.  Sometimes of course these can have an obvious explanation, such as the weather.  During the awful floods of the Summer of 2007 for instance, it got so dark in our neighbourhood that the streetlights came on at 10 o’clock in the morning (this was in July!), and I had never seen the sky such a strange colour before.

In 1816 occurred the notorious Year Without A Summer, when a volcanic eruption in the Dutch East Indies the year before threw so much sulphur into the atmosphere that world temperatures plummeted, resulting in widespread global famine.  It also inspired one of the greatest creative brainstorming sessions in history, when a house-party on the banks of the Lake Geneva were forced to stay indoors and entertain each other with fantastical stories.  Out of it Mary Shelley produced Frankenstein, Polidori began the whole vampire craze with The Vampyre, and Lord Byron was inspired to write his poem Darkness.  This was the era of The Age Of Reason, and yet here it clashed with portents of doom which were  being proclaimed all over Europe, inducing hysteria and suicide amongst many people.   A scientist in Italy proclaimed that the Sun would go out on 18 July, which didn’t help matters at all, leaving many to fear that the Day of Judgement was nigh.  North America was afflicted with severe frosts and snowfall in the month of June, seriously harming crops.  During the month of May, the temperatures didn’t get above freezing in the New York area.  One woman summed it up succinctly in her diary: “weather backward”.

A few decades earlier occurred New England’s Dark Day, when on 19 May 1780 a strange darkness occurred over the skies of New England and parts of Canada.  The darkness was observed soon after sunrise, and occurred into the following night.  There has been much discussion since as to what had caused it, the most likely suspect being a combination of forest fires, fog and dark cloud.   It was dark enough for candles to be required during daytime, and for frogs to start croaking as if it was night-time.

A less explainable event was supposed to have happened in Wimbledon, London, in April 1904, when an inexplicable daytime darkness hit the neighbourhood.  The only source I have ever been able to find for this story occurred in Charles Fort’s The Book Of The Damned.  He writes that on 17 April 1904 “it came from a smokeless region: no rain, no thunder; lasted 10 minutes; too dark to go even out in the open”.  I have seen some people trying to tie this event in with the Tunguska event, but Tunguska occurred 4 years later, on 30 June 1908.  What is rare is for a darkness to happen in such a small, localised area.

Ruby Side Thompson was a housewife in Essex during World War 2.  During this time she kept a diary which documented the hardships of life on the Home Front.  Sadly, these diaries seem to have been pulled from publication, which is a shame because they are an invaluable record of domestic life in extremely trying conditions.  Now I hope I don’t infringe any copyright issues here, but I’d like to include an excerpt from the diary.  On 10 June 1940, in the immediate aftermath of Dunkirk, when the Nazi’s were advancing relentlessly across Europe, closing in on Paris in particular, and things were looking very bleak indeed, Ruby and her husband went to church (her husband was a practising Catholic):

It was a dull morning yesterday, when we left the house at 7 AM, but when we came out of church at 8 AM an awful blackness filled the sky.  It looked as though a frightful storm was imminent.  Nothing happened: no rain, no wind, no thunder or lightning, only a spreading blackness, and an awful oppressiveness of the atmosphere.  This state continued all day.  It was dark like a black winter’s day, and we had to switch the lights on to work by.  It was an uncanny day”

This made such an impression on Ruby that she was still referring to it several months later.  I can’t help being reminded of a strange day we had in Avebury many years ago in the 1990s, when a heavy, forbidding atmosphere blanketed the village, and which ended sharply when we left the village boundaries.  I have covered this in my Avebury blog piece, but Ruby’s description of “an awful oppressiveness of the atmosphere” sums it up pretty well.

In January 2018 the Guardian reported that mainland Europe was suffering from an acute lack of sunlight, prompting one French newspaper to issue the forbidding headline “IL EST MORT LE SOLEIL?”  A spokesman for Moscow State University’s meteorological unit branded it “the darkest month in the history of our weather observations”.  I can only hope it wasn’t a forewarning of what might be to come.

 

Advertisements

Copyright

© Sarah Hapgood and sjhstrangetales.wordpress.com, 2011-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sarah Hapgood and sjhstrangetales.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Strange Tales on Kindle

Cover of Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales 5

Mysteries, murders and other tales of the Unexplained from my blog entries,
Strange Tales 5: Mysteries, murders and other tales of the Unexplained
is now available for Amazon’s Kindle, price £1.99. Also available on other Amazon sites.

 

Cover of Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales 4

An illustrated collection of 42 more of my blog entries, Strange Tales 4: 42 new cases of the Unexplained is now available for Amazon’s Kindle, price £1.99. Also available on other Amazon sites.

 

Cover of Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales 3

An illustrated collection of 35 more of my blog entries, Strange Tales 3: A new collection of mysterious places and odd people is now available for Amazon’sKindle, price £1.99. Also available on other Amazon sites.

 

Cover of Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales 2

An illustrated collection of 23 more of my blog entries, Strange Tales 2: more mysterious places and odd people is now available for Amazon’sKindle, price £1.15. Also available on other Amazon sites.

 

Cover of Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales

An illustrated collection of 40 of my blog entries, Strange Tales: an A-Z of mysterious places and odd people is now available for Amazon’sKindle, price £2.32. Also available on other Amazon sites.

Sarah’s fiction on Kindle

Cover of Sarah Hapgood's 
Transylvanian Sky and other stories

A second collection of my short stories, Transylvanian Sky and other stories is now available for Amazon's Kindle, price £1.99. Also available on other Amazon sites.


Cover of Sarah Hapgood's 
B-Road Incident and other stories

A collection of 21 of my short stories, B-Road Incident and other stories is now available for Amazon's Kindle, price £1.15. Also available on other Amazon sites.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: