Halloween is a few days away and people around the country are getting their spook on; and not all of them are young.
The proliferation of orange Halloween lights continues its unlikely assault on the more somber tones of the night.
Since I live near the desert, we get creepy sound effects: coyote, and great owls on the hunt, eyeing not your candy bag, but a much more personal treat – cats and small dogs are best kept indoors. But no haunting is complete without a full moon.
The full moon has held a dark fascination for mankind as long as there have been any. We can all remember a huge full moon, hanging so unnaturally close over the horizon. An alien world without air or life, yet intimately involved with our teeming planet.
The moon moves the tides about with an unseen hand, and the lunar cycle is woven into the human condition. Lunar, lunacy, lunatic … these suggest a darker madness than our sunny psychiatrists can fix with Prozac.
Not so long ago during my training, the world was a little more mysterious and nurses and doctors openly discussed the full moon driven chaos in labor, delivery and the emergency department.
There was no doubt in our mind that the full moon had an influence on people’s psyche. The “knife and gun club” seldom disappointed us on such nights. Police waiting in the ER would do their best to shock the house staff (young doctors in training). All a howling good time.
If you have any belief in the zodiac, the constellations involved are 30 or 50 light years away and have a millionth the effect on human beings that the full moon has, gravitationally.
Like houses, gravitational force is all about location, and the moon is in our closest celestial neighbor. Full moons are associated with quite a variety of things, from the fanciful, like Shape Changers (werewolves), to the reasonably sounding connection with homicide rates. Other phenomena supposedly connected with full moons are epileptic seizures, ER admissions, deaths, births, murders, and all manner of mayhem.
Sensible people find it easy to believe, at least a little, in the full moon’s effects. This probably has to do with “the unseen force rule” (that I just made up). All of us are exposed to unseen, highly complex, but unperceived forces every second: radio, television, navigational and the internet surround us constantly.
So it is not such an intellectual reach to think that forces strong enough to deform the planet (tides) might have some measurable effects on people or their psyche.
This has been investigated in some depth; inquiring minds want to know. Hopefully not too many tax dollars were spent on werewolves, but there have certainly been a lot of studies on full moon effects on people.
These scientific or semi-scientific studies have tracked admissions to the ER or labor and delivery. They have looked for full moon correlation to the frequency, severity and cause of injury (assault vs. a fall).
Studies have been done in labor and delivery, police records, psychiatric admissions, and almost anything else you can think up. At this point we can say with absolute scientific conviction that the full moon is probably not associated with changes in people’s mental health or behavior, or at least not big ones.
In case you are unconvinced by the efforts of science, and think the world has room for some immeasurable spookiness. This Halloween, I’m sorry to say, will not bring a full moon.
The full moon next occurs on Nov. 17. The next full moon on Halloween will be 2020. So there is plenty of time to plan for a truly interesting Halloween party; that doesn’t include orange Christmas lights.
May your treats be more numerous than the tricks.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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