We’ve all heard them – urban legends about ghosts that show up at a certain time of day – or rather night. It’s a regular part of many campfire stories, like the spirit of the Hook-handed Killer who haunts Lovers Lane at exactly midnight. In fact, when the clock strikes 12 a.m. in any story, TV show or movie, you automatically know things are about to get scary.
But what about real ghosts, spirits, poltergeists, apparitions and manifestations? When you read accounts of recurring paranormal events, they also seem to take place at very specific times. For example, one of the most recent stories I’ve come across concerns the spirit of a young girl who was said to appear in her former room at exactly 11:30 p.m. Another person reported that her pantry cupboard was opened at exactly 12:34 a.m. every night by an unseen hand.
Why 11:30 p.m.? Or 12:34 a.m.? Or ANY particular time? Nobody knows.
It isn’t hard to understand why human beings have associated the dark (and therefore the night) with scary or odd things. And if there are spirits to connect with – or seeking to connect with us -- it stands to reason that night time may offer more opportunity. Our brains are less busy, the surroundings are quieter, and we may be far more sensitive than we are in the daylight hours. But what about a specific hour?
The idea of a connection between paranormal events and time is not new. Just read Hamlet, for example. The ghost of Hamlet’s father, the king, appears at midnight each night and leaves as the cock crows to signal dawn. In the same play, Shakespeare draws a connection between the paranormal and a certain hour: "Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world.” Since Shakespeare’s works reflected the culture of the time, does that mean that the general populace assigned supernatural attributes to certain hours?
In trying to research this intriguing topic, I quickly discovered that “prime paranormal time” may be in the eye of the beholder. The so-called witching hour – allegedly the best time to connect with the supernatural, work spells, and perform rituals – varies from source to source, and encompasses pretty much anytime between dusk and dawn. Some accounts claim that spirits are at their most active between the hours between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Curiously, midnight seems to take a backseat to 3 a.m. as prime time for encounters with paranormal forces.
Even Hollywood is aware of this strange wee hour. “The Amityville Horror” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” both refer to 3 a.m. as being some sort of activating signal to supernatural forces (to be accurate, it’s 3:15 in Amityville). Is life imitating art or the other way around? Has pop culture influenced people to expect supernatural occurrences at that time of night?
I wondered if heightened paranormal activity had anything to do with time of death. If someone died at 3 a.m., would their spirit be more likely to show up at that time? With so many ghost stories (real ones, not Hollywood ones) reported as happening at 3 a.m., I thought for sure that 3 would be the most common time of death. However, there’s a persistent rumor that more people die around 4 a.m. than any other time. Recent hospital stats are tough to come by, but some sources declare that the most common time of death from all causes is 8 a.m., and the second most common time is 6 p.m. Guys under 65 are most likely to die at midnight. A gal in that age bracket would be most likely to go an hour earlier at 11 p.m. Three a.m. doesn’t get a single mention. So much for my time of death theory...
Time isn’t always measured by the clock face, however. An ancient astrological system of planetary hours exists, where day and night are divided by dusk and dawn. Each section is then divided into 12 “hours” (not the sixty-minute variety) and each hour is ruled by one of seven “planets” (actually the five planets visible to the naked eye plus the sun and the moon). For instance, the hour influenced by Mercury would be particularly good for writing – I’ll have to remember that – and magic spells are often worked at the hour most compatible with their goal. A love spell would naturally be done during the hour ruled by Venus, for example. But a spell for fertility would be best done in a Moon hour. Some sources point to the hours influenced by Saturn or Jupiter as potentially good times for paranormal phenomena. Yet phantoms, spirits and specters don’t seem to restrict themselves to those times.
Overall, it looks like ghosts can show up any time they darn well please. And I have no idea why spirits would be concerned with time anyway – aren’t they beyond that now? (I sure hope I’m not checking my watch when I’m on the other side!) As you can see, my research so far has left me with more questions than answers. But overriding them all is this one:
Does the netherworld observe daylight savings time? If a spirit usually shows up at 3 a.m., does it make adjustments to its schedule when we turn the clocks forward or back?
I’m afraid that one is going to be stuck in my head for a long, long time…
Dani Harper http://www.daniharper.com/
What do YOU think? Are some times of the day or night more prone to supernatural activity? Or are we more susceptible to the suggestion of it then? Why do ghosts seem to care what time it is?