This Week in History: New England Goes Dark

Almost 250 years ago this week, morning turned to night for the states of New England as darkness descended.

New Englanders had noticed something seemed wrong in the days building up to May 19th, 1780. The sky had appeared yellow, and the sun had turned blood red. But that was nothing compared to what happened next. From 11 am onwards, the sky started turning black.

By noon, it was so dark that candles became a necessity. The light didn’t return until the middle of the following night. For the heavily religious people of 18th century New England, these events would surely have indicated that the apocalypse was coming.

Night time
This would have been horrifying now, let alone in the 18th century. Credit: Johan Christian Dahl

So was it the Second Coming? Probably not. More likely is the recent theory that the event was caused by smoke from huge forest fires and naturally occurring fog.

But whatever caused it, it’s safe to say that the New Englanders would have been terrified. Stuck on the edge of a vast new world that had for some unknown reason just turned pitch black, many of them would have doubted that the sun would ever return.


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