Full-Moon Madness: In Search Of The 'Lunar Effect' In Phoenix

By Stina Sieg
Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 - 3:44pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - 10:23am
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(Photo by Donovan Shortey - CC BY 2.0)
A full moon photographed near Window Rock.

Tonight is a full moon, and it just might make us crazy. At least that’s what people have believed for millennia.

From Ancient Egypt to modern-day America, full moons have been blamed for a grab bag of things, from bumper crops of babies to violent mood swings. Even the word “lunacy” derives from the Latin word for moon. But science has yet to prove whether the so-called “lunar effect” is real.

So I went in search of it, on a recent full-moon night, of course. My first stop was Fire Station 271 in Tempe, where the guys didn't seem to be gearing up for a string of wild calls. They were throwing dice to see who has to clean the kitchen.

Firefighter Brandon George said some of the guys believe in lunar effect. Some don’t. But they’re all aware of this idea of moon madness.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s always the talk, but I don’t know if it’s really true or not. We’ll see, we’ll see.”

And then the next call rolled in.

We race to downtown Tempe, where a man said he was attacked by a posse of strangers. I asked firefighter John Garza if this all sounded pretty typical.

“Just for somebody jump out of a car, five individuals to beat somebody up?” he said. “Nah, not too normal, I don’t think.”

He then answered my next question before I even asked it.

“Maybe it’s the full moon,” he said.

The next call was even stranger. A woman has been thrown from a moving car onto a sidewalk. She was combative and firefighters said she’s been drinking. After she was loaded up into the ambulance, I left for Phoenix Station 18 — the busiest in the Valley. I’d heard they had already taken a large number of calls — all of them assaults.

That’s unusual, unless you’re a believer in the power of a full moon.

In Dave Campbell’s words, “It’s a big trigger.”

Campbell, the owner of the Astrology Store in Glendale and an astrologer and medium himself, he said things tend to come to fruition in the full moon, and that people’s feelings are right there on the surface.

“They’re more emotional, in general, whether it’s happy, sad, elated, whatever," he ssaid.

Dozens of studies on crime rates and hospital admissions and car crashes have tried to prove this, but none have definitively and many contradicy one another. In fact, I could not find one scientist that comfortable enough with the theory of lunar effect to even talk about it.

But Campbell said that doesn’t mean it’s not real, and he said it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

"It’s just energy, and it’s knowing how to work with the energy in a positive way, instead of a negative," Campbell said.

A positive way, like giving birth. Pam DeGraff is a massage therapist and doula at Babymoon Inn Birth Center in Central Phoenix. She said that a few times this year, half a dozen women – with due dates days or weeks apart — started laboring at nearly the same time.

“Oh, I definitely thought it was moon-related,” she said.

It just makes sense, she went on, that the moon would affect a woman’s body.

“We have 28 days, just like the moon does,” she said, “but obviously no proof and no expectations.”

No expectations, unless you’re someone like me trying to find answers for this moon mythology.

Back to my full-night of fire station hopping, I arrived at Phoenix Fire Station 18 to Fire Capt. Brett Archer saying these dreaded words: “Well, you missed it.”

He told me the night was busy, but died off just as I got there. As we talked about lunar effect, he smiled.

Sometimes, it is crazy on a full moon, he said.

“But, believe me, we’ve had plenty of crazy nights here at 18 that are not attributed to any type of full moon as well," said Archer.

He then let me into a little bit of firefighter folklore: the idea that calls fall away when someone like me comes to observe. It’s called the "ride-along curse." But that’s another story.

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