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Full Moon Madness: Myth or Reality?

Werewolves, vampires and crime—Oh, my!

It is a widely held belief that the full moon affects human behavior in a variety of strange ways, ranging from increases in alcoholism, automobile accidents, birth rates, crime rates, suicides, homicide, epilepsy, and insanity (Times Courier 5)—indeed, the word “lunacy” itself is derived from the Latin word luna, meaning “moon—but reliable scientific studies lend no support to these beliefs (Dyar 2, Time Courier 5).

Beliefs in the lunar influence on human behavior have been noted in the fields of psychiatric services, criminal justice, and health care (Reno 8). Some studies undertaken in the 1970s reported a relationship between the lunar cycle and the rate of homicides (Lieber & Sherin, 1972), the utilization of emergency mental health services (Blackman & Catalina, 1973), and the rate of emergency calls to local authorities (De Voge & Mikawa, 1977). Reno reported that contradictory evidence to refute these studies exists as well, and concluded that “The overwhelming amount of studies done on the lunar hypothesis does not support a relationship between the moon and human behavior. Reno 7.

One theory, advanced by Arnold Lieber in 1972, held that the lunar cycles which cause tides in the ocean also cause them in the human body, since the human body is almost 80% water. This study was denounced as “unscientific” by Dyar (2) and lacking in proof of its validity by Reno (7). This explanation was offered by Raso (4):

Actually the moon and the sun affect the tides only of unbounded oceans, not small containers of water. There are no tidal shifts in glasses, buckets, tubs, swimming pools, or small lakes. Nor do they occur in humans. Even if they did, astrologers have never explained how this would affect one’s personality or fate. . . Moreover, standard calculations for the gravitational pull on humans show that

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