Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Episode 176: Witching Hour Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 176: The Witching Hour

Record Date: December 19, 2022

Air Date: December 21, 2022



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook

Dan and I recently traveled the haunted streets of New Orleans. The night life is bold and goes strong each night all the way to last call. The music quiets and visitors head back to their hotels but things are never truly silent. Is it the wandering souls of those who've passed who make the streets of the French Quarter feel eerily full during the witching hour?  


Once each 24- hour period, there is a time when the rules change and the powers of night take hold. What’s the cause? Some say it is when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. Some claim evil doers have more power. Others simply say it’s a time when people with insomnia have a hard time falling back asleep. While many theories exist, all who believe this phenomenon to be supernatural seem to agree that this is a time when strange things happen, when nothing is certain, and the world itself feels different.

The witching hour is often considered to be between 3 and 4am for cultures with a heavy Christian influence, which is likely tied to it being the darkest time of night or when the moon is at its brightest. 

Ultimately, this is an idea out of folklore. The witching hour or devil's hour is a time of night that is associated with supernatural events, whereby witches, demons and ghosts are thought to be at their most powerful and have the ability to influence or even cross into the living realm. Definitions vary as does the specific time.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Witching Hour is, 


Midnight, with reference to the belief that witches are active and supernatural occurrences take place at that time. More generally: the time, esp. the dead of night, when bad or sinister things are believed to be most likely to happen.

End Quote 

A precursor to the phrase was used by William Shakespeare in the famed 1604 play, The tragicall historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. The play’s namesake, Hamlet, wrestles with his own nature - good vs. evil - and speaks to himself while struggling with his angst, 


'Tis now the very witching time of night,

When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out

Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,

And do such bitter business as the day

Would quake to look on. Soft, now to my mother.

O heart, lose not thy nature. Let not ever

The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.

Let me be cruel, not unnatural.

I will speak daggers to her, but use none.

My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites—

End Quote

There are a few concepts often linked to this idea. One is the idea of a devil's hour amongst Christian religions - Devil’s Hour is when evil spirits - ghouls, ghosts, and agents of evil are at their strongest each night. 

This seems to fall in line with early concepts including Shakespeare’s “witching time of night.”

As for the phrase Witching Hour, the earliest occasion I could find in print was in 1750.  

The work Sketches of India - With Notes on the Seasons, Scenery, and Society of Bombay, Elephanta, and Salsette by Henry Moses, M.D. was published in 1750.

An excerpt reads 


End Quote 

A publication out of London which was an annual collection titled The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle for the Year 1767, a portion of a musical was shared. One character’s dialogue reads,


End Quote 

Published in 1816 is a collection titled A Selection of German National Melodies, with the words both in the original, and translated into English, by - well, a whole bunch of people - by E. B. Impey ... W. Sotheby ... the Hon. W. Spencer, Viscount Strangford, W. Tighe ... and S. Tolfrey ... The whole accompanied by a treatise on national music, and the airs selected by Charles Baron Arnim. The introductory symphonies by I. Mazzinghi. vol. 1 

Yeah, that title is a lot. We are looking at a song called Serenade with music by J.R. Zumsteg and lyrics translated by S. Tolfrey, Esq.


End Quote 

This one actually sounds like a rather nice song to me. 

Up next is a piece by Mary Robinson. This is from the collection The Poetical Works of the Late Mrs. Mary Robinson: Including the Last Pieces Published : the Three Volumes Complete in One published in 1824.


End Quote 

Listen, I kinda love all this witching hour stuff. It sounds quite lovely and magical… in a pleasant and beautiful way. 

The American Jewish world. [volume], April 22, 1921, Image 4

About The American Jewish world. [volume] (Minneapolis

Phillips County herald., March 17, 1922, Page PAGE FOUR, Image 4
About Phillips County herald. (Holyoke, Colo.) 

Back in the 1960s and 70s the magical hour was midnight… at least for DC Comics. 

The WITCHING HOUR #10 published in 1970 as a Horror comic by D.C. Comics with credits to Neal Adams and Alex Toth. This is a rare antique. I found a copy for sale online for about 90 U.S. dollars. 

In a different listing, I found the first in the series. The description reads,


A ghost of a book, the Witching Hour 1, from 1969, featuring a spectacular spooky Neal Adams cover. First appearance of the 3 witches.

End Quote 

Another idea from a totally different perspective, is frequently shared by parental figures. When the sun has just begun to set or has just gone down but the sky is not fully dark, the children who've not yet fallen asleep become completely unruly, some say unlike themselves as if possessed.

The Witching Hour: What is it, why does it occur and how to survive it?

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

The witching hour is the time of day that most parents dread. It comes at the end of the day when everyone in the house is tired, including you! You’ve been taking care of your baby (or babies) all day, barely getting a moment to have a bite to eat or use the bathroom in peace, and then BAM witching hour hits. It’s draining, exhausting, and feels like it will never end. I am here to tell you that it does end, and it usually ends around four months of age. 

We’ll get to our modern examples, right after we take a moment to say thank you to our sponsors. 

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

You can help support this educational artform and get awesome perks along the way! Tiers start at $3 a month, which get you our polls and community-only discussions, early access to the podcast, and the behind the scenes video for each episode so you can watch along as we make the show. 

At $10 you’ll also get original digital artwork from Shauna once a month featuring exclusive art about an idiom or other turn of phrase. At $15, you’ll also get personal on-air recognition like Pat Rowe does every episode. And of course huge thanks goes to the top spot among our Patrons, our Dean of Learning, Mary Halsig-Lopez. Thank you so much to Mary and all of our patrons. 

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. 


Modern Uses

The Anne Rice novel, The Witching Hour from the series Lives of the Mayfair Witches, was published in 1993.

The publisher’s synopsis reads 


From the author of the extraordinary Vampire Chronicles comes a huge mesmerizing novel of witchcraft and the occult through four centuries. Two people with special powers are drawn together and set out in a passionate alliance to unlock the mystery of her past and his unwelcome gift. As the strange saga is played out, a world of witches is created that will fascinate readers for years to come.

End Quote 

Natural Form is a company selling mattresses, bed frames, and bedding… you know all those sleeptime goodies. Their website says, 


Natural Form designs sleep care products that combine the best materials nature and modern science have to offer.

Health Starts with Your Sleep

Sleep care is the foundation of health, but the industry hasn't been treating it that way.

In addition to their products they also offer a wellness blog which has an article on our topic which includes this advice: 


How To Make it Through The Witching Hour

The witching hour is a product of folklore that can occur during the entire night, or just between 3 am and 4 am, depending on your religious and cultural beliefs. It is believed that the witching hour is when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, making it easy for the line to cross and the supernatural to interfere with humans.

Despite its origination, waking up in a panic during the witching hour likely occurs due to being woken up during REM sleep, which is the deepest phase of sleep. It can be concerning for the body to wake up colder than it went to sleep, which can contribute to the panic we wake up with.

If you continue waking in the middle of the night, try adopting healthy sleep habits and using a sleep mask or sound machine to help you stay asleep. If you do wake up, sleep music or a sleep podcast can help you get back to sleep; no witching involved.

End Quote 

Witching Hour on Etsy 

There are a wide range of products available on Etsy with the title Witching Hour. From soaps and candles to custom artwork to t-shirts. It seems there’s a little of everything. I even found a custom set of themed planner stickers and middle-of-the-night spiritual readings. 

One piece of art that stood out is a Limited Edition Screen Print titled The Witching Hour. This is from the store of Sara & Brian Turner called Cricketpress. It features a group of figures donned in pointed witch’s hats, out in the woods, under the moon, dancing around a blazing fire. It is printed on 110 lb. off white cover, 16" x 20". The description tells us,


The Witching Hour has many meanings: According to folklore, it is the time of night associated with supernatural events. According to witchcraft, it signifies the time when magic can be its most effective. According to others, it’s simply a period of bad luck.

For women who are out late at's their time!!!

End Quote 

We can’t talk about this phrase without mentioning the music. You get everything one might expect from songs related to Witching Hour. We won’t get into the lyrics but feel free to check these next couple of mentions out or search for more, if that’s your thing. 

You can watch a special on YouTube of Slayer & Machine Head performing a cover of the UK band Venom’s song Witching Hour. It was recorded in 1995 


The group Spellwitch released an album titled The Witching Hour in 2018. 

There are, of course, many more songs around this theme but as I said, we’ll let you look into that yourself. 

Wrap Up

The Witching Hour offers everything someone like me could want - curiosity, magic, a touch of the eerie, and more than the rest, mystery. Are we surrounded by searching souls? Are evil agents lurking about? Are our own ancestors attempting to send us messages? 

Even those who don’t believe in magic, witches, or a spiritual realm have experienced that odd time at night when the world is in transition… when things just feel different. This may be terrifying to some but I find it beautiful. It is as if everyone and everything holds its breath and anything could happen. To me, this is a wondrous and wonderful place - a place of hope. 


That’s all we have time for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


It’s time for our Patron’s Poll:

Showers or Bath? 

Do you prefer to take a shower or a bath? 

100% of our patrons said the same thing… Shower. ‘


I guess we’re all on the same page with this one. 

Jan Steen said, 


Shower, unless I feel like sitting in a tub of everything I just washed off my body, then bath. I am open to a relaxing bath with a follow up shower.

End Quote


I feel exactly the same. Baths seem gross as a way of getting clean. Though I don't mind a bath after a shower, but probably not before.


I think I feel the same. But I also want the tub itself to be and look clean. I think I’d rather just find a hot tub or jacuzzi if I’m really craving a bath-type experience.


If you want to take part in our silly polls and sometimes learn new things while you’re at it, head over to to see what we have this week! 



Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember, 


Words belong to their users. 

More on Etsy

Planner Stickers 

Same-Hour Reading 


Tank top 

Another Witching Hour Print 


Other Sources, Works Cited

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