- The full moon does make people more violent,
according to a scientific study of prisoners in the maximum-security wing
at Armley jail, Leeds.
- Researchers discovered that there was
a definite rise in the number of violent and unruly incidents recorded
during the first and last quarter of each lunar cycle, the days either
side of a full moon. Claire Smith, a prison officer on A wing, carried
out the psychological study of all 1,200 inmates at the prison during more
than three months as part of her BSc in nursing at Bradford University.
- Prisoners were asked to keep track of
their moods and Miss Smith also recorded every violent incident in the
prison from February to May. To her surprise, the research linked the moon
and behaviour. During the first and last quarter of each lunar month there
was a marked increase in violent incidents.
- Miss Smith said that during the days
just before and after the full moon, as many as five violent incidents,
ranging from breaking equipment to fights and woundings, were recorded
- But during the other period of every
lunar month, there were far fewer incidents and none at all on some days.
She said: "I think this has proved that there is definitely a link
between the moon and behaviour.
- "The best theory I have heard to
explain why this happens is that we are made up of 60 to 70 per cent of
water and if the moon controls the tides, what is it doing to us? The effects
of the lunar cycle is something I'm very interested in and everyone has
a theory on the subject."
- Miss Smith discovered that prisoners
themselves attributed the rise in violence to mood changes, which they
experienced as the moon waxed and waned, not to other outside factors such
as antagonism from fellow inmates, bad news from home and so on.
- Twelve prison officers also kept mood
diaries as part of the research, to see if they were influenced by the
moon and if their reactions to prisoners' misbehaviour was influenced by
the lunar calendar. The results were inconclusive, partly because officers
could not allow their emotions to interfere with work and are generally
more in control of themselves.
- The research has now been used to try
to change the way prison officers handle violent inmates, by taking into
account underlying factors such as mood. Instead of tackling violence with
traditional "control and restraint" measures, officers now have
a greater understanding of what caused the problem and can de-escalate
- Criminologists have tried to prove a
link between crime and the lunar calendar in the past. Jack the Ripper
was believed to have carried out two of his killings around the full moon,
but that could have been because visibility in the smog-ridden streets
would have been better.
- Barrie Irving, director of the Police
Foundation, a research group, said: "It's not just the new moon. It's
also in areas affected by extreme windiness or low pressure, which often
coincide around the time of the new moon.
- "It has particulaly been observed
in mental hospitals. Most people who have worked for a long time in a mental
institution will tell you that when it is either very windy, or when there
is low pressure, you get peculiar behaviour.
- The legend that humans turn into wolves,
or become more violent, during a full moon can be traced back to the dawn
of civilisation. In recent years it was the basis of the Jack Nicholson
film Wolf, where a publisher becomes infected by a creature and turns into
a wolf at full moon.