Boston at noon, May 19, 1780. From an old engraving.

ON THIS DAY in 1780, “a horror of great darkness” fell on most of New England. At the time, with primitive communications and little knowledge of the forces of nature, superstitious New Englanders attributed the terrifying darkness to smoke from forest fires in the west. Modern scientists, by examining records collected from all over the region, have concluded that the phenomenon was simply the result of an unusual concentration of devils in the atmosphere.