Seasonal Sunday Legends-November Witches

Not quite seasonal, we’re a little early, and not quite the witches that you’re probably thinking. I did, however, find reference on one of those Internet lists that Buffalo thinks the November Witch is some sort of giant green fey entity. I’m not saying that there’s no historical folklore to that effect-I will say I’ve never found anyone in this city that actually thinks that.

I finally begged Mid to pull the air conditioner out of the window because it’s drafty and we’re facing our first official frost warning. I have a feeling that we’re going to get a witch or two this year-we’ve already gotten hit with one band of lake effect rain. In honor of the weather and the season, I’m pulling something from way, way back out of the archives-this was originally posted in 2011.

November Witches/Witches of November

Weather factors heavily into folklore, and for good reason. Regardless of how technicologically advanced we’re becoming, the one thing that we can’t alter is the weather. Weather systems affect everything from crop cycles to travel. The effects of weather systems were only magnified in eras when the survival of entire regions were dependent on rain levels and snow storms- while this is still a reality, it is at least slightly lessened by advances in technology and transportation.

Weather patterns have been featured in horror ranging from The Fog to Storm of the Century. In fact I think that I’m safe in saying that some of the most deeply rooted images of the genre, for Americans at least, are found in weather phenomena- thunderstorms, fog, pounding rain. Whether used to set mood or as setting, these images are traditional to American horror culture.

There is a very localized phenomenon that reached international exposure in 1975. The November Witches, or the Witches of November, are exceptionally strong storms that develop only in the Great Lakes region of the United States. These storms are effectively inland hurricanes, bringing windspeeds of over 80 miles an hour plus snow, wind, and massive waves. I have had the pleasure, or misfortune, of surviving at least minor Witches since I dormed in a building overlooking Ontario.

While the name sounds quaint, these storms are lethal. Thousands of ships and hundreds of lives have been lost across the Great Lakes due to these weather systems. Current advances in predication and monitoring have helped to pull numbers down but these are still dangerous events.

The November Witches in Popular Culture

While not a traditional horror image, the November Witches are a part of popular culture. Most famously, Gordon Lightfoot used the term ‘Witch of November’ in the lyrics to The Wreck  of Edmund Fitzgerald. The wreck of the Fitzgerald still holds a place in at least regional popular culture.


The Farmer’s Almanac


The Weather Network


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