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With a modern literal meaning of "midnight," the term witching hour refers to the time of day when supernatural creatures such as witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful and black magic to be most effective. It may be used to refer to any arbitrary time of bad luck or in which something bad has a greater likelihood to occur (e.g., a baby crying, or a computer crashing,).
One of the earliest, if not the first, appearances this term makes is in Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Here, Irving uses "witching hour" and "witching time" interchangeably. Both terms reference midnight, and are used to conjure in readers a sense of supernatural anxiety. There is little evidence the term had any practical use prior to this; Irving may have coined the phrase after having grown up around New England and touring areas where the Salem Witch Trials took place.
In several of Shakespeare's plays – specifically Macbeth and Julius Caesar – ghosts and other supernatural phenomena take place around midnight, but the term "witching hour" never appears. In the play Hamlet, we hear young Hamlet saying, "'Tis now the very witching time of night."
According to the American horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the term can also refer to the period from midnight to 4am, when a character notes at "3am [begins] the devil's hour, as opposed to 3pm, when Jesus was said to have been crucified."
See also 
- "Witching hour". Dictionary.com. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- Manning-Schaffel, Vivian. "Cry, Cry, Cry: The latest (not entirely reassuring) research on colic". Babble.com.
- Malik, Om (October 27, 2009). "3 Times Unlucky or the Start of a Larger Trend?". GigaOM.
- Irving, Washington (1931). The legend of Sleepy Hollow. Forgotten Books. ISBN 9781606800317.
- Edelstein, David (September 8, 2005). "Demons, Out! The devil on trial in The Exorcism of Emily Rose". Slate Magazine.