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Watching The Witching Hour

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Back in the day, when newspapers ruled and reporters were actually paid to cover the “Graveyard Shifts,” the waddling, older scribblers with families whose veteran status entitled them to fairly normal shifts used to warn us about “The Witching Hour.”

Although some understood the reference to mean the time when demons played and did their worst, for us it was more aligned with the human sleep cycle and circadian rhythms, a period when those of us who could stay awake were likely to catch a byline – and hold onto it until the rest of the paper showed up for work.  Because the Witching Hour, we quickly learned, was the time earthly devils took advantage of darkness and limited police patrols to ply their respective trades.

The reference holds true for those of us still working a beat, introducing us to characters we would never expect to see in daylight: “Jed,” carefully making his way from Southern California to Oregon – on foot, and “Hago,” from New Hampshire but living out of her van in Walnut Creek with her beloved Golden Retriever Max. And then there are the Sawzall Crews, metal raiders cutting catalytic converters out from unsuspecting Priuses and other vehicles with a higher than average undercarriage.

At around 2:45 a.m. Friday – extended Witching Hour Hours – two carloads of burglars attacked a good looking cannabis dispensary in Martinez, apparently for its product or some of the cash such businesses are known to have on hand. One of our Witchers was in the area as the police arrived, the burglars jumping into two cars and quickly taking to the freeway where, after a brief pursuit they vanished (poof) like Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects.

No word from police or the victim business, which is often SOP for stories sourced during The Witching Hour, the tale untold and joining the roster of other unreported incidents just like it – unknown except by those of us up to see it.

Officially, some police departments have declared the hour from 11 p.m. and midnight as The Witching Hour, a time when imposed curfews and other tactics aimed at reducing lawlessness go into effect. Others argue that the hour has been extended over the years, now ranging from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., to encompass the traditional closing time for local bars and hours for the inebriated to take to the roadways.

For most people, The Witching Hour(s) will remain the time they are fast asleep, deep in that REM state insomniac scribblers can only dream about.

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