Devil’s Night

By Katie Ralbusky, Online Editor

It is famously called Devil’s Night, Mischief Night, Damage Night, and Miggy Night, but Oct. 30 has been celebrated just as fervently as Halloween.

According to the article Devil’s Night: The History of Pre-Halloween Pranks, “Mischief Night, as it is most commonly known in the United States, has been around in its present form for at least 50 years, when it became a day for playing “tricks” while Halloween itself was reserved for the little one to gather “treats.” The practice goes back hundreds of years before that, though, to a time when Halloween and misbehavior were inextricably linked.”

Halloween of course was a celebration by the ancient Celts where they wore costumes to ward off evil spirits and celebrate with feasts. It eventually morphed into All Saints Day where treats became involved. However, after the Protestant Reformation many people stopped the “treating” side of the holiday. The trickery aspect remained. According to the above article, “Before the 20th century, Halloween mischief in the United States and Canada happened on Oct. 31 and consisted of tipping over outhouses, unhinging farmer’s gates, and so on. By the 1920’s and 30’s however, the celebrations had become more like a rowdy block party, and the acts of vandalism more serious. Probably instigated by tensions over the Great Depression and the threat of war, historians say.”

As a result, adults added the “treats” back into the equation in order to pacify children. Oct. 31 was safe, but pranksters adopted Oct. 30 as their day. The tradition is most predominantly found in the northeastern United States, but is not so prominent in the South and West.

Most pranks are harmless and consist of smashing pumpkins and toilet-papering homes and trees. Unfortunately, this holiday also has a darker side that has become well known. According to History of Devil’s Night in Detroit, “In Detroit and much of Michigan, the night is known infamously as Devil’s Night, a moniker now eternally linked with widespread arson. Devil’s Night was once, however, just a different name for more of the same: mischief. In spite of the notoriety of Devil’s Night, Detroit is not the only region to experience an escalation from pranks to arson on Oct. 30. Camden, New Jersey had its own period of Mischief-Night-related arson in the 1990’s that easily rivaled Detroit’s.” Now an army of volunteers patrol the streets every year and minors have a strict curfew.

Whatever you may call it, Devil’s Night is here to stay as long as pranksters have eggs and rolls of toilet paper. Perhaps it is possible to dial down the pranks and enjoy the treats. After all, who can enjoy All Hallows Eve locked up in jail?