In some parts of the world, the night of October 30 is called “Mischief Night”. Other names for it are “Devil’s Night”, “Mat Night”, “Gate Night”, or “Cabbage Night”1. Essentially, in the days leading up to Halloween, there are some places where doing mischief is part of the holiday.
If you’ve been following earlier Friday Folklore posts this month, you’ll know that tricks were part of the earliest forms of this holiday, before Christianity turned it into All Hallow’s Eve. The tricking, though, was usually done on evil spirits and demons. Why and when those tricks were turned onto the living is anyone’s best guess.
The tricks range from good-natured pranks (like switching people’s doormats in English-speaking areas of Quebec) to the more dangerous acts of arson in Detroit2.
Detroit seems to have the biggest reputation for pranks before Halloween. Devil’s Night, in fact, has entered into pop culture, being mentioned on such shows as NCIS and Criminal Minds3. And it wasn’t only for one night. It went on for three nights, when Detroit burned and other acts of vandalism were committed.
In an attempt to curb this destructive behavior, Angels’ Night was instituted, where volunteers patrol neighborhoods. Because of that, the acts of arson dropped considerably in this century, going from up to 800 fires over the course of three days to under a hundred.
Today, pranks ranging from egging houses to leaving rotten vegetables on doorsteps, and other small acts of vandalism are still performed in a multitude of places before Halloween. Though, plenty of kids prank their neighbors on Halloween even if it’s not a locally acknowledged tradition!
Okay, I definitely want to hear from my readers today! What sort of mischief traditions does your community have, if any? Do you have any stories about playing tricks on people or being the recipient of tricks? I look forward to hearing from you all!
1“Devil’s Night: The History of Pre-Halloween Pranks”, Heather Whipps, http://www.livescience.com/5149-devil-night-history-pre-halloween-pranks.html
3“Devil’s Night”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Night
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