Mischief night, or the evening before Halloween, was a night while growing up that I was not allowed out to play. The bus ride to school the next morning often revealed toilet paper on trees, pumpkins smashed in the streets and the occasional “egged” car or house.
The night before Halloween has always seemed so mysterious to me. It is the last time that spooks are any fun. Halloween night itself consists of candy and costumes more than the actual chill of a fear fest.
Mischief night is shady, creepy and embodies the spirit of Halloween more than the over-commercialized and Americanized holiday it has come to be today. But, where did the tradition of tricks come from? Halloween and misbehavior were inseparable hundreds of years ago, according to a Live Science article.
“Causing mischief has been a part of the Halloween tradition since the very beginning,” the article noted, and it began when Great Britain’s Celts believed Halloween night was a time for spirits to bother with trickery.
They placed food on their doorsteps to appease the wandering ghosts.This transformed in Great Britain into another type of holiday, but the Irish and Scottish kept the traditions that were later introduced in the U.S. These acts of mischief were usually done on Halloween night, until about the 20th century.
Maybe this is why candy and costumes were popularized on Halloween night — to bribe otherwise troublemakers from causing a ruckus.
So the night for naughtiness moved to Oct. 30, and it still is not widely popular or celebrated across the U.S. In an article from The Atlantic Wire about mischief night I learned that mishcief night has more than one name.
The holiday is very local to Michigan, New Jersey and Vermont. In regions like Vermont and Michigan, mischief night is referred to as devil’s night, or cabbage night.
The night is generally classified as harmless and a nuisance at most, but in Detroit, Mich. in 1984, the mischief blazed more than it should have.
According to Live Science, “More than 800 fires were set there on Devil’s Night, leading to a serious crackdown and an Oct. 30 curfew for minors that persists to this day.”
In 2008, the city had help from more than 30,000 volunteers who walked the streets in attempts to prevent any repeat incidents.
Closer to home, the mischief stays relatively safe and fun. Plus, for one night of the year, is it not nice to be just a little naughty?