Mischief Night, Devil’s Night, Cabbage Night, Devil’s Eve, Gate Night and Goosey Night are a few of the identities of the night dedicated to tricks preceding the night of treats. With roots in Pagan tradition and mythology, this night is believed to be the start of the brief dropping of the veil between the world of the living and the spirits of the dead. The acts carried out are a result of the dead wreaking havoc on the living in good spirits. Eggs shattered against houses and cars, pumpkins demolished and lawns impaled by forks. In the morning, the deeds of the previous night are discovered and often laughed about, most of the time. But, there are occasions where the mischievous of the night got the best of perpetrators and the lines between tricks and crime were blurred.
Across the pond a few centuries ago in 1790, the name Mischief Night first appeared in Britain, signifying the day before May Day. In Oxford, this day was devoted to practical jokes from young adults and teens throughout Britain. Fences were removed, gates blocked in and shop signs were swapped- the night was strictly focused on harmless fun.
As tensions grew fierce towards the end of the 30s, with the United States on the brink of war and the Great Depression continuing to terrorize the country, a quick, comic relief was needed. With the harmless fun came destructive thrills, and on Oct. 30, 1937, teenagers embarked on their antic schemes and dumped leaves on lawns, rang doorbells, broke windows and even set fires. However, the innocence of the day took a turn in 1984 when the fun mischief escalated past a simple annoyance to serious crimes of arson, with 800 fires plaguing the city of Detroit. To combat the increasing destructive attitudes, a curfew was implanted with increased patrolling from volunteers and neighborhood watches, creating their own holiday on this wicked day, known as Angels’ Night in the 90s.
The night of fun and games has mixed feelings from many, with a tumultuous history ranging from a mere whimsical distraction, to hard times in the 30s, to a dangerous expression of frustration and release. Growing up in New Jersey, I knew Mischief Night as a night filled with toilet papering houses and lighting off firecrackers to startle the neighbors. The next morning, my friends and I would recount what tricks we were able to accomplish and who had had the misfortune of bearing the harsh reality of being the punchline of a prank. The nickname of Cabbage Night arose from the tradition of throwing rotten cabbages at doors in an anonymous stunt. Whereas the title Goosey Night is attributed to the act of soaping the windows of houses and businesses. The pure term of Mischief Night encompasses all of the pranks being played across the world. Oct. 30 acts as an outlet for trouble and pranks to roam free as a celebration of the spirits and the spooky mythology of Halloween. An indulgence of the trick before the treat.