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Gingersnap
10-23-2010, 07:26 PM
Devil's Night: The History of Pre-Halloween Pranks

By Heather Whipps, LiveScience's History Columnist

We all know what happens on Halloween, the night that little boys and girls dress up and (unwittingly) celebrate the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain and All Hallows Eve.

Anyone who has woken up on Halloween morning to find their house egged, their pumpkin smashed or yard toilet-papered, however, is lucky enough to live where a sister tradition that is not quite as old (but a yearly custom all the same) is also practiced with fervor.

The night of Oct. 30, which goes by a variety of names including Devil's Night in Detroit and Miggy Night in parts of England, sees neighborhood youngsters pull pranks just as diverse as the custom's monikers, ranging from the innocent to the downright dangerous.

So where did this license to cause mayhem come from?

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.

In some areas, unfortunately, today's pranks have evolved into acts much scarier than ghosts or goblins.

Mischief always a part of Halloween

Causing mischief has been a part of the Halloween tradition since the very beginning.

The most ancient roots of Halloween come from the Celts of Great Britain, who believed that the day before their Nov. 1 New Year was a time when spirits came back to haunt and play tricks. On Oct. 31, people dressed up in scary costumes, played games, lit bonfires and left food out on their doorsteps for the ghosts in celebration of this otherworldly event, which the Celts called Samhain.

When Great Britain was Christianized in the 800s, the ghoulish games of Samhain merged with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, during which the dead were honored with parades and door-to-door solicitation by peasants for treats usually a bit of food or money.

After the Protestant Reformation, much of England stopped the "treating" side of Halloween because it was connected to Catholic saints, and transferred the trickery to the eve of Guy Fawkes Night, a Nov. 5 holiday celebrating the foiling of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up British Parliament. Mischief Night in England is still celebrated on Nov. 4.

The Irish, Scottish and northern English, meanwhile, kept up much of their Halloween traditions, including the good-natured misbehavior, and brought their ways to North America with the wave of immigration in the 1800s.

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, throwing eggs at houses and the like. By the 1920s and 30s, 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.

Read more at the link. There is no "devil's night" out here in the West.

Live Science (http://www.livescience.com/history/081029-devils-night.html)

PoliCon
10-23-2010, 07:33 PM
finally - a honest look at the holiday. :) I'm glad to see that the author is not claiming that the holiday is demonic or satanic in origins. It's refreshing to see that the author has done some actual historical research. Most people who write on this topic do not.

NJCardFan
10-23-2010, 08:02 PM
Camden, NJ tends to burn every October 30.

Gingersnap
10-23-2010, 08:11 PM
The first time I heard of this was at college and my friend and I had the most circular conversation until we established that people from the West have no such tradition.

There is very little pranking out here even on Halloween. You mess around on somebody's property after dark and you will get chewed up by their dogs if you are lucky. Halloween is still a little kid's holiday out here once you leave the club scene.

Phillygirl
10-23-2010, 08:20 PM
In my neighborhood growing up it was tpin'g the trees around someone's house or soap on their windows. If anyone threw eggs that was considered criminal mischief. My parents wouldn't let us out on Mischief night.

PoliCon
10-23-2010, 08:29 PM
In my neighborhood growing up it was tpin'g the trees around someone's house or soap on their windows. If anyone threw eggs that was considered criminal mischief. My parents wouldn't let us out on Mischief night.

There is very little of that kind of thing around here as well - you end up shot.

noonwitch
10-25-2010, 09:02 AM
Camden, NJ tends to burn every October 30.



Detroit has good years and bad years. It's been a long time since it's been really bad. I lived through a few bad ones in the 90s.

In the 80s, fire fans from all over the world used to come here with police radios and follow the leads to watch fires-it was the Superbowl for Pyromaniacs. That doesn't happen anymore.

AmPat
10-25-2010, 02:02 PM
Back in TN, I lived in a town where at least one abandoned house burmed every Halloween night. It was a night where people felt at ease in destroying somebody elses property. I don'tlike or celebrate it other than offer some candy to the trick or treaters.

Big Guy
10-25-2010, 02:47 PM
Here in Clarksville there is very little criminal mischief on "Devils Night".
I remember in Flint, Michigan in the 70's we weren't allowed to leave the house on "Devils Night" my Mom said it was too dangerous.

noonwitch
10-25-2010, 03:57 PM
Here in Clarksville there is very little criminal mischief on "Devils Night".
I remember in Flint, Michigan in the 70's we weren't allowed to leave the house on "Devils Night" my Mom said it was too dangerous.


Flint is still really dangerous, but I don't think the danger is limited to one night a year anymore. I was at the courthouse there in the spring, and downtown actually looked better than it had in a while, but the area around it looked as bad as the worst parts of Detroit.


We always went out toilet papering trees in the yards of boys we liked. Two of my friends and I got caught by one of the boy's mother's once, and she laughed and gave us cookies. She told us "it's not like I'll be cleaning it up in the morning".

The rule in Kentwood was that if you went out on Devil's Night, you had to clean up the toilet paper in your own trees the next day. It was a universal rule.