Mischief Night

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Mischief Night is a holiday on which children and youths engage in pranks and minor vandalism. The name by which it is known and the date on which it is celebrated vary from place to place.

Historical background[edit]

The earliest reference to mischief night is from 1790 when the fellows of St John's College, Oxford, studied[clarification needed] a headmaster who had encouraged a school play which ended in "an Ode to Fun which praises children's tricks on Mischief Night in most approving terms".[1] In the United Kingdom the pranks were originally carried out as part of the May Day celebrations, but as workers moved into urban areas during the industrial revolution Mischief Night was moved to 4 November, the night before Guy Fawkes Night. According to one historian "May Day and the Green Man had little resonance for children in grimy cities. They looked at the opposite end of the year and found the ideal time, the night before the gunpowder plot."[1] In Germany, Mischief Night is still celebrated in the night before 1 May.

Contemporary practice[edit]

In the United States, Mischief Night is commonly held on October 30, the eve of Halloween. The separation of Halloween tricks from treats seems to have only developed sporadically, often appearing in some areas but not at all in others nearby.[2] In Northern New Jersey's Bergen County, Essex County, Hudson County, Morris County, Passaic County, Somerset County, Union County, and parts of Sussex County, and the Philadelphia area it is called "Mischief Night". Also noted in Delaware. In some towns in Northern New Jersey, and parts of New York State, it is known as "Goosey Night". In South Jersey region (as well as Westchester County in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut), October 30 is referred to as "Mischief Night", where mischievous teens rub soap bars on car windows, throw eggs at houses, adorn trees with toilet paper, and run away after ringing doorbells. In some areas of Queens, New York, Cabbage Night involved throwing rotten fruit at various neighbors, cars, and buses. Pre-teens and teens would fill eggs with Neet and Nair and throw them at unsuspecting individuals. In the mid-1980s garbage was set on fire and cemeteries were set ablaze. In Camden, New Jersey, Mischief Night had escalated to the point where widespread arsons were committed in the 1990s. Over 130 arsons were committed in that city on the night of October 30, 1991.[3]

It is known as "Gate Night" in New Hampshire, Trail, British Columbia, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Rockland County, New York, North Dakota and South Dakota (USA) and as "Mat Night" in Quebec, Canada.[2] It is also commonly known as "Devil's Night" in many places throughout Canada, Michigan,[2] and western Pennsylvania.

Also the eve has been known in Yorkshire as "Mischievous Night", "Miggy Night", "Tick-Tack Night", "Corn Night", "Trick Night" and "Micky Night" but is celebrated on November 4 on the eve of Bonfire Night. In some areas of Yorkshire, it is found extremely popular among thirteen-year-olds especially as they believe it to be a sort of 'coming of age ceremony'. This may be due to the fact that Guy Fawkes was born in York, capital of Yorkshire and the historical significance plays into the importance for the youth. BBC North Yorkshire. In Widnes, it is known as "Mizzy Night" and is celebrated on October 30.[citation needed] In Liverpool, from 1995-1998.

Popular tricks include toilet papering yards and buildings, powder-bombing and egging cars, people, and homes, using soap to write on windows, "forking" yards, setting off consumer fireworks, and smashing pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns.[2] Local grocery stores often refuse to sell eggs to pre-teens and teens around the time of Halloween for this reason. Occasionally though, the damage can include the more serious spray-painting of buildings and homes.[4]

Less destructive is the ever-popular prank known as "Knock, Knock, Ginger", "Ding-Dong Ditch" and "knock-a-door-run" among many other names. In this 'game' people ring doorbells or knock on doors, and then run and hide somewhere nearby. One variation involves pranksters inserting a pin into a doorbell so that it rings continuously. Also known in London,UK as "Knock down ginger".

Among younger children, the practice of trick-or-treating on Halloween night itself traditionally carried the implied threat of minor pranks (or "tricks") in the absence of the requested "treats"; in modern times, however, this threat is rarely if ever acted upon.

Cabbage Night[edit]

The night is commonly known as "Cabbage Night" in parts of Vermont; Connecticut; Bergen County, New Jersey; Upstate New York; Northern Kentucky; Newport, Rhode Island; and Boston, Massachusetts.[5]

In Berkshire County, Massachusetts, the night was commonly referred to as "Cabbage stalk night" from the 1970s through the 1990s.

In rural Niagara Falls, Ontario, during the 1950s and 1960s, Cabbage Night referred to the custom of raiding local gardens for leftover rotting cabbages and hurling them about to create mischief in the neighborhood.

Angels' Night[edit]

In Detroit, Michigan, which was particularly hard-hit by Devil's Night arson and vandalism throughout the 1980s, many citizens take it upon themselves to patrol the streets to deter arsonists and those who may break the law. This is known as "Angels' Night". Some 40,000 volunteer citizens patrol the city on Angels' Night, which usually runs October 29 through October 31, around the time most Halloween festivities are taking place.[6]


A 2006 film, Mischief Night, is based on events surrounding this night in Leeds, UK.[7][8]

In Lark Rise to Candleford volume 3 there is an episode featuring Mischief Night.

In the 1994 film The Crow, based upon comic book of the same name, the protagonist, Eric Draven, and his fiancée are murdered on the eve of their Halloween wedding on "Devil's Night" by a street gang on the orders of Detroit's most notorious crime lord, Top Dollar. With the help of a mystical crow, Eric returns from the grave on "Devil's Night" exactly one year later to exact revenge against the crime lord and his henchmen.

A 1999 episode of Rocket Power explores the joys of Mischief Night in The Night Before.

A 2013 Horror film titled Mischief Night (2013 film) takes place on Mischief Night.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wainright, Martin (2 November 2008). "Traditionalist pranksters prepare for mayhem of Mischief Night". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "October 29, 2008-Devil's Night: The History of Pre-Halloween Pranks by Heather Whipps". Live Science. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  3. ^ Firehouse.com News: Fire and Police Departments Extinguish Pre-Halloween Arson Sprees[dead link] Retrieved on 30 October 2008
  4. ^ "Jackson Citizen Patriot: October 21, 2007-Halloween blow-ups vandalized in Springport by Jake May". Blog.mlive.com. 2007-10-21. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  5. ^ Ditko, Veronica MacDonald (October 1, 2010). "Cabbage Night to You, Mischief Night to Me". The Franklin Lakes Journal. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "City of Detroit Angels Night - Home Page". Ci.detroit.mi.us. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  7. ^ Mischief Night film review Retrieved on 31 October 2008
  8. ^ imdb ref Retrieved on 31 October 2008
  9. ^ "Trailer: Mischief Night". HorrorNews.net. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 

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