Devil's Night

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Devil's Night is a name associated with October 30, the night before Halloween. It is related to the "Mischief Night" practiced in parts of the United States such as Philadelphia, but is chiefly associated with the serious vandalism and arson seen in Detroit, Michigan, from the 1970s to the 1990s,[1] finally prompting the "Angels' Night" community response.


Devil's Night dates from as early as the 1940s. Traditionally, city youths engaged in a night of mischievous or petty criminal behavior, usually consisting of minor pranks or acts of mild vandalism (such as egging, soaping or waxing windows and doors, leaving rotten vegetables or flaming bags of canine feces on front porch stoops, or toilet papering trees and shrubs) which caused little or no property damage.

However, in the early 1970s, the vandalism escalated to more destructive acts such as arson. This primarily took place in the inner city, but surrounding suburbs were often affected as well.

The crimes became more destructive in Detroit's inner-city neighborhoods, and included hundreds of acts of arson and vandalism every year. The destruction reached a peak in the mid- to late-1980s, with more than 800 fires set in 1984, and 500 to 800 fires in the three days and nights before Halloween in a typical year.[2]

Decline of Devil's Night arson[edit]

Devil's Night arson in Detroit had not declined by the early 1990s.[3] After a brutal Devil's Night in 1994, then-mayor Dennis Archer promised city residents arson would not be tolerated. In 1995, Detroit city officials organized and created Angels' Night on and around October 29–31. Each year as many as 50,000 volunteers gather to patrol neighborhoods in the city.[4][5] Many volunteers kept a high profile, patrolling neighborhoods with magnetic-mount flashing amber beacons on their personal vehicles, along with communicating with command centers via CB radios or by cellular phones to report any suspicious activity. Incidences of arson and other crimes declined, a success largely attributed to the Angels' Night volunteers. The drop in reported fires for the year 2008 was credited to the Angels' Night program.[6] That same year, 35,000 signed up to volunteer in the city, according to Daniel Cherrin, spokesperson for Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. [1][2]

As a result of the efforts, fires plunged to near-ordinary levels in the first decade of the 21st century. In 2010, the number of reported fires climbed to 169, a 42 percent increase compared to the previous year.[7] However, subsequent years saw the totals again decline to the low 90s for the three-day period. This average of about 32 fires per day is somewhat higher than the expected 26 fires per day through the year.[8][9][10] 2015 saw the lowest recorded number of fires with only 52 fires recorded and only 24 considered possibly arson.[11] In 2018, formal support of Angels' Night was ended with city resources being instead allocated to host neighborhood Halloween parties. Devil's Night 2018 recorded a total of 5 structure fires, with only 4 on the night before.[12]

In the 2010s, the decline of Devil's Night fires has coincided with a rise in similar arson on the nights surrounding the July 4 Independence Day holiday.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1989, ska band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones released their album Devil’s Night Out.
  • In 1993, underground Detroit rapper Esham released his song "Devil's Night", about arson and mayhem in the city.[14]
  • Devil's Night is an integral part of the 1994 film The Crow. At a meeting of criminal underworld figures, the main villain Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) is portrayed as having started the first fires himself, which were later emulated by others.
  • Detroit hip-hop group D12's 2001 debut album is titled Devil's Night which also features a song with the same title.
  • Devil's Night is the title of the sixth episode in the sixth season of Criminal Minds. In the episode, the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) is called to Detroit to help catch a serial killer who burns people alive once per year in the days leading up to Devil's Night.
  • Devil's Night is the title of a song from gothic metalcore band Motionless in White's album Infamous.
  • Devil's Night is the title of the fourth episode of American Horror Story: Hotel which is the fifth season of the series. It allowed the ghosts of former serial killers like: Aileen Wuornos, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Richard Ramirez to return to the Hotel Cortez for a mischievous night.
  • Devil's Night is the title for the second episode on the third season of Scream as the events in the episode take place the night before Halloween.
  • In the 1997 film Grosse Pointe Blank, Debbie (Minnie Driver) refers to the reason why she is living with her father is because her apartment was burned on Devil's Night.
  • An episode of Flint Town called Devil's Night focuses on arson in Flint.
  • Multiple underground rappers came together every year from 2003-2009 to make Halloween themed albums called "Devilz Nite"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jack Santino, The Hallowed Eve, University Press of Kentucky (1998), Pg. 10.
  2. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel (2007-10-30). "The Mischievous History of Devil's Night". The Washington Post. p. 3.[dead link]
  3. ^ Published: November 03, 1991 (1991-11-03). "Devil's Night Fires Decline By More Than Half in Detroit, The New York Times, November 3, 1991". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  4. ^ "City of Detroit Angel's Night Homepage, Accessed July 4, 2007". Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  5. ^ "Detroit fires drop over 3-day Halloween period". Daily Tribune. 2009-11-03. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012.
  6. ^ "Angels Night Information - Volunteer - How Do I - City of Detroit MI".
  7. ^ "Significant rise in Detroit fires over Halloween weekend 2010". Digital Journal. 2010-11-01.
  8. ^ "Detroit Angels' Night: Data behind this year's record-low fire count". 2012-11-02.
  9. ^ "Detroit officials report 95 fires over three-day Angels' Night period leading up to Halloween". 2013-11-02.
  10. ^ 38 fires a 'quiet' Angels' Night in Detroit, says Mayor Duggan's office, mlive, October 31, 2014
  11. ^ City of Detroit records quietest Angels' Night on record with 52 fires Archived 2015-11-05 at the Wayback Machine, WXYZ Detroit, November 1, 2015
  12. ^ Detroit: Halloween eve sees 5 fires, Detroit News, October 31, 2018
  13. ^ Neavling, Steve (2016-07-05). "Devil returns on Fourth of July weekend: 140 fires break out in Detroit". Motor City Muckraker. Retrieved 2016-07-05.
  14. ^ "Hellterskkkelter". AllMusic.

Further reading[edit]

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