Devil's Night

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This article is about the Detroit cultural phenomenon. For the album by rap group D12, see Devil's Night (album).

Devil's Night is a name associated with October 30, the night before Halloween. It is related to the "Mischief night" practiced in other parts of the United States and the world, 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 1930's. 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 animal 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]

By the early 1990s, Detroit saw little decline in Devil's Night arson.[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] 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 over the previous year.[6] However, in the early 2010s, the totals again declined 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.[7][8][9]

Angels' Night[edit]

Angels' Night (also known as Angel's Night) is an event that is designed to mitigate criminal acts associated with Devil's Night in Detroit, Michigan. After a brutal Devil's Night in 1994, then new 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.

Currently as many as 40,000 Detroiters volunteer to keep the city safe on these nights. Many volunteers keep 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. In recent years, arson and other crimes have fallen, much to success of the Angels' Night volunteers. The drop in reported fires for the year 2008 has been credited to be because of the Angels' Night program.[10]

Only once has Angels' Night been cancelled since it began. This cancellation took place in 2005 due to the death of Rosa Parks. Most Angels' Night and Devil's Night activities occurred that year in Flint and Lansing, Michigan, as well as in Toledo, Ohio.

Devil's Night in popular culture[edit]

  • 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.
  • In the 1997 film Grosse Pointe Blank, which takes place in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, the character Debi Newberry says that her apartment burned down on Devil's Night.
  • In 1993, underground Detroit rapper Esham released his song Devil's Night about arson and mayhem in the city.[11]
  • Detroit hip-hop group D12's 2001 debut album is titled Devil's Night which also features a song with the same title.
  • The 2002 film 8 Mile features a sequence where the characters torch an abandoned house in Detroit that was used for crime, in reference to Devil's Night.
  • Devil's Night is used as a plot device in the 2007 Canadian horror film Left for Dead.
  • Devil's Night appears in Laura Bickle's 2010 urban fantasy novel Embers.
  • "Devil's Night" is a rap song released in 2011 by Detroit artist Sonny! who depicts inner-city living on the night of October 30.[12]
  • Mischief Night appears in an episode of the Nickelodeon animated show Rocket Power.
  • The sixth episode of the sixth season of the CBS drama Criminal Minds was titled "Devil's Night", and revolved around a burn victim who plotted his arsonist murders on the three days around Devil's Night.
  • Devil's Night is mentioned in NCIS episode 143 "Code of Conduct".
  • "Devil's Night" is a song featured on the 2012 album Infamous by metal band Motionless in White.
  • Devil's Night is mentioned in the song "A Shrine to Madness" by Detroit metal band The Black Dahlia Murder. The song is about the history of Halloween and contains the line "Devil's Night, 'twas a scorcher, but on this eve we bring Hell."
  • Influenced "Devilz Nite", an annual Halloween series composed of underground hip-hop artists doing dark songs.
  • Rapper Boondox recorded a song called "Devil's Night" for Psychopathic Records' Hallowicked 2013 single.
  • Devil's Night was also chronicled in journalist Ze'ev Chafets' 1990 nonfiction book Devil's Night and Other True Tales of Detroit.
  • "Devil's Night", a song on the 2014 album Ghost Empire by german metalcore band Caliban.
  • Devil's Night was mentionned as the release date of the Binding of Isaac: Rebirth expansion, Afterbirth. [13]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

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