Mischief Night

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Mischief Night
Also calledDevil's Night
Gate Night
Goosey Night
Moving Night
Cabbage Night
Mat Night
Observed byChildren, teenagers
CelebrationsVandalism, pranking
Date30 October (sometimes 4 November, 1 May)
Related toHalloween

Mischief Night is an informal holiday on which children and teenagers engage in pranks and vandalism. It is known by a variety of names including Devil's Night, Gate Night, Goosey Night, Moving Night, Cabbage Night and Mat Night.[1]

Historical background[edit]

The earliest reference to Mischief Night is from 1790 when a headmaster encouraged a school play which ended in "an Ode to Fun which praises children's tricks on Mischief Night in most approving terms".[2]

In the United Kingdom, these pranks were originally carried out as part of the May Day celebrations, but shifted to later in the year, dates varying in different areas, some marking it on 30 October, the night before Halloween, others on 4 November, the night before Bonfire 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."[2] However, the shift only happened in the late 19th century and is described by the Opies as "one of the mysteries of the folklore calendar".[3]

Naming variations[edit]

In the United States and Canada[edit]

In most of New Jersey, as well as in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, parts of New York State, and Connecticut, it is referred to as "Mischief Night" or, particularly in the Great Lakes region, "Devil's Night". In some towns in Northern New Jersey and parts of New York State, it is also known as "Goosey Night".[4][5][6]

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Maryland, it has traditionally been referred to as "Moving Night" due to the custom of exchanging or stealing porch furniture and other outside items.[7]

In Detroit, 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.[8]

In rural Niagara Falls, Ontario, during the 1950s and 1960s, Cabbage Night (French: Nuit de Chou) referred to the custom of raiding local gardens for leftover rotting cabbages and hurling them about to create mischief in the neighbourhood. Today, the night is still celebrated in Ontario but is also commonly known as "Cabbage Night" in parts of the United States areas of Vermont; Connecticut; Bergen County, New Jersey; Upstate New York; Northern Kentucky; Newport, Rhode Island; and Western Massachusetts.[9]

It is known as "Gate Night" in New Hampshire, West Kootenay (British Columbia), Vancouver Island, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay (Ontario), Bay City (Michigan), Rockland County (New York), North Dakota and South Dakota; the implication is that the Gates of Hell open the night before Halloween; as "Mat Night" in English-speaking Quebec; and as "Devil's Night" in many places throughout Canada, Michigan, and western Pennsylvania.[10]

In the United Kingdom[edit]

In some parts of the country, "Mischief Night" is held on 30 October, the night before Halloween. The separation of Halloween tricks from treats seems to have only developed in certain areas, often appearing in one region but not at all nearby regions.[10]

Mischief Night is known in Yorkshire as "Mischievous Night" or the shortened "'Chievous Night" "Miggy Night", "Tick-Tack Night", "Corn Night", "Trick Night" or "Micky Night" and is celebrated across Northern England on 4 November the night before Bonfire Night.[11] In some areas of Yorkshire, it is extremely popular among 13-year-olds, as they believe it to be a sort of "coming of age ceremony" .[12]

In and around the city of Liverpool, Mischief Night is known locally as "Mizzy Night"; trouble spots were being tackled by the Merseyside Police in 2015.[13]

Contemporary practice[edit]

In the United States[edit]

Mischief Night is generally recognized as a New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan phenomenon.[14]

Mischief Night tends to include popular tricks such as toilet papering yards and buildings, powder-bombing and egging cars, people, and homes, using soap to write on windows, "forking" yards, setting off fireworks, and smashing pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns.[10] Local grocery stores often refuse to sell eggs to children and teenagers around the time of Halloween for this reason. Occasionally, the damage can escalate to include the spray-painting of buildings and homes.[15] Less destructive is the prank known as "Knock, Knock, Ginger".

In New Orleans in recent years, Mischief Night has included a series of unruly parade-like riots.[16] According to participants, the Mischief Night "krewes" follow in New Orleans' carnival's centuries-old tradition of "walking parades", which mostly transpire in the lead-up to Mardi Gras. Mixing revelry with mindless violence, Mischief Night parades involve thematic floats and costumes as well as targeted vandalism and fires. Targets of vandalism, attacks and arson have included the police, innocent bystanders and property.[citation needed]

When asked in an interview from 2017 how Mischief Night in New Orleans fits into the context of carnival, a parader replied "Our Carnival traditions are those that actually want to 'turn the world upside down.'"[17] After a parade through downtown in 2016 that saw bonfires in the street, police cars hit with paint, and a now-removed white supremacist monument chipped away at with a sledgehammer, another participant wrote:

There is no longer a middle ground; that’s been seized for luxury condos. The choice is stark: we either collectively build a more combative spiritual practice or we collude in ceding our ritual spaces of encounter to the oppressors.[18]

In some areas of Queens, New York, Cabbage Night has included throwing rotten fruit at neighbors, cars, and buses. Children and teenagers fill eggs with Neet and Nair hair remover 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 escalated to the point that in the 1990s widespread arson was committed, with over 130 arsons on the night of October 30, 1991.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1994 film The Crow, the protagonist and his fiancé 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" one year later to exact revenge against the crime lord and his henchmen.[20]
  • A 1999 episode of Rocket Power explores the joys of Mischief Night in The Night Before.[citation needed]
  • A 2006 film, Mischief Night, is based on events surrounding this night in Leeds, U.K.[21][22]
  • A horror film was released in 2013, Mischief Night, directed by Richard Schenkman.[23]
  • A different horror film was released in 2014, also called Mischief Night and directed by Travis Baker.[24]
  • Orange is the New Black: In season 6, episode 5, the main characters of Orange is the New Black are subjected to pranks throughout the episode because of “Mischief Night”.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dialect Survey Results".
  2. ^ a b Wainright, Martin (November 2, 2008). "Traditionalist pranksters prepare for mayhem of Mischief Night". The Guardian. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  3. ^ Opie, Iona; Opie, Peter (2001). The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. New York: New York Review Books. p. 255. ISBN 0940322692.
  4. ^ Myles Ma (October 30, 2014). "Mischief Night? Cabbage Night? Goosey Night? What does it all mean?". NJ.com. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  5. ^ "Mischief Night, apparently, is a Jersey thing. Here's how this mayhem started". October 28, 2018.
  6. ^ "NEW JERSEY JOURNALZ HISTORIANS as well as law-enforcement officials are assessing last week's Halloween activities. Traditionally, on Halloween Eve - widely known as Mischief Night - pranksters armed with soap and eggs sally forth, bent on leaving their marks on car, store and garage windows, as well as on occasional pedestrians or even on other pranksters". The New York Times. November 4, 1984.
  7. ^ "Neighbors take action as 'Mischief Night' pranks turn ugly". The Baltimore Sun. October 31, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  8. ^ "City of Detroit Angels Night – Home Page". Ci.detroit.mi.us. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
  9. ^ Ditko, Veronica MacDonald (October 1, 2010). "Cabbage Night to You, Mischief Night to Me". The Franklin Lakes Journal. Archived from the original on October 6, 2013. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "October 29, 2008-Devil's Night: The History of Pre-Halloween Pranks by Heather Whipps". Live Science. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  11. ^ Opie, Iona; Opie, Peter (2001). The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. New York: New York Review Books. p. 276. ISBN 0940322692.
  12. ^ "Confessions from a Mischief Night Brat". BBC North Yorkshire. October 31, 2006. Archived from the original on March 19, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2014.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  13. ^ "Merseyside Police take action to prevent Mischief Night trouble". liverpoolecho. October 30, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  14. ^ "Mischief Night, apparently, is a Jersey thing. Here's how this mayhem started". October 28, 2018.
  15. ^ "Jackson Citizen Patriot: October 21, 2007-Halloween blow-ups vandalized in Springport by Jake May". Blog.mlive.com. October 21, 2007. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  16. ^ Crime Bits: Mischief Night Edition
  17. ^ New Orleans Mischief Night: An Interview with Revelers
  18. ^ Mischief Night Parade Breaks History
  19. ^ Fire and Police Departments Extinguish Pre-Halloween Arson Sprees
  20. ^ "The Crow". Rotten Tomatoes. January 1, 1994. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  21. ^ Mischief Night film review Retrieved on October 31, 2008
  22. ^ imdb ref Retrieved on October 31, 2008
  23. ^ "Trailer: Mischief Night". HorrorNews.net. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  24. ^ "After Dark Has a Release Plan for Mischief Night – Shock Till You Drop". Retrieved October 7, 2015.

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