Over the past few decades, hundreds of neighborhoods across Raleigh experienced vandalism in the dark of night on October 30, the night before Halloween night. Also known as “Mischief Night” and “Fright Night” around North Carolina, “Devil’s Night” in Detroit, and “Miggy Night” in parts of England, the night before Halloween is synonymous with vandalism in countries as far away as Ireland.
Mischief Night originated in 500 B.C., in the area that is now Great Britain, France, Scotland and Ireland. October 31 was the beginning of the Celtic New Year and marked the end of summer. The belief was that, on that one day of the year, all of the spirits, elves, and fairies were allowed to walk the earth and meddle in the affairs of the living. To please the monsters and ghosts, a huge celebration and bonfire was made.
Irish and Scottish immigrants brought the tradition of Mischief Night to America when they came here during the 1800s. They would create mischief and play pranks, then blame it on witches, ghosts, and goblins the next morning.
Throughout history, kids on October 30 caused everything from minor annoyances to major property damage. In the early 19th century, rowdy teenagers overturned outhouses, preferably ones which were in use. In more recent times, younger children tended to spread Froot Loops over the neighbors’ lawns, or egg the door of the grumpy old man living next door. The opening of farmers’ gates, allowing all of the livestock to escape, became a Mischief Night pastime.
The most destructive all of pranks on Devil’s Night occurred in Detroit in 1985. Detroit has a history of arson on Devil’s night, but on that particular Halloween, more than 297 fires were set. If caught, fugitives claimed “the devil made me do it.”
More popular in the northeastern United States and Canada than the southern states surrounding North Carolina, Mischief Night is now an expected event. Those who participate in the mischief think of it as an extension of Halloween.
The tradition of smashed pumpkins in the streets, cracked eggs on windshields, and continual “Ding-Dong-Ditch” in the dead of night recently increased in popularity among teenagers.
“Mischief night is almost more fun than Halloween,” said an unnamed mischief night participant. “Now me and my friends can save haunted houses or parties for Halloween night, but hang out in the neighborhoods and TP peoples’ houses the night before.”
Nowadays, cities such as Detroit attempt to combat vandalism by refusing to sell notorious prank items like eggs, flour, or soap to anyone under the age of 18. Other cities, like Raleigh, simply make sure a few more officers patrol the most commonly vandalized areas.