Whenever I used to hear about an event called “Mischief Night”, I always thought of Hallowe’en night. I had no clue that the night before Hallowe’en had any particular significance whatsoever. As junior high pupils, my friends and I hauled out the toilet paper to “TP” the trees in the yards of our least favorite teachers’ houses. That was what the older kids did on the evening of October 31st.
Then, in the 1970s I heard about street gangs in Detroit, Michigan rioting in the streets committing arson and gross vandalism as revenge against the power elite. That’s when I heard newscasters mention how Mischief Night had been changed to “Devil’s Night” in Detroit. All of this took place on October 30th.
Evidently, Hallowe’en isn’t enough time for pranksters, so they must have a separate night for even more pesky behavior. I looked into this unofficial holiday and discovered that it has been practiced for a great many years. My family, friends, and I had been kept in the dark about such an evening.
Evidently, the British Isles suffered the first Mischief Night on a May evening in 1790 after a school play called “An Ode To Fun…” As people moved to cities, the practice of Mischief Night fell on November 4th, the evening before Guy Fawkes Night.
When the Scottish and Irish immigrants settled in North America, the idea of a Mischief Night came with the new Canadians and citizens of the USA. The immigrants’ traditional myths about goblins and fairies coming out of hiding before Hallowe’en is the source.
The night actually has many regional names. In much of Canada, New York and the two Dakotas in the USA, they call it “Gate Night”. In Quebec, it’s known as “Mat Night.
While most kids who participate in Mischief Night only act out of playful fun, older, more malevolant pranksters may also use Mischief Night or Hallowe’en as an excuse for more destructive acts. If Mischief Night is practiced in your town, you’ll want to protect your property from vandalism, slight or severe.
If you have a garage, park your car inside, away from egg hurling youths. Don’t place pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns or decorations on the porch or walks. Keep them inside on a shelf by the front window instead. Turn on the outdoor lights and invite company over for that night.
If you have kids, supervise them, find a constructive outlet for their energy. Have them get together for movies or video games inside the house.
If your area, like mine, does not have Mischief Night on the 30th, count your blessings.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes to listen to Orson Welles’ adaptation of “War Of The Worlds” on the 30th. The original airing was on October 30, 1938.