The Night Before Halloween
The earliest reference to the night is from 1790 when fellows of St John’s College, Oxford, studied a headmaster who had encouraged a school play which ended in “an Ode to Fun which praises children’s tricks on Mischief Night in most approving terms”. The pranks were originally carried as part of the May Day celebrations, but as workers moved into urban areas during the industrial revolution Mischief Night was moved to 4 November, the night before Guy Fawkes 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.”
In other parts of the US and Canada, Devil’s Night, also known as Mischief Night, Gate Night and a variety of other names, is marked by youths committing petty vandalism, although the acts are generally less destructive and violent than those committed in Detroit.
However, in recent years, Saginaw, Michigan, a small industrial city 200 miles north of Detroit, has experienced a growing problem with arson on Devil’s Night, with 42 homes set ablaze on the night of October 30, 2006. City officials and residents have implemented volunteer programs to battle the problem, which has been met with great success. Devil’s Night is practiced throughout other cities in the Rust Belt of America, such as Flint, Michigan and Gary, Indiana. In Camden, New Jersey, Devil’s Night had escalated to the point where widespread arsons were committed in the 1990s. Over 130 arsons were committed in that city on the night of October 30, 1991.
Outside the US, the last day of Roskilde Festival in Roskilde, Denmark is marked by concert-goers torching the tents surrounding the area, even if they’re not their own. This is called “Hell Night”.