Devil’s Night – Origins
I posted a fairly in-depth set of articles on the origins of Halloween back in 2013. Hopefully that convinced a few people the holiday is not a Satanic holiday but a Christian one and most the stuff you read about it is anti-Catholic propaganda that has nothing to do with reality.
During that time I learned about a tradition called “Devil’s Night” that’s celebrated on October 30th. I had thought this was a plot device for the comic “The Crow”, or possibly just the movie. Found out this was in fact a real thing.
According to Wikipedia, Devil’s Night has its origins in the 1930’s in the United States and is typically when teenagers go out do minor acts of vandalism. Mostly this was limited to throwing eggs at houses, leaving flaming bags of animal crap on the porch, toilet papering and the like.
Some parts of the US call it Mischief Night, which I’d never heard before. I did some looking around because I’d seen this term being used in the United Kingdom. Apparently that day is November 4th, which is right before Guy Fawkes Day. In Germany they have Mischief Night on May 1st.
It looks like Mischief Night was the original name for the day in Europe and it had something do with May Day at least as far back as 1790. It’s not much of a surprise that in England they moved it to the day before Guy Fawkes Day and Germany, having nothing much like that they left it right where it was.
Whether it’s the 18th century or the 21st century the idea is the same. Children and adolescents go out on Mischief night and play tricks on their neighbors and basically get away with it.
Devil’s Night is particularly meaningful to the people of Detroit. Since the 70’s the city would be plagued by ridiculous amounts of arson every October 30th until 1995. The mayor announced arson would not be tolerated. They made efforts to reclaim Devil’s Night and turn it into “Angel’s Night” instead.
“The Crow”, and other works of fiction, music and various types of contemporary fantasy set in Detroit often use Devil’s Night as a backdrop due to its significance to the city.
Elsewhere in the US
I vaguely remember someone telling me that the 30th of October was “The Devil’s Night” when I was in fifth grade. I’d always assumed that “Devil’s Night” was what some people called Halloween though. I never heard the term “Mischief Night” either, or the word mischief much in general. I grew up in the Texas Panhandle so this isn’t terribly surprising.
Some places in the US call it “Cabbage Night” or “Gate Night”. This is most common in the Northeast.
Is Devil’s Night Satanic?
In my opinion, not really. It looks like some people started calling it that because of all the awful things people started getting up to on the 30th. For the most part it was a celebration of mostly harmless pranks that children got up to and devolved into something darker in some parts of the world. Or perhaps, considering the holiness of Allhallows, they figured the day before much be particularly unholy. Once you start calling a thing something, people figure they can get away with almost anything, including burning Detroit to the ground on a yearly basis.