I thought Devil's Night was something that always existed along with Halloween, so found it funny a few years ago when it is mainly a Michigan thing (um, Detroit thing)
Devil's Night is a long-standing tradition predating World War II, with anecdotal incidents occurring as early as the 1930s. Traditionally, youths in Detroit engaged in a night of criminal behavior, which usually consisted of acts of vandalism (such as throwing eggs at the homes of neighbors, scribbling on windows with bar soap, or stringing toilet paper in trees). These were almost exclusively petty vandalism acts, causing little to no property damage other than perhaps a damaged mailbox or eggs hardening on windows. These acts still go on today.
However, in the early 1970s a dark side of this holiday emerged and the vandalism escalated to more severe acts such as arson. This primarily took place in the city but surrounding suburbs were not entirely immune. Property owners unable to sell in the rapidly declining Detroit city housing market would use this night as an excuse to burn down their homes to collect insurance money. These incidents were blamed on Devil's Night hooligans, greatly adding to the notoriety of the night.The crimes became more destructive in Detroit's inner-city neighborhoods, and included hundreds of acts of arson and vandalism every year. The destruction reached a peak in the mid- to late-1980s, with more than 800 fires set in 1984, and 500 to 800 fires in the three days and nights before Halloween in a typical year. After a brutal Devil's Night in 1994, then new mayor Dennis Archer promised city residents arson would not be tolerated. In 1995, Detroit city officials organized and created Angel's Night on and around October 29-31. Each year as many as 50,000 volunteers gather to patrol neighborhoods. They also started youth curfews in the city as early as 6 P.M. are instituted on the days before Halloween. Former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had kept this program up in force since taking office in 2002. I remember hating that curfew as a teenager, lol.
There are similar things around the world. In Merseyside, UK, the evening is known as Mizzy Night (short for mischief night).
Devil's night may also have ties to the German "Hexennacht," or Witches Night (also known as Freinacht). Hexennacht is celebrated on the night of April 30th into the morning of May 1 and is beloved by children of all ages as a time to engage in pranks and mischief.
Devil's Night is now becoming popular in Ireland (where it is more commonly called Mischief Night), where youths are out of school for the week around Halloween. Many of the nights running up to October 31 are used by youths to commit acts of vandalism.
The name Devil's Night, Mischief Night or Hell Night is used in parts of the eastern U.S. and Canada, although the acts are generally less destructive and violent than those committed in Detroit. A survey done in the United States shows the comparative popularity of various names for this night around the country. In parts of Quebec, it is known as Mat Night, as stealing doormats was a common prank in earlier times.
In other places, Devil's Night is called Cabbage Night, with youths committing vandalism and smashing the pumpkins of neighbors and ruining decorations, Gate Night, and Corn Night.
On the last day of Roskilde Festival in Roskilde, Denmark concert-goers torch the tents surrounding the area, even if they're not their own. This day is called "Hell Night".
Devil's Night also was an important part of the 1994 film Crow.
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