Mischief night

Mischief night

Mischief night is a tradition in northern England, Scotland, Ireland, and the United States of a night in the calendar when the custom is for preteens and teenagers to take a degree of license to play pranks and do mischief to their neighbors/neighbours.

Traditional practice

Until the nineteenth century it was celebrated at Halloween (31 October and the eve of winter ) or , May Eve (30 April and the eve of summer). Shrove Monday (i.e. the night before Shrove Tuesday and known as Nickanan Night in Cornwall and Dappy-Door Night in Devon) was also celebrated in this way in some places. In some localities, notably Yorkshire, it occurred on the night before Guy Fawkes Night ( 4 November ) but there are no records of this date being celebrated before the late nineteenth century and it is assumed that festivities were transferred there from the much older folk festivals. [* Hole, Christine "A Dictionary of British Folk Customs" Paladin 1978 ISBN 058608293X ]

Traditional mischiefs done on this night were:-
*Knocking and tapping on doors and windows (Knock down ginger)
*Daubing objects with paint and whitewash
*Smearing of doorknobs with treacle
*"Egging", throwing eggs at homes or cars
*"T.P.-ing", taking rolls of toilet paper and draping them over trees or homes, etc.
*Tying together adjacent door handles to prevent either from opening
*Removing gates from their hinges and depositing them elsewhere
*Lighting of fires in drainpipes to produce an organ-pipe-like sound
*Placing slices of bologna to get the paint off cars
*Filling neighbours' yards with forks stuck into the ground
*Squirting syrup or other liquids that produce a stain, on houses, or cars.

Contemporary practice

The custom survives but often merged with the American Trick or Treat.

In Yorkshire it is also known as Miggy Night, Goosey Night, Tick-Tack Night, Corn Night, Trick Night.In Liverpool, it is known as Mizzie Night(but unlike in Yorkshire, it is celebrated on October 30th)

Mischief night is becoming popular in Ireland, where teenagers get the week around Halloween off school. This means that many of the nights running up to October 31 are used by teenagers for acts of minor vandalism. In the Philadelphia Region, October 30th is referred to as "Mischief Night" where mischievous teens "practiced" by soaping car windows, and in the Northeastern United States as Goosey Night and Doorbell Night. It is always on the evening of October 30, the eve of Halloween. Detroit's Devil's Night tradition includes vandalism and arson, along with more harmless pranks.

It is known as Gate Night in Winnipeg, Canada and as Mat Night in Quebec, Canada, always on the October 30, the eve of Halloween.

Orson Welles presented the Mercury Theatre's The War of the Worlds (radio) on October 30, 1938.

In Camden, New Jersey, Mischief 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.

Modern tricks are toilet papering yards and buildings, powder-bombing and egging cars and people and homes, using soap to write on windows, "forking" yards, setting off consumer fireworks, and smashing pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns. Occasionally though, the damage can include the more serious spray-painting of buildings and homes, and shooting people and things with paintball guns.

In the Midwestern U.S. and Eastern U.S., this event is known as Cabbage Night, in which children resort to all of the prior stunts, as well as using moldy food such as cabbages and eggs to throw at homes. Also, bags of feces are set on porches and lit on fire, so that when the pranksters knock on the door, the recipient stamps out the bag and covers their shoe in undesired feces. Less vandalous though, is the ever-popular "ding-dong-ditch": in this 'game', people ring doorbells, then run and hide somewhere nearby. Areas known to use this term include Northern New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.


A 2006 film "Mischief Night" [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0481581/ imdb ref] is based on events surrounding this night in Leeds, UK.

ee also

* April Fool's Day


* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/content/articles/2005/10/17/mischief_night_feature.shtml Confessions from a Mischief Night brat] BBC Yorkshire report - November 2006
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6101232.stm Police Patrol for Mischief Night] BBC Merseyside report - November 2006
* [http://cfprod01.imt.uwm.edu/Dept/FLL/linguistics/dialect/staticmaps/q_110.html Dialect Survey Results] US terms;prevalence and distribution
* [http://cms.firehouse.com/web/online/Photo-Stories/Fire-and-Police-Departments-Extinguish-Pre-Halloween-Arson-Sprees/45$45445] Camden, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan arson fire article

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.