Honoring Air Force Pilot Leonard Matlovich

Mischief Night

Honoring Air Force Pilot Leonard Matlovich
Tony Guadagnino

Tony Guadagnino is a marketing consultant. Located in New Jersey, his clients are based across the country, focusing on social media to build their presence on the internet. He studied creative writing in college and is currently working his first novel on the subject of bullying. He lives with his partner Mark.

October is the month that truly transitions from summer to autumn. Indian Summer will stretch out through September, but October puts a halt to it, and prepares us for the 4th quarter of cooler weather and the final (and most popular) holidays of the year. The first one to come is not Halloween, but the “unofficial” holiday on Oct 30th — Mischief Night.

There are so many names for the day – Mischief Night, Cabbage Night, where I grew up, it was called Goosey Night. For kids, it’s a chance to be rebellious and have some biodegradable fun; for the cops, it’s double duty to keep order among the towns for one evening.

Did anyone ever think of how it began? We know the origin of Halloween (check out my article last year), but how about the origin of October 30th? Is there an official name for this date? Did it start in America? In Europe? Was it always 10/30? What’s the story on Mischief Night?

To start off the lines of questions … almost three-quarters of Americans have no specific name for the day, and the ones who do can’t agree what to call it. Here is just a small list of what it is called, and where it is predominant:

• Cabbage Night (Northeast America)
• Devil’s Eve (Southeast and Central States)
• Devil’s Night (Northern America (MI area) and Pacific Northwest)
• Goosey Night (NYC area)
• Mischief Night (Mid-Atlantic States)
• No Specific Name (The rest of the country)

The oldest uses of the term “Mischief Night” was in Great Britain; however, at that time, it did not refer to Oct. 30. Instead, that Mischief Night was the day before May Day, when young people played practical jokes such as switching shop signs, overturning water tubs, or trapping people inside their houses. Eventually, the day was moved to Nov. 4, the eve of Guy Fawkes Day.

In our country, the first reference of Mischief Night appeared in U.S. newspapers in the 1930s and 1940s, with people trying to separate the wholesome ritual of dressing up and collecting candy from the custom of causing mayhem. Some believe (but not proven) that tensions arising from the Great Depression—Black Tuesday was on October 29, 1929—and the threat of war encouraged the idea of trend of vandalism and the separate desire for a more lighthearted tradition. A 1937 article in the Daily Boston Globe describes children “ringing false alarms, setting fires, breaking windows, and doing their best to annoy people.” On that Mischief Night, children participated in a fruit and vegetable battle termed the “Battle of the Charles” which required authorities to break it up.

Overtime, the idea of “harmless pranks” have been overtaken by dangerous crimes. Street gangs have adopted the date as their Initiation Night, requiring drive-by shootings as their “in” for the gang. Car fires, robberies, and even unprovoked murder have taken over the night. What started as an inoffensive evening for defiant kids has turned into a malice night for the country. Whether you call it Mischief Night or don’t have a name for it, it’s a day that we should all be careful and cautious.


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