The History of Mischief Night



“Mischief managed” is no longer just for Harry Potter and Ron Weasly to say, because Oct. 30 is dedicated to every ounce of trouble-making. It’s a night where people grab all of their eggs, toilet paper and peanut butter and go all-out for Mischief Night.

This trickster holiday dates all the way back to the 1700s in Britain when officials created “lawless hours” so that people could play whatever pranks they wanted to without punishment. Although this idea wouldn’t fly today, mischief night turned into an annual event that has stayed around for centuries.

Mischief night occurs all over the world in England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and, of course, the U.S. The British call it “Mizzy Night” and in Quebec it is known as “mat night” when people switch neighbor’s doormats around. The U.S. also has some distinct names for this night as well. In the Northeast it is called “cabbage night” because hooligans throw rotten cabbages at passersby and in the Midwest it is called “gate night” when cattle gates are mysteriously unhooked. No matter where you live, there is someone to cause mayhem in one way or another.

The tradition of mischief night has evolved from simple, harmless tricks to serious and even life-threatening ones. The typical and funny tricks started out with putting peanut butter under car door handles and “powdering” cars with flour. These are laughable tricks that would make anyone with a sense of humor smile. However, these tricks have gotten more serious as the years have gone on. The most famous mischief night story made the news in 1984 when 297 fires were set in Detroit, Mich.

According to the The New York Times, this terrifying night almost twenty years ago gave Detroit its title of “arson capital of the world.” Luckily, in the past few years, the number of arsons has decreased and Detroit can now sleep a little more soundly this Oct. 30.

A surprising fact is that many people on MC’s campus have seen the effects or been directly involved with Mischief Night. Junior Lili DeRossi lives in Norwalk, Conn. and says that her town takes Oct. 30 pretty seriously.

“High schoolers will do things like teepee trees; that’s a popular one. It gets to the point where stores refuse to let teenagers buy toilet paper,” she said.

Heidi Laudien, English professor at MC, grew up in New Hampshire and is quite familiar with the mischief night traditions.

“Kids used to teepee trees and egg houses,” she said.

Even though many people from campus know about mischief night, so far nothing has happened at MC.

Mischief night is a time where teens run around and play silly tricks all along their neighborhood. Who knows, maybe this will be the first year that Manhattan students take part in it; not to egg anyone on.