Night before Halloween

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Oct 31 22:59:34 UTC 2002

>Devil's Night. (I grew up outside of Flint, Michigan.) Used to be a night
>in Detroit, and to a lesser extent in Flint, where arsonists would set
>buildings on fire in droves.

In Detroit (city) ca. 1960, "Devil's Night" (I pictured it as "Devils'
Night" then) was a children's institution, a time for pranks or tricks, an
extension of Halloween (Oct. 31 evening was expended in foraging for
treats, so the tricks had to have a different night). Some of the tricks of
course were childishly cruel or dangerous. The expression at that time did
not refer to a frenzy of arson (to my best knowledge). I think the
development of the stronger meaning was straightforward and probably began
around 1968. The arson orgy apparently reached its peak in 1984, and has
been in decline since. Detroit's population has been shrinking (I'm gone
for example!) during recent decades, providing many decrepit vacant
buildings which are a temptation to casual arsonists ... but then I suppose
the population of arsonists has been shrinking too, lately.

-- Doug Wilson

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