We’re all familiar with the category of things that are specific to New Jersey, north or south. Pork roll (Taylor Ham), hoagies, WaWa, and even books dedicated to the strange histories of NJ. Along with this special group of things reserved for New Jersey natives is something far more sinister; Mischief Night.
Having lived in New Jersey for nearly my entire life, Mischief Night is something I have always known about– nearly everyone from this state knows of this night. I would hear stories of older kids who had caused massive mischief on the eve of Halloween, and warnings from parents to be very careful if I was out on that night. Naturally, I had assumed that Mischief Night was acknowledged country-wide.
Mischief Night is almost exclusively recognized in New Jersey, Delaware, and Philadelphia. Other states call it “Devil’s Night” or “Gate Night”, but most states do not have a name for the night before Halloween at all.
According to nj.com, the origins of Mischief Night date all the way back to the 1790s in England, acting as an annual chance for people to rebel, like an old-timey Purge. Think pranks, not murder.
As for how it came to find a home in New Jersey, it’s not quite clear. Some people believe it started simply because English immigrants settled in the Northeast, and others claim it started because of the Great Depression. No one knows the true answer behind how the night came to be.
We do know that it began as harmless pranks, but has unfortunately since evolved into a night for destruction and vandalism.
If you plan to participate, rather than egging houses and cars, or whacking mailboxes– maybe play a harmless prank on a friend or buy a can of silly string. A friend even once shared a story of how after Mischief Night, pads (used for a women’s time of the month) were stuck to the stop signs around their neighborhood. Do simple, and easily cleanable things like so. Don’t cause permanent damage.
However, you celebrate this New Jersey tradition, happy spooking! And if you need other ideas to celebrate this night of mischief, check out The Whit Centennial’s “Hallowhit” article on alternative Mischief Night ideas written by Jeri Hendri.
P.S., whatever you do, PLEASE, don’t smash any jack-o-lanterns.
Someone who put their heart and soul into carving a pumpkin.
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