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Devil’s Night: A Detroit Cultural Phenomenon

Devil’s Night: A Detroit Cultural Phenomenon published on No Comments on Devil’s Night: A Detroit Cultural Phenomenon

The night before Halloween is a region-specific phenomenon found only in the Detroit area. It is called Devil’s Night. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and Devil’s Night was (and still is) a time of extra vigilance for the police on the lookout for an upsurge in arson and other kinds of vandalism.

When we were kids, we thought Devil’s Night was, well… kind of exciting! In our young minds, this was a night when hijinks and shenanigans were as close to being endorsed as they were ever going to be. We’d put our heads together every year and talk about all the things we could inflict upon our unsuspecting neighbors. Nothing malicious, mind you, like chucking raw eggs at windows or leaving a pile of burning dog poo’ on the front porch. What we planned tended more towards wrapping bushes in toilet paper or ringing a doorbell, making a swift getaway and hiding around a corner or behind a tree.

My favorite neighborhood prank was doorbell ringing. I’d sneak up to the front porch of an unsuspecting neighbor, press the doorbell, then jump down the steps and hide before they could see who had done the deed. If I got caught, the stakes were high because my parents didn’t mess around with that kind of misbehavior, and there would be consequences. Unpleasant consequences.

But I never got caught, and it was such a rush!

Being kids, we tended to be big on bravado, but seriously wanting when it came to actually doing anything. Here’s a typical post-Devil’s-Night conversation:

Me: “So, what did everybody do last night?”
Leah: “I was gonna go egg throwing with my older sister, but I have a math test today and I had to stay home and study [lie]. ¬†What did you guys do?”
Cathy: “Me and Mark went to Mr. Benton’s house and wrapped the entire front yard in toilet paper [also a lie]! It was cool!”
Mark: “Oh, yeah! We must’ve used ten rolls [More like zero.]. It was great! What did you do, Suzanna?”
Me: “Me? Uh… I rang the doorbell of every single house on my side of the block.” [Um, no. I was home doing homework.]
The Gang: “No way!”
Me: “Yep! I almost got caught, too! It was super close!”

My friends looked at me with a mixture of amazement and a respect I did not deserve. Not only was I not out ringing anyone’s doorbell, I wasn’t even allowed out after dark. As soon as the sun started to go down, I had to be in the house. Or else!

And Devil’s Night? Well, it was always more of an idea than anything else, but we had fun with it, anyway.

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