October 30th Is Devil’s Night. So What Does That Mean?
Growing up, I was warned about Devil's Night. Most people were on-edge the day and night before Halloween. Afraid of simple mischief like pumpkins getting smashed, or windows getting soaped, all the way to arson fires.
I grew up in Michigan, where Devil's Night means something.
As I got older, I learned more about Devil's Night. As a child, when you're told about the name of the evening, and all of the bad things that can happen, you are never told WHY. But as you get older, you start to learn more about what's going on. You grow into it naturally, you learn about the fires in the 70s, you see the fires of present day, and you see the way a community like Detroit responds with Angel's Night.
While all of this is going on for me locally, everyone else in the country is seeing the fictional depiction of Devil's Night.
Movies like The Crow and Grosse Point Blank were either built around the day, or referenced it as a plot device. TV shows like NCIS, Criminal Minds and American Horror Story have continued on the tradition of Devil's Night to the nation (and world) through their occasional we-want-to-do-a-Halloween-episode-without-doing-Halloween episode. While bands like The Black Dahlia Murder, D12, Caliban, and Motionless In White and created songs and albums influenced by the events and traditions of Devil's Night.
Interesting side note: Ernie Hudson, who is from Benton Harbor, Michigan, has appeared in two Devil's Night themed stories. He played a member of the Detroit police in the movie The Crow, and the TV show Criminal Minds.
Like most fictional depictions, there are dramatizations that take place in some of the movie and TV versions of Devil's Night, but honestly, not many. See, for over a decade, Devil's Night was really something to fear if you lived inside the city limits of Detroit, Mi.
Through the late 1970s into the 1990s, the city of Detroit was literally burning to the ground, every year on October 30th. When I say burning to the ground, I mean over 800 Devil's Night fires.
These fires were in addition to the general mischief of the evening; homes getting pelted with eggs, trees covered in toilet paper, pumpkins being smashed on doorsteps, car windshields filmed over with bars of soap.
Even though the peak of the fires took place decades ago, the tradition lives on today. In the 1980s there were over 800 fires in peak years, in today's Detroit, it's far less. In fact, last year's total was under 100 fires. Some attribute the decline to the work of neighborhood watch groups with Angel's Night, but in all honesty, it probably has more to do with the fact that Detroit has been hemorrhaging population. There just aren't enough people to start that many fires anymore.
If you've made it this far, and are still interested in what goes on in Detroit on Devil's Night, here's an interesting documentary involving the firefighters tasked with controlling the Devil's Night blazes:
But, if you're like most people from outside of Michigan, this is your first time hearing of Devil's Night as a 'real thing'. So for you, let's create a new Devil's Night tradition (that doesn't involved starting fires in your city) that you can carry on every year. Go find a 6-pack, grab a copy of The Crow, and cuddle up to watch that bad boy in the comfort of your own home.