11 Popular Halloween Pranks and How They Came to Be 

Christopher Myers
3k views 11 items

Halloween history is rich and complex. The origins of Halloween traditions are usually traced back in some form or another to the ancient Celts of Ireland and subsequent Irish immigration to America. One notable exception is the modern practice of trick-or-treating. So why do we trick-or-treat in the first place?

Mischief is a Halloween tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the holiday. In fact, the tradition of giving children candy actually was an attempt to stem the onslaught of pranks and vandalism. During the 1930s, adults in America came up with a campaign to bribe children with candy, thus the name "trick-or-treat." The practice was an adaptation of the Celtic tradition of going door to door asking for food or money, but with the intent to provide a "wholesome" alternative to property crimes for the kiddies. As a result, much of the mischief has now moved to October 30th, often know as Devil's Night or Mischief Night, in the US.

To honor the tradition of tricking, this list contains some of the best Halloween tricks. Regional traditions are included, as well as the national holiday staples we all know and love. Remember the ground rules: no treat means the house is fair game for tricks. Tricking AND treating is just bad form.

back to page 1
Try Toilet Papering Houses for a Harmless but Annoying Mess
Try Toilet Papering Hous... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 11 Popular Halloween Pranks and How They Came to Be
Photo: Chicago Man/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

Known colloquially as TPing (teepeeing), this prank is a Halloween staple: drape copious amounts of toilet paper over houses, cars, trees, and pretty much anything that gets in your way. While it is technically illegal to T.P., the property damage with this crime is relatively minimal. Cleanup is a bit of a pain, however, so you should make sure that either the victim can take a joke, or that you don't get caught.

Grab a Cabbage and Find Out What Your Future Husband Will Look Like
Grab a Cabbage and Find ... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 11 Popular Halloween Pranks and How They Came to Be
Photo: Suzies Farm/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

This tradition is prevalent in the Northeast, derived from a Scottish tradition practiced by settlers in the Massachusetts area. On Halloween, girls would pull cabbages out of the ground and examine their stems to divine the qualities of their future husbands: a thin stem meant a thin husband; a fat stem, a fat one. Once finished, they would throw the vegetables at houses.

Of course, this tradition has evolved to include all manner of rotting vegetables, as well as Halloween mischief staples like eggs, shaving cream, and toilet paper.

A Homemade Trebuchet Takes Pumpkin-Smashing to New Heights
Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

Destroying your neighbors' pumpkins is simply bush league. Not only does smashing a jack o' lantern on the night before Halloween leave the residents unprotected from evil spirits, it also robs them of the ability to smash their own pumpkin on the day after. This Halloween, smash your own pumpkins instead... preferably using a trebuchet.

The Flaming Bag of Dog Doo Prank Is Hard to Pull Off but Very Effective
Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

This prank is a classic. Put some dog poop into a brown paper bag, then place the bag on a person's doorstep, set the bag ablaze, ring the doorbell, and run. When the unwitting victim opens the door, sees the fire, and steps on the bag to put it out, they get dog doo all over their shoes. Kudos if you actually get this one to work in real life.