11 Popular Halloween Pranks and How They Came to Be
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.
On Election Years, Prank Your Neighbors by Switching Political SignsPhoto: Mpls55408 / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
This simple yet effective prank is a great way to piss everyone off during an election season. Switch the political advertisements of Trump and Hillary supporters and watch them seethe with rage. That will teach them to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Grab a Bar of Soap and Get WritingPhoto: VintageBlue / Pixabay / CC0 1.0
The premise is pretty straightforward: take a bar of white soap and then draw hilarious and usually inappropriate pictures on a car's windshield.
A variation on this prank involves putting washable paint on the windshield wipers. The victim is driving along minding their own business until they activate the wipers. Bam, instant rainbow.
Pitch Raw Eggs at Houses If You Really Want to Start Some TroubleVideo: YouTube
Have you ever seen a house that looks like it just doesn't get enough protein? Luckily, throwing raw eggs at houses is a Mischief Night staple. If the eggs happen to be rotten, all the better. For even more fun, up the ante by throwing eggs at your own house, then framing a neighborhood kid and watch the chaos that ensues.
Celebrate Miggy Night with Bonfires and PranksPhoto: mini_tsuby / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
In England, Mischief Night is called Miggy Night and actually occurs on November 4th, which is the night before Guy Fawkes Day (also referred to as Bonfire Night due to the tradition of burning Guy Fawkes effigies). In 1605, Guy Fawkes was an Irish Catholic who conspired with several other Catholics to blow up Parliament. The "Gunpowder Plot" was foiled, and the Protestant English marked November 5th to celebrate. For centuries, the Protestant English also suppressed Halloween because of its connection to the Catholic All Saints Day.
Amusingly, there is a (false) urban legend among English schoolchildren that the police can't arrest you for minor mischief on Miggy Night, leading to pranks like knocking on doors and running away, or putting honey on people's doorknobs.
Try Toilet Papering Houses for a Harmless but Annoying MessPhoto: 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 LikePhoto: 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.