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Devil's Night Is Detroit's Deadly Halloween Tradition

Updated October 18, 2019 3.9k views11 items

Other parts of the country deal with some minor issues leading up to Halloween, but Detroit's Devil's Night has featured countless fires and general chaos for decades. In fact, it was common during the '80s and '90s for the three days leading up to Halloween to be accompanied by nearly constant blazes.

The city finally took action in the '90s with the invention of a new holiday, Angels' Night. Also set on October 30, this new spin on the troublesome holiday intended to reduce the amount of property destruction and other crimes that run rampant on the eve of Halloween. 

Devil's Night in Detroit has waned during the past two decades, but this deadly Halloween tradition still sparks up every year. At its peak, there was an average of 500 to 800 fires annually, but as of 2016, this number had fallen to 59. This represents a very positive change for Detroit, but it also showcases that some people still just want to watch the world burn. 

  • Mischief Night 1991 Emulated The Typical Detroit Experience

    Detroit is definitely in a league of its own when it comes to Devil's Night. Camden, Pennsylvania, however, did give Detroit a run for its money once, back in 1991.

    Camden firefighters struggled to contain 133 fires on October 30, 1991. This one night of madness featured more fires than any other day in the fire department's 122 year history. Leading up to Mischief Night, Camden experienced an average of 15 fire calls per day throughout October. The two previous Mischief Nights combined didn't equal the devastation of this one evening in 1991.  

  • The 4th Of July Threatens To Replace Devil's Night

    On July 4 weekend in 2016, Detroit and its surrounding suburbs experienced 140 fires. This tripled the amount of arson activity from Devil's Night 2015. It would seem prudent for the city to begin mobilizing the Angels' Night volunteers twice a year before the situation gets further out of hand. 

  • The Introduction Of Angels' Night Reduced Fires... Most Of The Time

    The Introduction Of Angels' Night Reduced Fires... Most Of The Time
    Video: YouTube

    After dealing with the devastating loss of a local one-year-old in a Devil's Night fire, the mayor of Detroit took steps to reduce everyone's late October mortality risk. A new holiday, Angels' Day, debuted in 1995.

    Approximately 50,000 annual volunteers patrol Detroit's streets to help dissuade would-be arsonists from starting fires. After the first year, the number of fires dropped from 354 to 158. Devil's Night fire statistics did surge unexpectedly in 2010, but they came back down the following year. 

  • Devil's Night Traces Its Origins To The 1940s

    Historical examples of Mischief Night are found nationwide, with an increasing prevalence throughout the '40s. At that time, however, it was more common that the night before Halloween featured minor pranks.

    Homeowners targeted by these pranksters could expect to experience issues such as soaped windows and toilet paper in their trees on Halloween morning. Things didn't take a violent turn in Detroit until the '70s.