By Mark Falanga
Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo.
Young punks rejoice! As October 30th approaches, it is a cause for celebration that the night in which playful vandalism is tolerated has returned. The night in question is none other than Mischief Night.
For those of you who don’t think it’s a real holiday, it’s steeped in tradition that goes back over 1,200 years. It all started when Great Britain adopted Christianity in the 800s. The playful side of Samhain merged with All Saints Day on November 1st, which honored the dead with parades and door-to-door solicitation for treats and money. After the protestant reformation in Great Britain, only Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Britain retained the Halloween traditions, and carried them to the United States during the early 20th century. Pranks consisted of tipping outhouses, unhinging farmer’s gates, and throwing eggs at houses.
However, the pranks got more dangerous each year, so as a way to keep children occupied on Halloween, local officials brought back the long forgotten custom of dressing in costumes and begging for candy. Thus modern trick or treating was born and mischief night was pushed back one day earlier.
But as the years have gone by, the meaning of “mischief” got a little warped. Honest-to-goodness pranks turned into putting nail polish on people’s cars and fireworks in their mailboxes. In 1995, Detroit, Michigan saw its worst Mischief Night, when 300 fires were lit all across the city. It was so bad that a group of volunteers form an “Angel’s Night” every year to prevent this kind of mischief.
So does that mean this long tradition of raising a little bit of hell every October 30th is over? This report says hell no!
As a self-proclaimed master of mischief, BTR has instructed me to give tips on what are appropriate kinds of mischief.
To start off, never cause mischief alone, get a group of no less than four people. It’ll allow you to cause mischief at more houses at a much greater speed, while also lowering your chances of getting caught.
Next you’ve got to do your homework. What? No, not your actual homework, I mean scout out the areas that you want to prank. While it’s still light outside, look for homes that have children about your age. I only say this because it’s just not right to cause trouble to those who may not be expecting it, like an elderly couple. If they have kids, they’re more likely to know about it. Also, look for houses with vinyl siding (more on this later).
The next thing you’ll need is a time to meet up with your group. I recommend 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. as being the optimum time for mischief making. This is due to the fact that any earlier, and you’ll be spotted by people just coming home from work, and if it’s any later, you risk waking someone from a dead sleep, which is easy to do. During that hour, most people are still awake or watching TV and are less likely to hear you and your friends outside.
Last, but not least, you’ll need the supplies for the mischief you’re going to cause. (I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!)
Let’s start with the most obvious: toilet paper. There are too many reasons to list why this is the king of mischief making. It’s easy to buy, easy to do, and for the victim, it’s not too hard to clean. But before you throw these white tubes of joy, I want to point out a few things.
The first is to never buy quilted brands. They tend to cost more and contain fewer sheets, which mean shorter length of your streams. My advice is to look for any toilet paper that contains recycled fibers and dissolves quickly. That way if the victim misses some, it won’t be around for Christmas. As for the number of rolls you should carry, four is generally good, using one roll per team member at a time.
The next item in your arsenal should be eggs, but before you start throwing them at cars and on nicely painted front doors, you may want to think again. Eggs contain sulfur which is harmful to painted surfaces. Once contact is made, the acidic residue etches into the paint, causing it to crack. If left untreated, it could be seriously damaging.
This may lead to the victim calling the police and that’s something you really don’t want. My advice is to egg the houses with vinyl siding. It’s generally easier to clean because the vinyl is a more durable surface. That’s not to say that you should cover the houses in eggs. If there are no houses with vinyl siding, then just throw them on sidewalks or driveways. Limit your team to four eggs per house, and then move on.
The last item I want to mention is soap. This often-overlooked mischief making material is perfect for drawing on streets or driveways. What you write can last for days, sometimes even weeks if done properly. Although there’s no evidence I could find as to why this works so well, you’ll just have to trust my expertise. But one thing to remember is to please keep it tasteful (no racial, ethnic, LGBT slurs, or otherwise). If you’re stumped on what to write, sports rivalries are always a safe bet. For example, in my area, one of my neighbors was a giant Boston Red Sox fan. Each year, I’d write in soap on his driveway “GO YANKEES.” The same can be said for local high school or college rivalries.
Ultimately, the objective of the night is to have fun but to also use some common sense. The golden rule is to never do something to someone else’s property that you wouldn’t want done to yours. As for the unlucky victims of this mischief, just remember what it’s like to be young and try to take this in stride.
A merry Mischief Night to all, and to all a good throw of TP!
BTR does not condone the harming or destruction of property.