This was a common scene in my first thirty-six years of life, every year on the morning of October 31st. We would get on the bus for school, excitedly looking at each house and tree to see who got "hit." Mischief Night, for almost every community in Southern New Jersey, is almost as important as Halloween. I naively thought that Mischief Night took place every where in the United States! It was not until I moved to CA and then KY, and saw... nothing happening on October 30th, that I realized it was a regional custom. It was not until today, when I did a bit of research, that I learned that Michief Night, at least by that name is only observed in South Jersey and the Philadelphia area! I could not have been more surprised.
We started getting ready for the big night weeks ahead of time. Of course, our parents did not allow us to go out carousing and doing mischief, but we had our ways.. that was part of the fun! We'd start gathering supplies, since our step-mother was very spartan about household expenses, a bit at a time: an egg here, a bit of soap there, and a spare roll of toilet paper. We lived in the country and at least a mile or two from the other kids who attended our small elementary school. But we could always count on the kids that my dad called the "Cronce boys" to come out and do some mischief in our neck of the woods. My brother and my step-brothers convinced my parents that they should go out and "patrol" our property to keep things safe.
What they really did was go out and take turns joining in on the Mischief! Naturally,my sister and I stayed a bit closer to the house, hoping to make contact with the bad boys (who were the best boys!)... and we were not above doing some bits of mischief on our own house.
Almost all of the Mischief Night pranks were benign, and no one was harmed. Throwing a lot of toilet paper was a creative feat, soaping up house and car windows was quite artistic, and knocking on doors and running away.. that was just fun. Then you have smashing pumpkins. This was a common sight the day after Mischief Night...
If you wanted a nice pumpkin to carve and light up on Halloween, you'd be sure to bring in your gourds on October 30th.
Once, Jimmy Cronce and his wannabe gang squatted on both sides of a road and, when a car approached, pulled a rope taut to scare the driver. I think this caused a minor accident one year, and that was pretty scandalous. Still, no one was hurt. I should add (since it's Mischief Night) that I once made out with Jimmy Cronce on our seventh and eight grade trip to Washington, DC...I'm not sure why. But no one was hurt!
I guess you could say that Mischief Night (by the way, it comes from England) was a sanctioned way to release your little urges to do something naughty. Very Jungian, acknowledging the dark sides of our selves as well as the good. That's very cool, I think. Wish I could hobble out and do a little mischief myself!
At least we have the wonderful annual THRILLER parade here in Lex. That's close!