A friend of mine is from Detroit and we were talking about her home town of Detriot. We both thought it was sad to see a once major American city slowly dying. During this conversation she mentioned Devil’s Night in Detroit, which is Halloween Eve. She said it was the night that people took to burning abandoned buildings in which there are a lot in Detroit. And then she mentioned The Crow and it clicked. And then the engineer in me wondered what is the history behind such a night?
Devil’s Night or Hell Night in Detroit took on it’s violent shape in the 1970s and saw it’s height in the 1990s, it was likened to the rest of the country/world’s celebration of Mischief Night except for one key thing, the serious nature of the criminal acts. Devil’s Night has been featured in movies like The Crow and on network TV shows like Criminal Minds. TIME magazine even has a short photo gallery entitled, Detroit Fights Devil’s Night. Today the arson and vandalism still happens but on a much smaller scale, that being said it’s still a bit horrifying to me. I prefer my horror to be fictional, not real.
A Brief History According to Wikipedia:
“Devil’s Nights dates from as early as the 1940s. Traditionally, city youths engaged in a night of criminal behavior, which usually consisted of acts of vandalism (such as egging, soaping or waxing windows and doors, leaving rotten vegetables or flaming bags of animal feces on front porch stoops, or toilet papering trees and shrubs). These were almost exclusively acts of petty vandalism, causing little to no property damage.
However, in the early 1970s, the vandalism escalated to more devastating acts, such as arson. This primarily took place in the inner city, but surrounding suburbs were often affected as well.
The crimes became more destructive in Detroit’s inner-city neighborhoods, and included hundreds of acts of arson and vandalism every year. The destruction reached a peak in the mid- to late-1980s, with more than 800 fires set in 1984, and 500 to 800 fires in the three days and nights before Halloween in a typical year.”
I guess I don’t understand why? Why continue to destroy your city? It’s dying…
During my search I found an academic paper entitled, Halloween and Devil’s Night: the Linked Fates of Two Folk Festivals by Adam Brooke Davis at Truman State University. This paper explores speculative connections in history that may have advanced the development of Devil’s Night. It’s fairly academic but still an interesting read.
If you’re interested in reading more about Detroit’s Devil night here’s a book I found in my search to understand the origins of Devil’s Night in Detroit.
“On the night before Halloween, Detroit explodes in flame. The local citizens call that evening Devil’s Night; tourists, sociologists and even some visiting firefighters gather to witness this outpouring of urban frustration when houses, abandoned buildings and unused factories burn to the ground in an orgy of arson.” – synopsis taken from Goodreads