mischief night n [Attested in nEng (Yorkshire and Lancashire) 1830→ for April 30 (the night before May Day) and 1850→ for November 4 (the night before Guy Fawkes Day)] NEast, esp NJ, sePA Also called damage night n, devil’s night n, fox night n, goosey night n, hell night n, mystery night n Cf cabbage night n, chalk night n, clothesline night n, corn night n, doorbell night n, garbage-can night n, gate night n, light night n, moving night n, picket night n, soap night n, ticktack night n
A night near Halloween, usu the night before, when children engage in various more or less destructive pranks.
[1884 Janesville Daily Gaz. (WI) 31 Oct /2, [In a list of local events:] —Halloween. —Mischief Night. [DARE Ed: The reference here seems to be to Halloween night itself.]] 1924 Chester Times (PA) 31 Oct 1/7, “Mischief Night.” It is not on the calendar of special occasions, but last night was so designated by hundreds of youngsters in the lower wards of the city, who staged a premature Halloween celebration. . . Several signs were removed last night, discarded autos placed on trolley tracks and many a housewife answered a knock at the door last night only to find that she had been fooled. 1936 Ibid 29 Oct 6/1, Now, in addition to Hallowe’en night there is “Mischief Night.” 1947 Pottstown Mercury (PA) 1 Nov 1/6, Apparently worn out by their efforts on Mischief Night, Pottstown’s youngsters spent their energies in begging for cookies and nuts at front doors, and attending parties. 1969 Bucks Co. Courier Times (Levittown PA) 31 Oct sec A 3/2, Last night was mischief night and most local police departments report a fairly mild evening of the usual pranks—soaped windows, smoke bombs and egg throwing. 1975 Ibid 30 Oct sec B 15/2, “The old days of Mischief Night when kids just threw corn are gone,” says Lt. Herbert Anderson. . . “Now it’s all just property damage and heartache.” 1977–78 Foster Lexical Variation 75, Mischief Night—The night before Halloween is a time for minor vandalism in New Jersey and Philadelphia, although not in New York City. On Mischief Night doorbells are rung, gates removed from their hinges, car windows soaped, and houses and walks marked with chalk, egg, or flour. 1988 Anna Quindlen in WI State Jrl. (Madison) 23 Oct sec G 14/1 NEast, By the last week in October, I’m going to have the largest collection of jack-o’-lanterns in the Northeast. I’m the only woman I know who actually hopes kids will stop by on mischief night and steal her pumpkins. 1993 DARE File sePA (as of 1930s), The night before Halloween was, as in many places, “mischief night,” a night for knocking on doors, then running; soaping automobiles; moving porch furniture; draping toilet paper around yards—all the usual. Ibid sNJ, If one traveled to South Jersey, the night before Halloween was “mischief night.” 1998 Intelligencer (Doylestown PA) 30 Oct sec A 16/1 cwNJ, Police have asked stores to prohibit the sale of eggs to minors in anticipation of Mischief Night, the night before Halloween, which has traditionally been a night of vandalism and arson in the city. 2002 in 2017 DARE File—Internet MA, Halloween Eve – Growing up in the seacoast-area of NH we called it Beggar’s Night. . . But many of my colleagues from Massachusetts call it Cabbage Night or Mischief Night. 2003 Vaux–Golder Harvard Dial. Survey (Internet), What do you call the night before Halloween? [10.84% of 10,640 infs responded with mischief night, with scattered instances throughout the country, but chiefly in sNEng, seNY, NJ, ePA, MD.] 2009 AmSp 84.440 NJ, The day before Halloween is referred to as Mischief Night everywhere in the state with two exceptions. Goosey Night is the term of choice in an area comprising Passaic County, the eastern half of Sussex County, and the northeast section of Morris County. Cabbage Night is found only in Bergen County. 2013 in 2017 DARE File—Internet cnCT, In north central CT, it’s Cabbage or Mischief Night. 2014 DARE File—Internet VT, [The night before Halloween is] Mischief Night in Vermont.