Halloween and Devil's Night:

the Linked Fates of Two Folk Festivals


Adam Brooke Davis

Truman State University


After more than a quarter century, the statute of limitations has almost certainly run out, and I can confess.

'Twas many and many a year ago, I was an adolescent living in Detroit, and I think a fairly average one - neither much better nor much worse than the general run. There was a grumpy old gent living in the neighborhood -let's call him Mortimer. Mortimer was old. It was generally understood that when Noah parked the ark, Mortimer had been there, knee deep in the mud, waiting to file a lawsuit against him for trespassing. Mortimer was said by our parents to be a professional su-er, a man who derived either his retirement income or his amusement or both by frivolous and harassing litigation.

But that wasn't what fried our hash with regard to Mr. Mortimer.

We played baseball in a vacant lot adjoining the weedpatch Mortimer ruled as his demesne. You might call it sandlot baseball, but I don't recall there was any sand involved. Broken wine-jugs, rusty scraps of steel, busted cinderblocks, yes, but no sand. Hubcaps and wornout tires served as bases. It was a pretty small lot, and the ball had a tendency to leave it - homeruns came cheap. When the ball went into Mortimer country, the old crab would come scuttling out his door with a speed he never seemed capable of under any other circumstances, snatch up the ball and take it into his house.

Baseballs cost about two dollars then, and most of us got something on the order of fifty cents a week allowance. That's a month's wages. So the ball had to be gotten back. And the only way to do that was to ask your father to call on Mr. Mortimer, grovel, promise to take a razor strop to the kid (actually, razor strops were antique-mall material by 1975, but since Mortimer would keep insisting that the thing to do with a young hooligan was to give him a dose of the old strop, it seemed judicious to agree). The father in question - they took turns - had to endure a combination of haughty lecture on proper parenting, the sacred right to unmolested enjoyment of private property, and threats as to what would happen the next time. All understood that even Mortimer couldn't really make a federal case - or even a small-claims court item - out of such a thing. It was harassment, plain and simple. The father who had drawn the short straw would take it out on his boy. That sort of thing rolls downhill, as we used to say.

Now let's be clear: Mr. Mortimer was perfectly within his rights. We understood it, and our fathers understood it. But another thing we understood, even if we had no vocabulary for expressing it, was the difference between being in the right and being just. Mr. Mortimer did not understand that, or at least exploited the vagueness of the distinction.

What's a kid to do?

A kid is not to do much. Can't. But twenty or so kids can do something. Quite a lot, in fact. What we did was this: on October 30, 1975, we spent a short time practicing on an abandoned car, coordinating our timing, our silent signals, choreographing our steps, rehearsing for a performance we'd have only one shot at, and for which we would probably not be wise to stand around and take a bow.

Shortly after dark, we gathered in our vacant lot, and proceeded silently to the street in front of Mr. Mortimer's house. I think it took maybe fifteen seconds for the lot of us - and there were a lot of us - to lift Mr. Mortimer's itty-bitty-micro-mini Japanese import over the curb, turn it ninety degrees counterclockwise, bring it up the shallow stairs onto his broad front porch, swing the nose back parallel to the street, settle it silently on its tires, and scuttle off into the shadows, each in his own direction.

I don't know how Mortimer got that thing off his porch. It was up there for several days, and then we saw it back in the street. During the interim, we all had a chance to glory in our achievement, and to bask in the admiration of our comrades. We were the stuff of legend, and for that one brief shining moment, ah friends, life was sweet.


Where the Devil Did the Arsonists Come From?

Meanwhile, something else was going on among area youth. Detroit, as the Chamber of Commerce would put it, was the city that put the world on wheels. According to a spokesman for a former mayor, in an unguarded moment, it was also where the wheels came off the wagon of western civilization.[1] We heard about rougher elements, misfits and antisocial types who'd set trashcans on fire. Each year we'd hear more about this sort of activity, and there came a time when such reports became an annual feature on the local news of that particular day. Devil's Night as the world now knows it, and as it is connected in the popular imagination with Detroit, had been born.

An average night in Detroit sees 50-60 fires.[2] At its peak - or nadir - Devil's Night arson in 1985 produced 297 fires, and destroyed over 800 buildings.[3] The previous year's statistics included a "Devil' s Night Season" (Oct 29-31) total of 810 separate incidents. Many of the fires were set in abandoned buildings, but of course would spread quickly to occupied structures. The fire department's response time went to seven hours, meaning that, effectively, there was no fire protection. It’s hard to imagine a lapse in municipal services that would more radically undermine one’s sense of security, of cvilization. Citizens sat in their yards with rifles. As for us, our pranking days were at an end, for the very simple reason that none of us had much ambition to get shot.

It does no good to mention the fact that Mischief Night in Camden New Jersey (an impoverished suburb across the Delaware from Philadelphia, population 87,000) produces far more arsons per capita than the 1,000,000 strong Detroit Metro area,[4] or that Cincinnatti's Cabbage Night[5] also gets out of hand, as things do too in Pittsburgh. The world connects Devils' Night with Detroit. It is surely significant that this festival of destruction rages through the rust belt, where the contradictions of late capitalism came home to roost, and the betrayal of promises, the abrogations of tacit agreements between workers and bosses,  could no longer be disguised or ignored. On this heading, I recommend the film Roger and Me. It is also surely significant, in a way we could call poetic if we still thought of popular culture in the terms 19th century German scholars used, that the epicenter of social collapse should be co-equal with the birthplace of that innovation that structures modern American life more than any other, the affordable private automobile.

It is possible to understand such behavior as the expression of a rage which is in itself well-founded. But that impulse would be misdirected in several ways. First and most obviously, to understand is to some ways of thinking too near condoning (though it may inspire efforts to remedy the provocations). More importantly, it would be to regard this behavior as the work of people who are fundamentally irrational, unable to control their impulses or to direct their activity in a targeted way. I will argue that the behavior is, though antisocial and destructive, very rational indeed. The fact that it could be eliminated -witness the "truce" negotiated by Ste. Anne's parish between the police and the gangs[6] -- pretty well demonstrates that the behavior was in fact coordinated, controlled, non-impulsive and not, in the strictest sense, opportunistic.

The rehearsal for our prank was dirty and tedious, the act itself, as I recollect,  rather grim and a little scary. It was the telling and the hearing-told-about that were sweetest, and it is this fact that places the more elaborate pranks on the praxis axis of folklore. I'd propose the following descriptors for traditionality in pranking:


the event must be --


-tellable; it must have a narrative structure of transgression and retribution;

-essentially non-destructive; annoying, inconveniencing, perhaps embarrassing, but not permanently destructive, and certainly posing no real physical danger nor arousing genuine fear. It must be a symbolic gesture, pointing perhaps ominously to what the lowly might be capable of if pushed too far, but restrained by a sense of basic benevolence;

-ingenious: inventiveness  is required in planning, and guts in execution -there must be some cost to the pranksters, as well as to the prankees;

- targeted, with a socially corrective function.


I would welcome a jawbone session on the great pranks all of us pulled off, or even merely heard tell of, and which I am confident would demonstrate the normativity of these principles: I am thinking of the folks who got a brahma bull up the winding rickety stairs to the cupola of Mizzou's Jesse Hall, or the heroes who used fertilizer and a lawn-spreader to write the words "DIVEST NOW" in the smooth grass of Michigan's presidential residence. In fact, I have thoughts of developing a taxonomy and anthology of practical jokes, and I welcome contributions. But for now, let's take these descriptors as a way of looking at the folk-festival of Halloween pranking. How much of this pattern applies to the arson? Not a bit. So what relation does arson have to traditional Halloween pranking? From one approach, it's something of a gesunkenes Kulturgut, a cultural inheritance that behaves badly because it has outlived its functional context – as our taste for animal fat was highly adaptive in an environment where high-calorie resources were scarce, but is now killing us in a world of hyperabundance. On another, more ominous view, the arsonists’ holiday may be a fearfully sincere expression of a terribly widespread nihilism.


What Halloween Was For:

Halloween' s derivation from the Celtic Samhain is a familiar story:[7] " All Saints' Eve" is a pretty thin fluid to baptize so profoundly pagan a time, when the barrier between this world and the Other is thin, and its citizens can cross over here. The trick-or-treating traditions Americans know actually have rather shallow roots; they first appear in urban centers of Scots and Irish settlement during the late nineteenth century, and are very early on associated with mild pranking.[8] We can see this kind of activity in Sally Benson' s Kensington Stories[9] (the recollections which later ground the film Meet Me In St. Louis, now a kind of second-order nostalgia -that is, when you experience longing for the world not of your own childhood, but that of your parents and grandparents). Little Tootie gains status through having the courage to beard the neighborhood burlybear in his den. The group of children declare her "the most horrible," and allow her to pitch a chair into the bonfire they have built in the street.

Certain seasons have a durable linkage with limited defiance of hierarchy and norms. In England, at just about the same time, pranks are played and effigies thrown onto bonfires on Guy Fawkes Day, ostensibly a commemoration of Britain's near escape from a subversive popish plot, but really a chance to celebrate exactly the kind of jolly screaming chaos that might have been expected -with both dread and anticipation, don't you think? --had all that Gunpowder stashed beneath the Houses of Parliament actually gone off. This festival as celebrated in America before the Revolution probably contributes to the tradition of carefully measured subversion traditionally associated with the season (although others have suggested that the atmosphere of disorder has no more interesting roots than young louts exploiting the fact that reeling around in the street after dark would not be particularly conspicuous behavior on that particular night).

Fire is elemental, central to civilization, but it escapes our control easily, and is incredibly destructive when it does. There is something very threatening to the adult world about a group of children, their identities hidden, burning furniture in the street by night. No one could fail to understand what dangerous forces are here held in check, and only very precariously. The barrier between the world as children would order it -raw chaos -and the straitlaced expectations of adults, is very thin indeed on this night.

This is a familiar kind of inversion festival,[10] recognized by folklorists of an anthropological inclination as a kind of cultural gyroscope: certain times of the year are set aside for a feast of misrule, where the ordinary restrictions are suspended, when a peasant can curse the king, and get it out of his system. The theory is, if he isn't given a holiday to discharge that steam, sooner or later he'll blow up the castle. More importantly, at that season, the powerful are reminded that they rule on the sufferance of a majority, whose patience is not infinite; there are more of us than there are of you, your majesty. The right to oppress derives from the cooperation of the oppressed.

Pranks like ours were part of that function. Once a year, maybe the children get to spank a misbehaving grownup like Mr. Mortimer. We had rules. Soap was ok, and it just wouldn't be Halloween without Charmin. But no eggs, no spray paint, and the thought of setting fires never even flitted across our limited mental horizons. We were not adults, indeed, there was considerable tension between us and the adults, but we understood well enough that we were destined to become adults, to inherit these neighborhoods, and we were more than ok with the idea. The neighborhood was worth inheriting.

The families, ruled by adults, gathered in the houses, and the kids, a society unto themselves, ran in the streets. We all know that the things you do in the streets, the language that you use there, just won't do in Mom's living room (and vice-versa). Between the house and the street is the yard, marked off by the sidewalk -a twilight zone that is a public thoroughfare through private property -and the porch, where kids and grownups alike gather on balmy nights to socialize, a compromise space neither as intimate as an encounter within the home nor as impersonal as one in an entirely public spot. We kids understood ourselves to be part of these neighborhoods, and if we were nudging the gyroscope, it was to keep our own ship level.

But neighborhoods as such were already an anachronism in the seventies. What did away with them? The connected phenomena of shopping malls, the interstate highway system and private automobiles created the suburb, which made a point of not constructing sidewalks (reinforcing the privacy of private property, and replicating the psychology of the fortified villa), and avoiding the rural associations of porches as well. We don't need a porch: our domestic environment is luxurious enough, thanks.[11] And besides, we've got air-conditioning. Porches and sidewalks signal permeability of personal space, and that was the last thing the suburbanite wished to convey. (One of the reasons I have drifted towards archaeology in recent years is because utilitarian material culture and vernacular construction is relatively unconscious of itself as a signaling system. Since, unlike monuments and narratives, it is not aware of itself as having a meaning, it has no impulse to falsify; as archaeologists put it, “garbage pits tell no lies”).

Even city neighborhoods were in decline: Pete Hamill, in his memoir A Drinking Life, recalls how the summer of 1952 began like any other, with kids playing stickball in his Chicago street while parents sat on the stoops, drinking beer, talking sports and politics. But then the abductions began. Kids who had been there one evening were gone the next, and so were their parents. One by one, the populous porches emptied, the street fell silent, and in the twilight nothing remained but a queer blue glow from the living room windows. We had gone from talking with one another to sitting passively before the one-eyed god. And that too gutted our sense of community.

What, you may well ask, would be the point of pranking in a neighborhood like that? In what sense is that a neighborhood at all? Isn't it rather an apartment block, just very wastefully arranged? All becomes private and anonymous. Granted, there are great pleasures to privacy and anonymity, but there are costs too. Etymologically, the neighbor is the one near you, the stranger the one from afar. And now we are all strangers, and we develop an ethic of respecting one another's privacy that ensures we remain good strangers. We tell ourselves our ethic of noninterference is evidence of our respect for one another, but who could take his own emotional pulse without coming to know how deeply indifferent we are to what's doing down the street? Except of course to the degree that we are suspicious – for when we arrange not to know one another, we necessarily become mysterious and potentially dangerous.

Who did this? The grownups. What did they gain? A very appealing sense of ownership, control, mastery, independence. Adults closed off the neighborhoods to secure these adult pleasures for themselves. Did they admit that to themselves? I doubt it. Very few of us are capable of acknowledging that kind of selfishness and living comfortably with such self-knowledge. Rather, we tell ourselves we're doing it for the kids. But the kids never asked for any such thing. Adults can still socialize at work, in the places their cars can take them. But suburbia makes for a lonely childhood. Afterschool fraternizing is attended with much inconvenience. Even good soccer moms let the kids know what a burden their activities are. The rise not merely of suburbia, but suburban social patterns even in urban residential districts, means that kids have essentially no social function, no real role in developing the neighborhood which is not theirs anyway. They are at most consumers and throughputs of the programs designed for adult notions of what’s good for them.  They are left idle.

And "idle hands," as they say . . .

Many other forces were at work, of course; there are no single causes for social phenomena, but complex multideterminations. Economics played a role. The excess productive capacity left over when WWII assembly lines stopped producing tanks and guns had to do something, and in the tradition of supply creating demand, the Teenager was born. Previously, the term had been "that awkward age," too old for kiddie stuff, not old enough for adult things.[12] Suddenly, there was disposable income, and a new identity was packaged to give them something to spend it on.

So what do people do when they have identity, power, but no role? A shelter but no home? What anybody does who's stuck someplace where he has no rights. They tear it up. Exhibit A: Pruitt-Igoe, the St. Louis Public Housing Project that stands as the metonym for the well-intentioned disasters of mid-20th century urban planning. It's no coincidence that Devil's Night rises along with gang culture (before, however, gangs were economic entities controlling the distribution of illegal drugs. At this earlier point, they simply provide the belongingness that neighborhoods and families no longer offer). It's not that gangs give rise to arson, but that alienation and disaffection lie behind both, expressed as attachment (bonding with the group) and disattachment (destroying symbols of adult rule with fire).


What Happened to Halloween:

Having gutted the cultural institution of the neighborhood, all the while easing their consciences by telling themselves they were doing it for the kids, the adults, like any good rationalizers, looked around for somebody to pin the blame on. In one of those classic Freudian double backflips, having turned all neighbors into strangers, they persuaded themselves that a neighborhood full of strangers was unsafe. And in a way familiar to folklorists who study the darker side of mythopoesis, they invented stranger danger. Well, they didn't invent it so much as they updated the medieval blood-libel, the stories of Jews poisoning wells.[13] The idea is to reinforce the notion of the sanctified home, the fact that you're safe in here because we don't know what goes on next door. Of course, at some level you're aware that the folks next door are returning the compliment, which means that you are the people you've been warning your children about (this paradox will result in the brief but intense hysteria over parental child abuse,[14] and the now utterly bankrupt recovered-memory industry[15] -yet another witch-hunt, with any number of victims still rotting in prison or enrolled indelibly on lists of suspected abusers).

The narrative accompaniment is the Legend of the Razorblade in the Apple,[16] among the most familiar of urban belief tales. And belief endures. Many people are scandalized, and become downright angry when told that due and diligent investigation of all reported cases of adulterated candy over the past thirty years has failed to produce a single instance - not one single instance - of Halloween treats adulterated by strangers.[17] The doctrine of the skandalon[18] suggests that this kind of offended reaction should have us asking what sort of psychological dissonance would be created by the invalidation of the belief. And the answer is not far to seek: we are the people we claim to be protecting the children from. We are the strangers they're supposed to be afraid of. The story serves to redirect blame.

But we can't cancel Halloween, can we? Well, actually, certain religious views[19] are eager to do just that - they will latch on to another utterly imaginary phenomenon, a separate  though perhaps homologous moral panic, Satanic Ritual Abuse,[20] and designate Halloween as a prime symptom. But other churches will stage Halloween parties for "a safe and sane" Halloween (which of course is no Halloween at all). Malls will offer a trick-or-treat evening, and somehow no one notices that the lady giving you candy from the front of the Gap outlet is exactly the person you're supposed to be scared of in a non-commercial context. Any kid must conclude, and at the functional level of mythology is perhaps meant to conclude, that only mass-produced, machine wrapped candy given to you by the representatives of major name-brands is safe, that only industry really has your best interests at heart.

A similar spirit – indeed, I would say the identical historical and mythological dynamic -- motivates the thoroughly estimable but in many ways wrongheaded institution of Little League.[21] Among the traditional social functions of kids' games are training in teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, cooperation, negotiation, and so forth. But ideally, they trained themselves in these matters, within a hierarchical peer-structure. Anyone who has watched children’s self-directed play has observed a relatively high tolerance for rule-breaking (sanctions descend only when the infractions threaten the continuity of the game). Adult-organized sports deprive youngsters of any such responsibility – and therefore, of any opportunity for real growth in any dimension except obedience to authority. It becomes, in some measure, an extension of school and an introduction to hierarchical capitalism, an orientation to what life will be like with a boss. Instead of initiative and inventiveness they learn obedience, and instead of joy, discipline. Instead of inventing rules and negotiating disputes, you have a legal code, umps and coaches. And why did we do it? The idea that adults thereby get to relive their childhood is, I think, a red herring. Perhaps we are driven to impose an adult order on children's activities because the idea of kids teaching themselves is just too alarming- it would compel us to recognize that children in fact have a culture of their own which is not a dim reflection or a crude embryonic anticipation of adult life. That culture is so very different, so discontinuous with adult ways of looking at the world, that most of us, when we become adults, find it very difficult to empathize, except in momentary and often painful flashes of memory and insight, with our sons and daughters.

In the case of Halloween, while there is an adult impulse to contain the children's disposition to chaos, and thereby to persuade ourselves that they're not really capable of organized and coordinated activity, there really is too a theft of pleasure: it becomes an adult holiday- and the second-biggest moneymaking season for retailers, most of it spent on costumes and supplies for adult parties. Halloween becomes something of a northern Mardi Gras, or a temperate-weather New Year' s, all the familiar drunken misbehavior made tolerable by masks that don't really conceal identity, but which shield the wearer from responsibility for what is said and done during the festival.

Meanwhile, the kids, if they have gone trick-or-treating at all- and every year, it's fewer --are invited to bring their candy to the hospital, which will X-ray it for them. This does no good; in the first place, the candy won't have pins or razorblades in it, and the X-rays wouldn't reveal the arsenic or other adulterants favored by legend. But what X-rays do provide is a ritual reassurance that adults, with their medicine (here in near iconic relation to airport security procedures) really are in control.

Now, back to fires. You'll be happy to know that Devil's Night has become an annual  anticlimax. Recall I said that Detroit sees 50-60 fires on an average night. That's the baseline norm. This last October 30, preliminary reports indicated fewer than 40.[22] That is, the arsonist's holiday produced an unusually low number of fires. Now if what I've said thus far has been critical of adult measures to control youth rebellion, please don't expect anything so bizarre as an elegy for the good old days of riotous antisocial violence. The reduction of arson is a very good thing. We' re clear on that. But how was this reduction achieved?


Angels' Night[23]

Beginning in the 90s, citizen-patrols to "take back the streets" were begun, and they showed some success in cutting down on fires.[24] Of course, they weren't taking back the streets; they had no intention of doing anything with the streets the rest of the year. They just wanted the fires to stop, and to be allowed to watch TV behind locked doors in peace. But it seemed a worthy endeavor and an appealing slogan, so the city responded with a six-to-six curfew for those under eighteen during the Devils' Night Season -it's one of the enduring mysteries, the policy habit which supposes that if people react badly to authoritarian structures, the best thing to do is to really crack down on them. Beyond that, the city effectively deputized 30,000- no, that’s not a typo, thirty thousand -citizens to drive mobile units, lending them for the evening that symbol of police power, a flashing-light unit to mount on the car top. The device identified them as parapolice, quasicops. These lights were yellow, identifying the drivers more with technicians of rescue and repair, interveners in emergencies, rather than the undisguised threat of armed police. But oh, what a sense of presence and power it must have conveyed. Who hath the bubblegum machine speaketh with authority. And the entire anti-festival was called "Angels' Night," certainly a counterpoint to the young Devils, but also playing into the imagery of Precious Moments figurines and that whole smarmy "Touched-by-an-Angel" thing.

Sorry if that irks angel-collectors. Angels are another thing that gets distorted on the way to commodification and domestication – C.S. Lewis pointed out that biblical angels seem to find it necessary to introduce themselves with "fear not." An encounter with an angel must be a pretty unsettling experience. But here the angels are very settling, authoritative, domestic adults, sent out to reinforce suburban ideas of order. And evidently they succeed, but the fundamental mistakes that produced the disorder remain, and are perhaps worsened by the use of adult authority to stamp out behavior that (in its original form, not the perversion or distortion that is arson) existed in antagonistic, adversarial tension with adult order, but to the greater health of a society in which adults and young people both had a stake. Perhaps the sorriest aspect is the complete unawareness of the Angels that their repressive activity represents the underlying problem. As such situations are phrased in a joke traditional among physicians, “the operation was successful, but the patient died.”


Conclusion: What to Do About These "Folk" and their Practices?

Reviewing: the separation of adult and youth culture, as a consequence of a number of demographic and economic changes after WWII, displaced the homeostatic role of festival behavior, reducing natural youthful protest and rebellion exercised within and ultimately in support of social norms to purely oppositional function -by definition, antisocial. Adult response to youth practice has been to demonize the neighborhood, which allows adults both to express and repress awareness of the antisociality of the greed, individualism and hedonism which accompany successful competition in late capitalism.

            Each of the criteria proposed (above) for the traditional prank functioning as an equilibrium-maintaining strategy of limited inversion is violated – perhaps pointedly and deliberately – in the orgy of destruction which is Devil’s Night. The only canon of success for arson is destructiveness. And to my way of thinking, this can signal only a resolute opposition to property, property owners, their rights, and the representatives of the law which uphold those rights. It does not bode well for the future. And “Angels’ Night,” it seems to me, does very little to address the underlying pathology, though the decrease in overt destruction is inarguably welcome.

For me, this inquiry has been a disturbing one, on a number of levels. I am accustomed to using "folk form" as a term of approbation, and maybe that's a bit of Rousseau-style, noble-savage thinking. I tend this way despite the fact that my study of oral cultures tells me that's not the place to look for such enlightened values as curiosity, tolerance and inclusion. So I hesitate to grant Devil's Night the high honor of “tradition” and its practitioners the respectable rank of "folk." But by any descriptive standard, such they are, and the Angels in the streets, denying the structural and functional integrity of the thing they oppose, are engaged in a complementary distortion. Perhaps the only really honest people were those sitting in their darkened yards, grimly cradling rifles.

Dysfunctional traditions index dysfunctional societies. Or, on a more hopeful view, merely societies in the course of some kind of transition, which have not yet attained a new equilibrium, nor developed the traditions which will help them maintain that gyroscopic balance? I will agree that the symptom needed relieving, but the disease is still present. And I think we will live with that dis-ease until we cease to regard the young as useful insofar as they provide a market for unnecessary goods, and otherwise to be managed within a horizon of denial- denial of their capacity to organize and transmit their own institutions and customs, and of their capacity to make real contributions to the operation of society, contributions of a sort adults can't make, because by their very nature these contributions provide a counterweight to adult tendencies. Until we allow them again to be valuable on their own terms, to supply the chaos and inversion without which adult order is a prison, until we stop thinking of ourselves as Angels, we're going to have to live with devils.



[1]Qtd. in Chafets, Ze’ev. Devil’s Night and Other True Tales of Detroit. NY: Random House, 1990.

[2] http://www.hyattsvillevfd.org/devilsnight.html

[3] http://www.spub.ksu.edu/issues/v100/fa/n052/ap-DevilsNight-11.3.html

[4] http://kstatecollegian.com/ISSUES/v100/FA/n051/AP-Devil-s-NIght-11.5.html

[5] Recorded for Ohio, Vermont and elsewhere in New England; alternative names include “Hacker Night;” “Doorbell Night,” “Goosey Night,” and “Hell Night.” “Mischief Night” was celebrated April 30 in Germany, the eve of Mayday or Beltane, or Walpurgis night, a day heavy with witchlore. In Yorkshire, November 4 (just before Guy Fawkes Day) is mischief night; The Guardian reported (11-6-01) on the ominous appearance this year, in addition to the traditional eggs, flour and glue, of firecrackers.

[6] http://detnews.com/2000/religion/0004/16/a13-37792.htm

[7] http://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

[8] Anoka, MN claims to have been the first U.S. city to institute public observance of the holiday as a diversion from pranks  “such as soaping windows, putting wagons on roofs, releasing cattle and turning over certain small buildings whether or not they were occupied” already an established tradition in the 1920s (http://www.anokahalloween.com/_pages/history.html); however, similar claims are made by Grand Island, NE (http://www.theindependent.com/stories/102600/sil_budde26.html) for 1945, when police cracked down on such hooliganism as filling the local one-room schoolhouse with cows.

[9] The first eight vignettes were originally appeared under the title “5135 Kensington” in The New Yorker from June 14, 1941 to May 23, 1942, and were later published as Meet Me in St. Louis (Sally Benson. NY: Random House, 1942[10] If only to get a start on this vast topic, see Humphrey, Chris: Carnival and History: Bakhtin and the Dynamics of Medieval Misrule  (http://www.shef.ac.uk/uni/academic/A-C/bakh/humph.html).

[11] Oscar Newman has written extensively on the balance of public and private space and the relation of that tension to social order, sense of participatory community, crime and its prevention. See, for example, Defensible Space. NY:MacMillan, 1972. A site in Danish contains some of his sketches of space-allocation in such arenas as the family table and the housing-unit in its interface with street and yard: http://hjem.get2net.dk/gronlund/Newman_ill86.html

[12] There seems to be agreement that the social category (as opposed to the biological) is of recent origin, not definable earlier than the anti child-labor laws of the Progressive period, gaining momentum with the postwar economic boom. See Palladino, Grace. Teenagers: An American History. NY: Basic, 1996, esp. ch I-III.

[13] See Victor, Jeffrey S. “Moral Panics and the Social Construction of Deviant Behavior: A Theory and Application to the Case of Ritual Child Abuse.” Sociological Perspectives, Fall 1998 (http://www.humanbeing.demon.nl/ipceweb/Library/99-125%20Moral%20Panics.htm ) 

[14]Spiegel, Lawrence D.  “The Phenomenon of Child Abuse Hysteria as a  Social Syndrome: The Case for a New Kind of Expert Testimony” IPT Journal 2 (1990) (http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume2/j2_1_4.htm)

[15] Elizabeth Loftus & Katherine Ketcham, The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse, 1995, St. Martin's Press.

[16] For a through treatment of the legend and its debunking, along with bibliography, see http://www.snopes2.com/horrors/poison/hallowee.htm

[17][17] Joel Best and Gerald Horiuchi,  going back to 1958, find only 76 reports of any kind of tampering, all shown to be mistakes or fraud. For example, in one case a boy was intentionally poisoned by his father, who made up the story about tainted Halloween candy; in another case a child had eaten his uncle's drugs, who concocted a tainted candy story rather than risk jail for possession. Criminologist Richard Moran confirms that not "a single case of child murder could be attributed to Halloween sadists."

(http://members.shaw.ca/andreasohrt/07.(10.28.99).html ); The Washington Post cites Barry Glassner, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things.(http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/uslaner/morin.html) for an identical finding.

[18] I adapt the New testament term (lit. stumbling block”) for use in mythography, to identify demonstrably counterfactual beliefs that are nonetheless tenaciously maintained, such “unreasonable” postures having the effect of excluding from the group those who value individual knowledge above unity.

[19] For a variety of articulations, see http://www.religioustolerance.org/hallo_ev.htm#how

[20] For the 1992 FBI report and investigator’s guide to the phenomenon: http://www.religioustolerance.org/ra_rep03.htm

[21] Founded  in Williamsport PA in 1938, it experienced explosive growth in the period of postwar cocooning, and now involves three million youngsters annually in 103 countries.

[22]1985:297 fires;  1995:182; 2000:151; 2001:157.  http://detnews.com/2001/metro/0111/03/metro-334390.htm

[23]For an article from the Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/news/locway/qangel28.htm

[24] As did the additional, very sensible precautions of curfews, removal of abandoned vehicles and destruction of empty buildings – although it should be noted that removal of these opportunities for vandalism does not remove the motivations for disruptive behavior.