I grew up in New Jersey. Every year on October 30, I lived in perpetual fear. Would our house be egged? TP’d? Would they smash our pumpkins? Would someone in my family be murdered?
October 30th, the night before Halloween, was known to us as Mischief Night. It wasn’t until adulthood when I learned that this was primarily a New Jersey thing, such as pork rolls or trying to convince people that the entire state doesn’t smell like an abandoned porta potty (it doesn’t! I swear! There are many beautiful places in New Jersey!).
It wasn’t until people started publishing those maps that show our regional differences that I realized the rest of the country (except Michigan, I guess) went about their business as usual on Halloween Eve. Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck wondering what the local hooligans would do to our house and to everyone inside.
I imagined it to be like The Purge. The one night a year that you could just go out and do all your egging and murdering. And in my dumb child brain, I honestly believed that. Not that I thought it was legal and you could get away with it; I just assumed that since everyone was out committing crimes, you probably would get away with it. There’s just too much crime to keep track of!
My father was a police officer, so for a while, I felt safe. No one would fuck with our house! My dad was a cop! With a gun! And there was often a police car parked in the driveway. Move on to the next house, right? Well, that’s what I thought. But one year his car was egged. And another time (though not on Mischief Night), someone spray painted a swastika on the hood. Those two incidents made me realize that on Mischief Night, no one was safe.
I also grew up near Whipporwill Valley Road, which is somewhat famous in the state for being haunted. So not only did I have to worry about the local teens, I also had to worry about the local ghosts.
As it turns out, no one in my family was ever murdered. We did get our house egged one time, but that’s all I can remember. All of my angst-ridden October 30ths were for naught.
When I was finally old enough to stay out late with friends on Mischief Night, I did cause mischief once. We were in a friend’s condo development, where all of the circuit breakers were outside. We flipped some switches and watched as annoyed grown-ups came out to switch them back. That was it. That was our mischief. Mischief that was most likely chalked up to using the microwave or just having too many lights on. Our grand plan for mischief probably never even registered as actual mischief to our victims. They were probably just eating dinner, grumbled a “god dammit” when the lights went out and went on with their lives.
Apparently, Mischief Night is not as big of a thing anymore. The kids are doing “Boo Buckets” instead, which is where you ring a friend’s doorbell and leave a bucket of candy. That is decidedly not mischievous. I suppose we can all blame Pinterest Moms for ruining Mischief Night (and also the fact that everyone has a spy camera in their doorbell doesn’t help).
I’m okay with it being done away with. There is enough for kids today to be scared of. Every day must be like Mischief Night, except instead of the teens, they’re worried about the ice caps melting and all of your old plastic water bottles getting stuck in some dolphin’s blowhole.
Anyway, I’m still scared of teens. Not because I’m afraid they’ll egg my house, but because now they call me sir and are a reminder that I’m old and will be dead before they will. The ultimate mischief.