The Night Before Halloween

Mischief Night shenanigans. Photo credit:

Sophia Dongaris, Staff Writer

‘Twas the night before Halloween, when all through the town the children were stirring, all acting like clowns. Smashing pumpkins, egging houses, and TPing trees. But what is the name of this special night when kids get to fool around with no consequences? People in Tenafly call it Mischief Night. But there’s also Cabbage Night, Goosey Night, All Hallows Eve, Devils Night, Gate Night, Devil’s Eve, and Trick Night. Different places have different names for the night before Halloween, and here are just a few.

A Brief History:

Surveys have found that about three quarters of the states in our nation do not have a name for the night before Halloween, and the one quarter that does cannot agree on one. However, that’s appropriate for the circumstances. Devoted to playing pranks, this night is the “trick” part of “trick-or-treat.” 

Mischief Night:

About 9% of the nation call the night before Halloween Mischief Night—as it should be. In most of New Jersey, as well as New Orleans, Philadelphia, Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, parts of New York State, and Connecticut, the night before Halloween is called the RIGHT name. Each Halloween morning in these areas, some residents awake to find toilet paper and rainbows of silly string dangling from trees, cracked eggshells on their windows and overflowing foam fountains on their manicured lawns; an extremely Jersey thing. 

Cabbage Night:

With less than 1% of the nation calling the night before Halloween Cabbage Night, why would some areas name it after a vegetable? People in northern Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Upstate New York call it that way because of the use of rotten cabbage in pranks on that night. Also, in some towns, they used to gather all the leftover cabbage from the fields and light a bonfire on the night before Halloween. Another origin of the name stems from an old Scottish tradition, according to “Framingham Legends,” a history of the Massachusetts town by that name. In Framingham, which calls the night Cabbage Night, girls on Halloween Eve would closely examine cabbages pulled out of their neighbor’s patches to predict the qualities of their future husbands. 

Devil’s Night:

In a more dangerous iteration of the holiday, Devil’s Night got that name after anti-police riots in Detroit led to a tradition of setting fire to local buildings and dumpsters. The first fires were set during anti-police brutality riots in the summer of 1967, but over the years, pre-Halloween arson in Detroit became a sinister tradition in the city that had little to do with rebellion. Instead, the fires turned into annual acts of vandalism. About 8% of the nation calls the night before Halloween this name. Though this name is mainly used in Detroit, it is also spread into New England. 

Gate Night, Trick Night, & Goosey Night:

These three get grouped together because out of the 25% of the nation, 4% call the night before Halloween one of these names. The first name is a little spooky, but fitting for the occasion. Some people call the night before Halloween Gate Night because the Gates of Hell supposedly open up on that night. This would allow demons, not reckless teenagers, to wander towns and cause mischief. Mainly around New York City, Connecticut and Rhode Island, it is called this. The second one is self-explanatory. People call the night before Halloween Trick Night because it is the “trick” portion of “trick-or-treat.” Lastly, why on Earth would people call the night before Halloween Goosey Night? What is that even supposed to mean? For some reason, according to, Goosey Night is more prevalent in western Bergen County and Passaic County NJ. We don’t associate with those people who call it Goosey Night. We Tenafly citizens stand by Mischief Night. The origin of Goosey Night is shady, though. It was used once in a letter to parents by the Wyckoff Chief of Police urging them not to let their kids go out. But, it is not clear that is the start of the term. A simpler explanation may be that the term “goosey” means flighty or unreliable, so it is a night for teenagers to act goosey.

No Name:

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you don’t have a special name for the night before Halloween, and you really don’t care about it. But as people from New Jersey, we are a part of the minority, the 25%.