In North America and the UK, Mischief Night is a prankster's holiday celebrated around Halloween or Guy Fawkes Night. This holiday appears to have emerged in the 19th century, and it was brought to North America by Irish immigrants. In accordance with legend, the pranks and mischief which take place on this holiday are blamed on fairies or spirits, rather than the people who actually perpetrate them.
Typical Mischief Night pranks involve mild vandalism and pranks which are designed to get people to laugh. In many communities, the pranks are minimally damaging, as the goal is to have fun, rather than wreak havoc. Some communities also have specific Mischief Night traditions, like removing the gates from the fields or placing an outhouse on the courthouse lawn. In some regions, this night has turned more sinister, with serious acts of vandalism, including arson.
The origins of Mischief Night are rather unclear. The holiday goes by a plethora of alternate names including Gate Night, Mizzy Night, Trick Night, Goosey Night, and Devil's Night, and it is sometimes held on nights other than 30 October. Halloween, for example, is blended with Mischief Night in some places, and in England, people may reserve pranks and mischief for the eve of Guy Fawkes Day, which falls a few days after Halloween on the fifth of November. The holiday may have simply evolved as a way to allow people to work off excess steam with harmless hijinks, or it may be the remnant of an older pagan holiday.
Children are usually the ones who are most engaged in Mischief Night pranks such as tapping on windows, toilet papering bushes or houses, and daubing sticky substances onto door knobs. Teens may organize themselves for more elaborate pranks, such as moving cars, and sometimes adults will get involved as well. In some areas, local police turn a blind eye to benign pranks, although they may step in if serious property damage is going on, or if a prank appears to be dangerous.
This traditional night of pranking is remarkably similar to the April Fools Day pranks played all over the world, and some regions of the world also have a Mischief Night around the beginning of May. The plethora of pranking holidays which provide a designated day and time for pranking may simply reflect a widespread appreciation among humans for jokes, pranks, and shenanigans.