Tag Archives: devil’s night

Midwest Traditions Before Halloween

Background Information: 

The informant was born and raised in Michigan. They are a good friend of mine and we grew up together. 

Main Content: 

ME: So you mind telling me a little bit about the Boo tradition that we grew up with?

DS: So back in middle school and elementary school, not as much in high school, the night before Halloween, we would go around to our friend’s houses, a group of kids, and we would leave a bag of candy on the porch, knock on their door, and run away. That was just the tradition that you would always do with your friends the night before Halloween. We took it really seriously, maybe more seriously than we should have. We would always try to catch the person who was ‘Booing’ us, and we would always try to escape unseen when we were the ones doing the ‘Booing’. We would leave a cute note, hinting at your identity, but sometimes you just didn’t know who ‘Booed’ you. If you couldn’t catch them, you would always try to figure it out the next day at school. 

ME: Haha, were the parents in on it? Or was it looked down upon? 

DS: So the parents were always in on it. Especially because we were so young. So, the parents of the people doing the ‘Booing’ were usually the ones most involved. They would drive the kids there and they would help prepare the bags. They took it almost as seriously as the kids did. I remember once I heard a knock on my door, I walked outside and I see this car fishtailing out of my driveway, and there was a bag of candy left on my doorstep. ‘


This interview happened at my house. 


This is something that I loved doing growing up. Me and the informant, along with some of our other friends, used to go around “Booing” people. We would stay up all night hiding in the bushes in front of our homes to catch people who were trying to “Boo” us. After doing some research I found that this tradition was started in the US around the 80s and has been observed in certain pockets of the US, for instance, another friend from Ohio told me that they also did this tradition (https://www.wxyz.com/about-us/as-seen-on/you-can-be-the-first-person-to-start-the-art-of-booing-in-your-neighborhood-classroom-or-community) . However there are some slight variations, apparently some people begin “Booing” in November, and you are supposed to put a ghost on your window to signify that you have been “Booed”. As kids, it was the one time of the year where we could act mischievously and stay out late, with our parent’s full support. I think a large reason for this is because the night before Halloween is also referred to as Devil’s Night and in Detroit it is a famous night of mischief. I reckon our parents let us get away with minor mischief to keep us away from the real mischief on that night. 

Devil’s Night

My informant told me about the traditions surrounding Devil’s Night, or October 30th, the night before Halloween. She mentioned that the normal activities boys would participate in would be egging houses at night and “doorbell ditching.” When egging became an issue of destruction of property and legal action could be taken against the children involved, they switched from egging a house to using toilet paper, spreading it around trees and the house yard.

My informant felt that this was a very east coast tradition because of our association to early Halloween traditions and witches in Salem. She could not name when Devil’s Night started, just that several generations of her family knew about it and all that went on that night, usually criminal behavior.

Often this would involve smashing pumpkins as well. My informant thought that maybe this was another imitation of spirits because of the stories surrounding Halloween. My informant said that when she was younger, her parents would tell her scary stories of things that happened on Devil’s Night to prevent her from going out and taking part in the activities that got her fellow classmates into trouble.