Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Devil You Say



Years ago, when I was just a young little brat, Devil's Night was something my friends and I looked forward to. We'd plot, plan and spend weeks squirreling away toilet paper and soap. When dark would fall on the 30th of October, we'd go out painting neighbor's windows with Dial soap. Sometimes, we'd T.P. trees in the neighborhood. Always, we'd torment ring doorbells of crotchety old neighbors then run like hell laughing all the way. That was about the worst thing we did.

As I got older, thankfully, I outgrew my mischievous ways. Devil's Night never went away though and over the years, it grew more and more sinister. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Detroit became renowned for Devil's Night and Halloween fires. During a period of 3 to 4 days, the city would burn. Sometimes, it was hooligans out to create mayhem. Sometimes the culprits were people in a community burning down nearby abandoned homes. Often, they'd neglect to take into consideration the weather or the proximity of adjacent structures that still had people living in them. Frequently, business owners used the guise of this notorious day to offload an albatross. There were always hundreds of fires over the course of this "holiday." The city landscape is dotted with many empty lots where the homes were burned to the ground. Firefighters worked their asses off during these periods and were kept so busy putting out nuisance fires like garage structures that they just couldn't keep up with more important dwellings.


This has never completely gone away though the actual number of fires has been drastically reduced. Victories are measured in actual fire calls which are down to levels that are almost normal for a regular night. Devil's Night is called Angel's night here these days and the city heavily recruits civilian volunteers (angels) to patrol the streets looking for vandals.


I'm not particularly looking forward to being out and about in the city today and Friday. I'm hoping for an actual reduction in calls for a hospice nurse or nothing but facility admissions. I'd rather spend my evening in a hospital than out roaming the streets. I don't care how many angels are out patrolling. This is no longer a day I look forward to.

11 comments:

Betty Flocken said...

I'd heard about Devil's night in Detroit years ago. It's really sad to learn today that at one time it was like our fun night outs were (T.P.'ing -- went on all year in southern california by the beach though :) ) Be safe tonight and tomorrow!

Sandy said...

Wow, ...I had heard about this somewhere in my past but interesting to read it. I don't get into halloween much since the kids have grown, although with the grandkids its' starting again. (a little)...

flydragon said...

I also used to hear about Detroits
burnings on Devil's Night. How something went from innocent mischievous behavior to burning down your own neighborhood is beyond me.

Brenda said...

Well, I guess I live in a cave. I have never heard of this. This is why blogging has become so important to me. I really do learn things. I am going to be worried about you going out this year in particular, late at night. Your childhood memories reminded me of the movie "Meet Me In St. Louis" where the kids do very mischievous things and Trudy says, "I am the most horrible" Well if you haven't seen the movie you wouldn't get it. Be safe!

Rudee said...

Brenda, one guy even wrote a book about Detroit's fires, appropriately titled Devil's Night.

I'll be OK and if it looks too rough, I'll call for a security escort tonight. I guess I'll be safe enough. I've been in denial about working all day. It's 3PM and I'm still in my jammies. Guess I better go shower!

Lisa L said...

I'm on call for Halloween and the the weekend too. I'll send you positive 'no admits please' vibes...

Gill - That British Woman said...

I never knew this. I am not a big fan of Halloween. I do hand out candy only because dd nags me into doing it.

Gill in Canada

Winifred said...

I've not heard of this.

I think it's a sign of the times. What was a really great night for children has turned into a nightmare for some people.

In the run up to Bonfire Night on NOvember 5 here in the UK, there are illegal fires, accidents and stupid incidents with fireworks. I feel really sorry for the fire and hospital services. Also costs us a lot in taxes.

Tigers said...

Over here in Australia Halloween is starting to take off. Lots more things to buy in shops etc.

I hope we don't take it as far as USA does though.

Hope everything goes alright for you on that night.

JS said...

I was with Detroit Fire last night, This is the second time I have been with them on devils night. It seemed to be more busy than last year. I should have some pictures of Detroit burning last night up on my blog in a few days. Lots of fires last night! JS

Rudee said...

I didn't see any though I wasn't out late JS and I only drove through the city for a short bit. I thought to myself that if there's a curfew, I couldn't tell. People were out in droves walking up and down 7 mile. I don't think there are enough cops out there to enforce a curfew. I was home for good by 8:30 so I lucked out. We'll see how tonight goes-unfortunately, the DFD could be in for a very long weekend. At least the weather is mild.