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Do you remember Fox Night?

In Great Britain, Nov. 4 is Fawkes Night, but in Duluth in the 1970s and ’80s, the night before Halloween was “Fox Night.” It was a warm-up for Halloween, with no costumes and no candy — instead it focused entirely on vandalism and mischief.

I’ve talked to plenty of people about this, and for the most part, people don’t know what I’m talking about. But people who grew up in a certain time in a certain place know it all too well. And it’s interesting to think about how this happened. How did Guy Fawkes Night make its way to the Midwest, change its date, and alter its name for this brief period of time?

Duluth was not alone in the celebration, if you can call it that. Wikipedia calls it Mischief Night, and pins it down as a primarily East Coast phenomenon with roots reaching back to the 18th century. It lists many alternative names, but does not mention Fox Night.

  • Hackers Night
  • Goosey Night
  • Cabbage Night
  • Gate Night
  • Mat Night
  • Devil’s Night
  • Mischievous Night
  • Miggy Night
  • Tick-Tack Night
  • Corn Night
  • Trick Night
  • Micky Night
  • Cabbage Stalk Night
  • Mizzy Night

In 2003, a bunch of PDDers brought back an adult version of Fox Night, which was basically barhopping while acting like a jerk. If memory serves, it involved a lot of duct tape and firecrackers.

So what are your memories of Fox Night? Did you participate? Were you ever toilet papered, egged, or soaped? When did it originate here? When did it end?

12 Comments

Beverly

about 5 years ago

It was called Gate Night in Grand Marais. We moved before I was old enough to decide whether or not to make good choices about it. I think kids sometimes got arrested, from what I can remember.

TimK

about 5 years ago

Like Jim Crow, the Scopes Monkey Trial and the invasion of Iraq, Fox Night was a bad idea that doesn't need to be repeated or celebrated.

Paul Lundgren

about 5 years ago

Fox Night is such a strange part of the lore of my youth. It was a huge topic of conversation in grade school for about a week every year, starting a few days before Oct. 30 and ending a few days later. For all the talk about hooliganism that went on, I only remember personally being involved in one Fox Night incident.

In 1987 I heard voices outside the kitchen window and peeped out just as a group of ninth-grade classmates were egging my house. I quickly got on the phone, assembled a crew, and took part in a retaliatory egging, which later escalated  to the point where one kid's older brother came after us with a tire iron.

So yeah, it doesn't need to be repeated or celebrated. It was stupid. 

But it fascinates me how Fox Night was such a well-known thing in my neighborhood during a very short era. I've asked people who were West Duluth teenagers in the early 1970s about Fox Night and they have no idea what I'm talking about. And by the mid-1990s I think the whole concept had died out completely.

I came to assume Fox Night was a thing unique to West Duluth when I went off to college -- just a few miles away to Superior -- and when Oct. 30 came around I brought it up in conversation and people thought I was making it up.

But it turns out it wasn't unique to West Duluth at all. Somehow Guy Fawkes Night became a pervasive thing in my neighborhood, to the point where we all assumed it was a nationwide or worldwide thing, yet we all thought it was "Fox Night" and had no idea there was a Guy Fawkes or who the hell he was.

hbh1

about 5 years ago

I looked for anything about activities prior to Halloween night in the old newspapers and didn't find anything. But considering that it was a matter of regular procedure to swear in a couple dozen (30 in 1901) extra cops to police Halloween mischief, I think you still had it pretty mellow. 

It was normal for gangs of boys to run rampant, putting railroad ties across the street car tracks, ripping  off and throwing household gates into the streets, throwing rocks at cars (breaking their windows) and running around with the cops chasing them for hours. 

In 1901, they reported all the above activities, and then ended the article by saying it was the quietest Halloween in years!

Tomasz

about 5 years ago

I *vaguely* remember some conversation about it during my middle school years at Morgan Park and later on at Denfeld.  So vague, that I doubt I would have ever recalled it were it not for this post.  I never participated, nor was closely associated with anyone that partook.  I was never aware of any hooliganism that may have happened... Hard to say whether I didn't actually know anyone that celebrated Fox Night, since I still got wind of it.  So, I can only assume that there were still some hooligans out on October 30th in the early to mid 1990s.

hbh1

about 5 years ago

And by "throwing rocks at cars," I mean at streetcars full of people.

Ramos

about 5 years ago

Fox Night was a thing in Calumet, Michigan in the 1980s. It was a night of general mischief and of egg wars between a handful of members of each high school class. I engaged in several minor skirmishes in the streets, defending the honor of the Class of '88. Finally, the stores stopped selling eggs to kids around Halloween and the tradition died down.

There was also the much more serious Devil's Night in Detroit, when dozens of buildings were set on fire. There was one year when news reports made it sound like the whole city was burning. I think that tradition, too, has died away.

hbh1

about 5 years ago

Gate Night! So, apparently it was called that because of the "traditional"  ripping off of the household/yard gates, and sometimes they would swap them with one another.... right? 

I did not know that going after front gates was a Halloween thing.

hbh1

about 5 years ago

Also, maybe they switched to the prior night tradition later because of the overwhelming cop presence on Halloween night itself?

Paul Lundgren

about 5 years ago

By 1911, things were even quieter in Duluth on Halloween than in 1901. There were only 55 complaints received, including an incident in which a young man purportedly shot at a police officer with a 22-caliber revolver.

Halloween 1911: The Quietest in History?

hbh1

about 5 years ago

It's interesting to me to see that the most trouble was in Lakeside and the East End, and this bears out through the articles I read as well from years earlier. Damn Cake-eaters are hooligans.

spy1

about 5 years ago

Here is your comprehensive Duluth Halloween pranks account. Minus Fox Night.

From tricks to treats: Pranksters haunted early Duluth
Duluth's Halloween history

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