Dog feces-smearing, egg-throwing, gate-stealing, nailing cats to people’s front doors, or setting fire to wheelie bins and disabled pensioners. That can only mean one thing – it’s Manky Mischief Night again.
While being an established and centuries-old tradition in northern England the festival of bedevilment is barely known elsewhere in the UK.
So, the uninitiated armchair tourist adventurer might well ask – WTF is it?
As the nights draw in, a small band of young – and middle-aged – mischief makers prepare for their annual night of mayhem to equal and perhaps surpass the excesses of Bedlam.
Mischief Night is the chance for budding anarchists and closet nihilists to let loose and cause a measure of chaos across the home front.
Depending on where you currently squat since having your home repossessed by the bank or building society, it occurs sometime between Halloween and Bonfire Night – with opinions varying on whether it’s all a bit of harmless fun or an excuse for sowing the seeds of the next revolution – and Armageddon.
Like many native traditions, its exact origins are unknown, but Mischief Night is thought to date from the 1700’s when a custom of Lawless Hours of Darkness prevailed in Britain and naked peasant types roamed the countryside daubed in blue woad, buggering sheep and anyone else unfortunate enough to be caught bending over.
“These were times of winter darkness when normal laws were suspended due a lack of bobbies – much the same as today – and tricks could be played ranging from the swapping of shopkeeper’s signs and gates to throwing cobs of ripe horse shite at people,” claims Rupert Thort-Nott, Director of the Museum of British Folklore. “It’s what the head doctors term “psycho-social moratoria” – a time when the normal rules don’t apply.”
Some of the more traditional pranks such as arson attacks on the Lord Mayor’s barn might have disappeared, but there is no evidence that Mischief Night itself is about to go the way of the dinosaur.
The Manky Mischief Night website proves it’s alive and well – and prospering.
One mischief-maker suggests “Get all your mates to take a monster crap in an opened-out newspaper – roll it all up, douse it with a splash of lighter fluid then set it outside the local village pariah’s door – a convicted kiddie fiddler is an ideal choice – then set the bundle alight and bang on their door.”
“Chances are that being after dark they’ll answer the door in slippers or bare feet, then stamp on the blazing inferno – and get their tootsies covered in ten kinds of stinking shit.”
A mite radical and extreme you might consider – but this is the fun side of Mischief Night.
Anarchy Archie posts on the website “We Yorkshire lads should keep up old Guy Fawkes tradition and finish off wot he started – all eff off down ter London an’ set fire to the House of Conmans on the 5th November while all the thievin’ twats are in there chewin’ the duckfat an’ shootin’ the breeze.”
“Get our arses down inter the cellars an’ undo the gas pipes then set fire ter all their dodgy expense claim forms wot’s waitin’ ter go inter the furnace – an’ watch the whole place go “Ka-boom!.”
So, good luck Archie, with the success of your mission – you’ve got our vote in the forthcoming election.