On this day in 1872, the following story appeared in the Southern Banner:
Following the night of mischief, the Banner had called the Christmas Eve events "unseemly noises and actions which might well have frightened old Santa Claus from his mission" and "it was more like the imps of pandemonium hailing the birth of a new devil." The paper concluded at the time that
"If civilization is not a failure, and it is proposed to maintain the forms of civilized life, measures ought to be taken to detect and punish the authors of such vandalism, and prevent its recurrence. If we are bent on becoming savages, we may as well abolish the mockery of law, and abandon the pretences [sic] of order and decency."
The type of pranks that came to Athens that Christmas Eve--fireworks, pistols, removal or switching of gates and fences--were typical of a British tradition known as Mischief Night that dates to the 1700s. Normally occurring between October 30th and November 5th, young men would set off fireworks, knock and run from doorsteps, and stole or switched gates and signs from homes and businesses.
The night is still common in northern England, with more common pranks such as gum under car door handles and throwing eggs or flour (or both) at doorways. In fact, some grocery stores in the areas where Mischief Night is still common ban the sale of flour and eggs to those under 16 in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
- Southern Banner, Jan. 1869 - Mar. 1872 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
- Athens Historic Newspaper Archive collection in the Digital Library of Georgia.
- "Watch Out...It Is Mischief Night" from BBC News Magazine.
- Amazing Pranks and Blunders by Peter Eldin via PINES.
- Fences, Gates, and Trellises by James Barrett in the general collection.
- Mischief Maker's Manual by Sir John Hargrave in the Young Adult collection.
- Ancient and Annual Customs by Dwayne E. Pickels in the general collection.
- The Fence Bible by Jeff Beneke in the general collection.
- The Spookster's Handbook by Peter Eldin in the children's collection.
- Holidays Around the World by Joseph Gaer via PINES.
- I Fooled You: Ten Stories of Tricks, Jokes, and Switcheroos by Johanna Hurwitz in the Young Adult and children's collections.
- Causing a Scene: Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places by Charlie Todd via PINES.
- Building Fences and Gates by Richard Freudenberger in the general collection.