PLATTSBURGH -- Tri-county residents beware: Cabbage Night is here.
Cabbage Night mischief and mayhem has flourished across the North Country since pranksters began the tradition by smearing rotting fleshy cabbage stumps on their neighbors' homes and windows in the early 1800s.
HISTORY OF THE NAME
As the pre-Halloween mischief continued across the Northeast, younger generations began to denote the eve of Halloween as Cabbage Night, Hell's Night or Mischief Night, an evening reserved for antics and pranks.
In sections of New Jersey, the eve of Halloween was called Goosey Night, while some in the Midwest know the evening as Gate Night, in reference to the common early practice of opening farmers' gates to give livestock free rein on the neighborhood.
In a 2006 online debate on ask.metafilter.com called Goosey Night vs. Mischief Night, some Ohio natives said they grew up with the evening known as Beggar's Night, while others in the Cincinnati area said they took part in what was called Damage Night pranks.
A Harvard dialect survey found that a large percentage of Americans don't have a specific name for the night, though in part that is because many areas of the country, especially much of the South and West, are unfamiliar with the concept of pulling pranks on the eve of Halloween.
Other areas commonly refer to the evening as Mat Night, referring to the early tradition of stealing and hiding doormats from the homes of cranky neighbors, school teachers and community officials. The United States isn't the only country plagued by adolescent antics in late October. Some regions of Canada, Ireland and other countries are also hit by Cabbage Night-type mayhem, though according to www.allhallowseve.info, parts of Northern England celebrate Mischievous Night on Nov. 4, the same night many English youth take part in Bonfire Night.
One of the most elaborate Cabbage Night pranks hit the national airways in 1938 when Orson Welles's dramatization of "The War of the Worlds" came across the radio as a seemingly live broadcast that detailed a Martian invasion and sparked widespread panic across the country.
At that time in the North Country, the younger generations were continuing the early traditions of outhouse tipping and window soaping to get back at authorities, mean-spirited neighbors and town officials.
And locally, an infamous 1950s prank still prevails among many as the most mysterious and unusual prank to hit the area so far.
On one crisp late October morning, Schuyler Falls residents awoke to find a hay wagon on top of the old two-story schoolhouse after a few local boys somehow managed to pull off the daring Cabbage Night stunt without notice.
In the l980s and early 1990s, some areas of the North Country were plagued by arson-related pranks, like roadways being blocked by emblazed couches and gasoline strips. These potentially dangerous pranks have drastically lessened as a result stepped-up police patrols and community eyes keeping watch over local neighborhoods.
In recent years, Cabbage Night antics have usually been kept to plastering homes with shaving cream, smashing pumpkins, dousing cars with eggs and, most commonly, stringing toilet paper from anything that lets the white streamers drift for easy morning view.
"It's not out of the ordinary to see that type of thing," said AuSable Town Supervisor Sandra Senecal. "But it's usually kept to a minimum. I think our state troopers do an excellent job keeping tabs on everything."
As in years past, police and local residents will be keeping a close eye on area youths to discourage the annual antics and potential problems.
"Every year, we put a few extra patrols on to curb the mischief that may go on," said Saranac Lake Village Police Sgt. Bill Cote, who noticed that Cabbage Night antics are often affected by what day of the week the evening falls and the weather conditions.
"If there's school the next day or if it's cold, there tends to be less problems," said Cote.
He said larger groups of congregating teens often lead to an increased number of Cabbage Night incidents.
To do their part, some grocery stores will limit the number of egg cartons that any one person can buy today.
PLATTSBURGH -- Tri-county residents beware: Cabbage Night is here.
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