Here is the story I heard about how the arson fires on devil’s night started in Detroit. (Or at least the only one I’ve heard of.)

After the riots in the 60’s and a vast majority of whites migrated from downtown to the suburbs. (Note that even cities 40+ miles away from Detroit are considered a “suburb of Detroit”) There were a large number of abandon buildings that were falling apart and became a popular hang out for drug dealers/addicts and other criminal activity.

The people living downtown didn’t like the effect that the buildings were having on the neighborhood and decided that they needed to be removed. The citizens went to the city government and requested that the buildings be demolished, and after finding that their request had fell on deaf ears; Some of the citizens deiced to take maters into their own hands and burn down the buildings. They decided to do this on the night before Halloween. Why this date was picked, I’m not sure. Maybe it was in an effort to clean the streets for the kids before Halloween?

After this started to be a sort of strange tradition, many firebugs took it upon themselves to keep it alive. This went on for the next 20 years until “angel’s night” was started. The idea behind angel’s night was to send a group of volunteers from the city to patrol the streets and try to keep arson down on that night. To date this has been a huge success. There are still a number of fires on devil’s night but no where near the amount from say 5 years ago.

I have no idea if this story is true or not.

The general idea of this was taking from the book “Devil’s Night, And Other True Tales Of Detroit” by Ze’ev Chafets. Anyone interested in some of the odd quirks of the city should look for this book.