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October 30, 2017

Mischief night is here, and memories of 26 years ago still burn brightly

Camden had a hot night with 133 arsons

The night before Halloween is Cabbage Night? C’mon, get serious, Yankees. We all know it is Mischief Night in and around Philadelphia.

25th anniversary story:  Mischief Night 1991: Memories of Camden set ablaze

Around here, Mischief Night pranks usually mean toilet papering trees, soaping or egging windows, placing a bag of flaming dog poop on a doorstep, smashing pumpkins and generous applications of shaving cream on car windows.

But 26 years ago, the traditional low-scale vandalism turned into a night of arson in Camden, where intentional fires had become something of a Mischief Night tradition.

A record 133 fire calls were sounded in 1991 – the single busiest day in the history of the Camden fire department, according to an official account of the activity.

To mark the 25th anniversary of that scary night, PhillyVoice took a look back last year, with vivid descriptions from firefighters and eyewitnesses.

"After a certain hour, it was chaos," remembered one lifelong resident.