A book on Detroit by Pontiac native Zev Chafets that was published in 1990 has been reissued after a push from talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
“It was in the fall of 1986 that I first saw the devil on the streets of Detroit,” Chafets wrote.
“We were introduced by a friend who works for a local radio station. ‘Spend the evening before Halloween with me and I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before,’ he promised. ‘People try to burn down their own neighborhoods. They call it Devil’s Night.’”
Chafets, a former columnist for the New York Daily News, continued:
“I vaguely remembered Devil’s Night. When I was a kid growing up in Pontiac, a grimy industrial clone of Detroit ten miles north of the city, it had been a time of harmless pranks — window soaping, doorbell ringing and rolls of toilet paper in the neighbors’ trees. But it had been twenty years since I lived there, and a lot of things had changed. One of them was Devil’s Night.
“Three years earlier, in 1983, for reasons no one understands, America’s sixth largest city suddenly erupted into flame. Houses, abandoned buildings, even unused factories burned to the ground in an orgy of arson that lasted for seventy-two hours. When it was over the papers reported more than eight hundred fires. Smoke hung over the city for days.
“What at first appeared to be a bizarre outburst turned into an annual tradition. By 1986, Devil’s Night had become a prelude to Halloween in Detroit in the way that Mardi Gras precedes Lent in New Orleans, or the Rose Bowl parade ushers in the New Year in Pasadena.”
“It really is a fascinating story about Coleman Young and the white flight to the suburbs and how Young decided to do battle with them rather than make peace and bring them back,” Limbaugh told his listeners.
According to Wikipedia, Devil's Night is an integral part of the 1994 film “The Crow,” which was set in Detroit.
In the 1997 film Grosse Pointe Blank, which takes place in the Detroit suburbs of Grosse Pointe, the character Debi Newberry says that her apartment burned down on Devil's Night.
Detroit hip-hop group D12’s 2001 debut album is titled “Devil's Night” and features a song with the same title.
The 2002 film “8 Mile” features a sequence where the characters torch an abandoned house in Detroit that was used for crime, in reference to Devil's Night.