Looking back at 'Devils Night' in Detroit

Posted at 10:35 PM, Oct 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-30 22:35:14-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s the night before Halloween, and the city of Detroit looks much different today than it once did this night each year.

“In the '80s, during a three-day period then known as ‘Devil's Night,’ there were over 810 fires across the city,” said John George, Executive Director of Detroit Blight Busters. “Film crews were flying in from around the world to literally watch ourselves burn ourselves down.”

George saw firsthand the destruction brought on by Devils Night. So too did longtime Channel 7 reporter Bill Proctor.

“It was the most difficult period for any reporter around the City of Detroit because it was pretty much nonstop for 3 days,” Proctor said.

Proctor spent three decades at Channel 7. He and his crew would camp out at fire stations on the east side of the city and watch as the fire department worked to keep up.

“The firefighters were nonstop,” Proctor said. “Pretty much from the time they put on their uniforms, until the time they collapsed the next morning.”

In the '90s George says his group helped coin the term “Angels Night,” which became a city wide initiative bringing hundreds of volunteer patrols into the streets.

“Having a community that’s safe and clean, where we can raise our family and our children, that's something that everybody bought into,” George said.

After more than 20 years of Angels Night, the fires have been put out and the initiative was officially retired by the city in 2018. The successful campaign, forever changing Halloween in the city of Detroit.

“It used to be a time of terror, now it’s a time of celebration,” George said. “People coming together and enjoying peoples company and enjoying the rebirth of this city and this neighborhood.”