It’s Halloween. A time for tricks and treats, scary costumes and spooky tales. You might have heard some stories over the years. The candy tainted with poison, the apple with a hidden razor blade. Stories of evil strangers messing with Halloween candy dates back decades, but are they true or are they urban legends?
Over the years, many stories have been debunked. But, documented tales of wrong-doers targeting children dates back to at least 1964, when New York homemaker, Helen Pfeil gave out packages of dog biscuits and ant poison. Pfeil made is clear her treats weren’t edible, but that she was annoyed at the idea of handing out candy to the older kids in her neighborhood. Needless to say, she was arrested and charged with child endangerment.
In the 70s, two tales of family members going after the own. In 1970, a 5-year-old child died after eating candy a family member sprinkled heroin on, to hide the fact he stole the drugs from his uncle.
Four years later, Ronald Clark O’Bryan of Houston, Texas poisoned his own son’s candy with cyanide, to collect on an insurance policy. The child died and O’Bryan was sentenced to death.
The biggest candy-tampering story happened in 1982 in Chicago. Seven people died after taking cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. But, this happened one month before Halloween. Still, that year, 40 communities banned trick-or-treating and a candy hotline was established to report tainted treats.
Recently, in 2000, Minneapolis native, James Joseph Smith, was arrested after placing needles in candy bars and handing them out. One child was pricked with the needle when he bit into the candy.
And, there have certainly been reports of candy-tampering over the years. In 2016, an Arizona family went to the police, after finding a sharp razor inside a Snickers bar. No one was ever arrested.
So, while these stories are most certainly serious, it’s rare. Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware even stated many stories will be made up for attention.
Still, parents should throw away unwrapped or torn candy and shouldn’t take homemade goods from strangers.