Every Halloween, we see the same story on the news warning you to inspect your children’s Halloween candy before allowing them to eat it. For decades, urban legends of malevolent strangers hiding razor blades in candied apples or poisoning homemade treats have permeated American society, despite the fact that no cases of this have ever been proven. That’s not to say that no sudden deaths have ever occurred shortly after Halloween. Yet, in these cases, medical investigations have always shown that the actual cause of death was not the candy given to them by strangers. In the rarest of cases, adult family members have even spread this myth as an attempt to cover up murder or accidental deaths.
One of the most notorious of these crimes occurred in Deer Park, Texas in 1974. An 8 year old boy died shortly after eating a Pixy Stix laced with poison. The toxicology reports prompted a subsequent police investigation, which eventually determined that the cyanide-laced candy had not be handed out but rather planted by the boy’s father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan. In an attempt to lead police astray, O’Bryan handed out poisoned candy to other trick or treaters though, luckily, no other children consumed the treats. What could possibly motivate a father to poison his own son? O’Bryan wanted to claim life insurance money.
This story caused so much hysteria that its effects have rippled through time and are still being felt today. Word of mouth and consistent news coverage continue to keep the myth alive, directly opposing the opinions of the folklorist and and law enforcement experts that consider the issue thoroughly debunked. The myth also propagates the copycat effect, which is a criminal act that has been modeled or inspired by a previous crime.
Just yesterday the police debunked claims of tainted Halloween candy which initially had deputies going door to door handing out notices to parents warning them to inspect their children’s candy for any signs of tampering. The investigation began the day after halloween after a concerned parent posted several images on Facebook showing needles protruding from a Kit Kat and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. This eventually led deputies to a suburb in Clay County, Florida. It turns out, the woman who made claim had a 14-year-old niece that became very distraught when she found out that the police were involved. The woman’s niece confessed to making the whole story up and the police declared that all allegations were falsified.
This doesn’t mean that parents will or should stop being cautious of their children on Halloween. As we’ve seen, copycats may be lurking for the right time to commit their crimes in the future but let’s not forget that Halloween is about having fun and most likely, your children won’t consume poisoned candy given to them by strangers.
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