The Only Confirmed Case of Halloween Candy Poisoning Happened in Texas
Every year since my parents were children, there's been warnings on the news (and now spread across social media) about poisoned, drugged, or otherwise contaminated Halloween treats being passed out to Trick-or-Treaters. And every single year it has never happened. Except once, but even that is a little misleading. We will get to that case, but why are we constantly bombarded with warnings about something that never happens? According to verifythis.com:
Joel Best is a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. He says the theory of giving contaminated treats to children during trick-or-treating was first referred to as “Halloween sadism” in the 1970s.
“Halloween sadism is the idea that there are maniacs who try to harm children by passing out contaminated treats — razor blades in apples, pins in candy bars, poisons in treats, and so on,” said Best. [...] I think that this is best understood as a contemporary legend,” said Best.
So in essence, it's like Satanic Panic- an urban myth that is born out of the fear of anything remotely spooky or not mainstream. This year the concern seems to be centered around THC candy, because the packaging is spoofs of mainstream candy. Really super obvious spoofs. If you can confuse Sour Patch Kids with Stoner Patch Kids, perhaps someone should check your candy.
The only documented case of contaminated Halloween candy arguably happened because of all the false claims that it was happening to random children. On Halloween night in 1974, a Texas man named Ronald Clark O'Bryan took his two children trick-or-treating in Pasadena. Clark gave out Pixie Sticks to five children that he claimed came from a house that did not initially open the door for the children. When he got home with his kids, he encouraged his child Timothy to eat a particular piece of candy- the Pixie Stick- even though it had been stapled shut, was clumped up and difficult to get out of the wrapper and tasted bitter. Timothy died. Luckily, the other children had not yet consumed the candy.
The police did not initially suspect O'Bryan of any wrongdoing until Timothy's autopsy revealed that the Pixy Stix he had consumed was laced with a fatal dose of potassium cyanide. Four of the five Pixy Stix O'Bryan claimed to have received were recovered by authorities from the other children, none of whom had consumed the candy. The parents of the fifth child became hysterical when they could not locate the candy after being notified by the police. The parents rushed upstairs to find their son asleep, holding the unconsumed candy. The boy had been unable to open the staples that sealed the wrapper shut.
It was later revealed that O'Bryan had poisoned the candy himself in order to collect on the substantial life insurance policies he had taken out on his own children. He attempted to use the panic of "Halloween Sadism" as a cover. And if a few other neighborhood kids had to die, so be it.
This was never the case of a random sadist, it was one horrible man who was attempting to kill his own children for a cash payout. O'Bryan was convicted and later executed, with witnesses chanting "Trick or Treat" and throwing candy.
It never hurts to check anything your children receive from people you don't know. Just don't let the fear of contaminated candy haunt you.
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