Every year, like clockwork, there seems to be a wave of news reports and Facebook posts about all of the vile things the hidden monsters of the world are sticking in Halloween candy. While the razor in the apple is the most popular trope amongst alarmists, in recent years, persistent worriers have talked about cocaine candy corn and arsenic-laced Pixy Stix. But are such urban legends based in fact?
Not to give into the alarmist attitude permeating the country in the 21st century, but the fact of the matter is, stories of real life boogeymen handing out candy with everything from mysterious pills to sewing needles hidden inside have increased in recent years. To say the urban legend spawned the actual crimes would be like arguing the egg birthed a chicken, but it wouldn’t be wrong to assume people were inspired by childhood stories of a razor blades hidden discretely inside a candied apple.
Thanks to medical and food tampering laws enacted in the early 80s, it’s harder than ever to hide pointy implements of pain in a piece of candy, but that doesn’t mean people don’t try. One of the strangest side effects of this urban-legend-come-true is parents who have an obvious (sick) desire to keep the stories going – even if they have to use their kids as an example.
If you’re still not sold on the possibility of finding something painful in your Halloween candy, keep reading and get ready swear of trick or treating forever.
Whether or not Helen Pfeil intended to instigate a national panic over Halloween candy is up for debate, but in 1964, the bored housewife, tired of kids she thought were too old to be trick or treating, handed out labeled (with a skull and crossbones) buttons of arsenic ant poison, as well as dog biscuits and steel wool pads, to neighborhood teenagers. Though Pfeil told the kids the crappy tricks were a joke, she was charged with child endangerment, and pleaded guilty.
In 1968, the New York Times reported 26 (!) cases of children in New Jersey finding razor blades in apples they got while trick or treating. In 75% of these cases, the children were uninjured. Two detailed studies of the cases, conducted in 1972 and 1982, determined nearly all claims were false, and the children had put the razors in the apples themselves to propagate the urban legend. However, not every single instance was written off as a hoax.
A mom in Salinas, CA might have been dosed with LSD in 2013, when she chomped into a piece of her kid's Halloween loot. After feeling of the "effect of almost a panic attack and then euphoria all mixed in," she went to the hospital, where she learned the groovy news. The woman's daughter was 16 months old, so good thing she didn't eat the candy, though it does raise the question, isn't that kind of young to be trick or treating? Maybe mom took her out so she could load up on free candy for herself.
Timothy O'Bryan's story isn't the first case of someone trying to kill a kid or cause panic with poisoned candy, but his is definitely one of the most f*cked up. In 1974, the suburban Houston dad passed out poisoned Pixy Stix to five children, including his son and daughter, in order to kill his kid and collect of a $40,000 life insurance claim. Sadly, O'Bryan's plan kind of worked; his son died, but police collected all remaining poisoned sugar tubes before arresting O'Bryan. Dubbed "Candy Man," he was put to death in 1984.