Real Cases Of Razor Blades, Poison, And Other Objects Found In Halloween Candy

For decades, parents have worried about the possibility of their children eating a piece of Halloween candy laced with drugs or filled with needles. In 1983, Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ann Landers even wrote a piece about it, warning readers that, "In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in taffy apples and Halloween candy."

That said, some skeptics write the idea off as an urban legend. While there have certainly been false reports and exaggerated stories of tainted candy, there have been a number of shocking and even deadly stories of poisoned Halloween candy dating back to the 1950s.

These are some of the real stories that led contributed the collective fear that kids might bring home more than candy when they go out trick-or-treating.

Photo: rochelle hartman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

  • One Woman Handed Out Ant Poison To Children 'Too Old' For Trick-Or-Treating

    In 1964, Long Island resident Helen Pfeil was apparently annoyed by all the children she deemed too old for trick-or-treating and made special "treats" for them. On Halloween, Pfeil handed out buttons of arsenic ant poison, dog biscuits, and steel woold pads that she had wrapped in tin foil. Doctors determined that the ant poison could have been deadly to small children, and investigators learned that Pfiel had handed out 12 of the buttons, which had a skull and crossbones on them, during trick-or-treating.

    Pfiel, who had two children of her own, was eventually arraigned and sent by a judge to Central Ilsip State Hospital. She was later charged with child endangerment and plead guilty, though she was adament that she never intended to cause harm.

  • New Jersey Children Were Reportedly Given Apples Containing Razor Blades

    In 1968, the New York Times reported 13 cases of children in New Jersey finding razor blades in apples they received while trick-or-treating. In 75% of these cases, the children were uninjured. However, fear of these razor-blade apples was so strong that the state passed a law to criminalize tampering with Halloween candy. 

    Despite the public reaction to these events, 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.

  • One Woman Claimed She Ate A Candy Bar Laced With LSD

    In 2013, a woman in Salinas, CA, ate a Snickers bar from her daughter's bag of Halloween candy after trick-or-treating. Reportedly, the woman quickly began feeling the "effect of almost a panic attack and then euphoria all mixed in" after finishing the candy.

    She was then treated for symptoms similar to those that can occur when taking LSD, but what substance she actually consumed was unclear. Police went door to door investigating the neighborhood where the family had been trick-or-treating, but they eventually ruled the event an isolated incident.

    The family expressed relief at the time that the young daughter hadn't eaten the candy herself.

  • One Man Poisoned His Children's Halloween Candy For An Insurance Payout

    In 1974, Timothy O'Bryan's death became a national news story after the 8-year-old boy was poisoned by cyanide-laced Pixy Stix. Investigators eventually discovered that Timothy was poisoned by his own father, Ronald Clark O'Bryan, who was trying to collect a $40,000 life insurance policy on his son.

    O'Bryan also gave poisoned Pixy Stix to his 5-year-old daughter and three neighborhood children, but police recoverd the candy before the children consumed it. O'Bryan became known as "The Man Who Killed Halloween" and "The Candy Man" in prison. He was executed by lethal injection in 1984.

  • An Ohio Boy Found A Razor Blade In His Snickers Bar

    After trick-or-treating in Reynoldsburg, OH, in 2015, a boy began biting into a Snickers bar but stopped when something "didn't feel right." That something turned out to be a disposable razor, which was shoved into the nougat.

    Police believed the incident was isolated but named no suspects.

  • A Dentist Handed Out Laxatives To Neighborhood Children

    One of the earliest known incidents involving tainted Halloween candy dates back to 1959. A California dentist named William V. Shyne reportedly handed out 450 pieces of candy that later turned out to be laxatives.

    Many local children became ill, and the source of the candy was quickly traced back to Shyne. The dentist later faced several criminal charges.