The Myth Of Poisen/Needles In Kid's Halloween Candy

We were talking about this at work.

If I recall correctly, there was a story about 20 years ago of some whacko who put pins in the candy given out at Halloween.

When pressed, nobody at work could remember hearing about more recent cases, or for that matter, most could not even remember that case.

Not that I think parents shouldn’t check what their kids are bringing home…doesn’t hurt…but in reality…has anyone heard of any credible stories of late that support the fear and constant news warnings?

By the way, spelling is my “poisen”.

Here’s what Snopes has to say about it:

Oh, pardon me. That article is about poisoned candy, not candy with sharp objects. See this one for sharp objects:

It wasn’t a myth. I remember hearing about those kinds of things happening about 40 years ago.

Let me be the first to say “cite?”

There was a guy on NPR who did a comprehensive survey of news coverage back to the 1950s and found absolutely no factual basis for the legend.

There were two cases of actual poisoning related to Halloween. In one of them, the father poisoned his son’s candy after it came back to the house. In the other, a child supposedly got a load of heroin from the candy, but it turned out the kid had actually gotten into a family member’s stash and they tried to cover it up by blaming it on the candy.

In fact, the NPR dude said that he was amazed, as a result of his research, at how legitimately dangerous Halloween really was, in terms of kids dashing out into traffic or getting tangled in their costumes and falling down stairs and the like. But there was absolutely zero evidence of the famous Halloween fear in which a murderous stranger sabotages the candy he hands out to visiting kids.

I think you may be right cadolphin it was in the news about 40 years ago, well not quite 40 because I’m 43 and I had been trick or treating for many years when this story came out.

Seems like I was about 10 so that would have been 1970. I’ll check the archives of my local papers for a cite, Czarcasm but I do remember my parents checking everything I brought home on Halloween night from that time on. Hell, I still check my kids candy and to tell you the truth I haven’t heard any similar stories to date.

Maybe it was just an Urban ledgend my parents bought into, but it seems like I also saw news reports about it as well. I’ll check…

There have been straight-faced news reports of Urban Legends.
I remember seeing the old “drugs smuggled via baby corpse” story printed in a normally-reliable newspaper. They recanted it later. Sometimes reporters are lazy, and they don’t check facts. Thank gawd snopes is so thorough.

Cervaise is the voice of reason in this thread.

Originally posted by Cervaise:

The archives of my local newspaper only to back to circa 1990 and what I recall took place in the 70’s. But it could be the same thing the NPR guy reported during the 1950’s and be a total hoax that my parents and alot of others bought into.

If so, I find it amazing that a rumor can cause such mass hysteria. I even remember, the local hospitals offering to x-ray the candy for free if parents took their kids, with bag of candy in tow, to the hospital after trick or treating.

One of the references attempts to explain the reason that this myth is so widely believed.

Best, Joel. “The Myth of the Halloween Sadist.”
Psychology Today. November 1985 (pp. 14-16).

If I recall the article correctly (I read it a long time ago, I don’t have it in front of me and I can’t find it online so I may be remembering it incorrectly.)

Basically it said that the “Halloween Sadist” is believed because he is convenient. There are so many things for parents to be afraid of which are also out of our control that sometimes we focus over much on something that is in our control even if that something is not much of a threat. The article said that the Halloween Sadist is such a convenient threat. He only comes out for a couple hours once a year. He only attacks children who participate in trick or treating. Protecting our children against him is pretty easy. We check our kids candy, maybe even x-ray it. Malls used to do gift certificate version of trick or treating. Stores used to sell gift certificates which parents could trade for candy at the store. Doing these things gives us a false sense of security that we are protecting our kids against “strangers”.

I hope I remember this correctly. I’m off to the library in the morning. :slight_smile:

Pick up any of the books by folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand (here’s one) for a somewhat depressing but certainly eye-opening series of easily and repeatedly debunked tales nevertheless reported in the media as being true and then, less often than you’d hope, followed up with a sheepish retraction and/or clarification.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the razor blade in the apple is just as widely discussed, and just as apocryphal, as the gerbil in the bum.

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. :wink:

Throughout history people have let their actions be guided by rumors and superstitions. Why assume we’re immune?

We usually end up throwing out Bear’s candy. He likes collecting it but he really doesn’t eat much of it. Cool huh?

I have read several of Dr. Brunvand’s books and he is forever debunking this myth. Even as a child I thought “Well just how the heck do you get a razor in an apple so that no one notices it?”

There used to be double-edged razor blades that didn’t have the thick metal lip opposite the sharp edge. (They still might be available, but I don’t buy a lot of razor blades, so I haven’t had to look.) The double-edge blades are much thinner and easier to hide, I’d imagine. (Note: I don’t put razor blades into apples, either.)

One negative aspect to all this publicity about adulterated candy is that it can lull parents into complacency about other, more likely, safety problems like obstructed vision from costumes and getting hit by cars (one of the reasons I piss and moan every year about parents driving their kids trick-or-treating).


That’s a valid point I hadn’t thought of,MsRobyn . My reasoning even at the tender age of about 9 or 10 was: to push the razor in far enough that it wouldn’t be seen you would have to do some damage to the apple at that spot. While I might eat the rest of the apple I wouldn’t eat that area at all. Just a born skeptic I guess. Also I was never an “eat all the way to the core” type of child.

But the mask and visibility issues are far more important. I drive Bear around a bit. We live in a city neighborhood. Not a lot of houses here. And most of his friends live to far away to walk especially as it was SNOWING here Friday night! But being a delivery person I am used to watching for kids in the road.:wink:

The 1974 case here in the Houston area (mentioned in the first Snopes link above) had a huge impact.

While it wasn’t a case of random poisoning (it was a guy offin’ his kid for insurance bucks), it was initially reported as possibly being so. I don’t remember if it turned out to be the case, but it was speculated that he might have distributed more poison Pixie Stix to throw the cops off the trail.

Anyway, it was big news here, and it changed Halloween forever in Houston.

There is a very recent case in Germany. A woman put razor blades in chocolate bars and gave them to people. She was caught last week, so it wasn’t really at Halloween.


Hmmm…it doesn’t seem to be on the web yet, but I heard a “top of the hour” news brief on a local NPR station about a sewing needle found in a candy bar from this Halloween.

I’ll check back in tomorrow to let you know if NPR got hoodwinked, or if someone really was inspired by the UL.

Clarification…I know from reading Snopes that there have been other incidents, but I was intrigued by one being reported mere hours before I opened the thread.

Note to self: don’t post on Sunday nights.