Every Halloween, groups of kids break the rule about taking candy from strangers, and go door-to-door dressed in costumes. While this has been a fun tradition for decades, there was a turn at some point and parents suddenly became suspicious of their neighbors. There could be people out there who wish children harm. Driven by rumors of Halloween candy poisoning, there are always warnings around this time of year. But are those rumors true? Has anyone actually gotten sick or even died from poisoned candy?
The first true instance of a Halloween candy poisoning appears to be from 1959. William Shyne, a respected dentist, didn’t like getting trick-or-treaters. He wasn’t alone in his opinion. At this time, a lot people were fed up and even scared of misbehaving kids at Halloween. Shyne took things too far. He gave out 450 candy-coated laxatives. When 30 kids got sick, Shyne ran and his manhunt was covered in national newspapers. Eventually, he was caught and given a 4-month suspended jail sentence, 2 years probation, and a fine. No children had been seriously harmed, but fear struck the heart of the country. Going out for candy on Halloween was no longer safe.
Tragically, people used the fear of poisoned candy for their own purposes. In 1970, a five-year old in Detroit ate heroin and died. After tests on his Halloween candy, investigators found the drug. However, no one had been handing out drug-sprinkled candy. The boy had discovered his uncle’s stash and eaten it. Panicking, his family dusted heroin on the leftover candy in an attempt to cover their tracks.
In 1974, an eight-year old died after eating Pixy Stix with cyanide. At first, people thought a stranger had been poisoning treats, but the investigation revealed that the boy’s father actually killed him for a large life insurance policy. The father intended to kill his daughter as well, and to cover up his motive, he handed out a few poisoned Pixy Stix. Only his son had eaten the candy, however. The murderer was convicted and executed.
The next instance of poisoned candy is less depressing. In 2000, parents discovered Snickers wrappers stuffed with marijuana. Police identified who had handed them out, but the man was completely at a loss. It turned out that he found a bag of Snickers at the dead letter office where he worked, and not wanting to waste the candy, handed them out at Halloween. He had not bothered to check the wrappers more closely, but thankfully, no one got sick.
The truth about Halloween candy poisoning
While just about everyone harbors a bit of paranoia about Halloween candy, the reality is that actual instances are extremely rare. According to Joel Best, a sociologist from the University of Delaware who has been researching this fear for years, most reports of injury or death by Halloween candy are not true. There is the occasional needle stuck in a candy bar, but those are not widespread and sometimes even done by the kids themselves or their friends as a prank.
Now, the new fear seems to be centered around kids getting THC edibles. The media has latched on to a few scattered cases and blown them up, but hard facts say candy tampering is not an epidemic. Overall, the worst thing that can happen to kids on Halloween is a sugar high and then a sugar crash.
Trick-or-treating is a Halloween tradition, and so are scary movies. If you have kids who like being scared, but you want to still keep things age-appropriate, here are movies to consider.