Scoot: Is tainted Halloween candy fake news?

October 30, 2018 - 2:03 pm

Evil individuals have laced Halloween candy with poison and drugs, and pins and razorblades have been embedded in apples all for the purpose of killing or maiming children on Halloween night.

The mainstream media ran with stories about sinister people tainting Halloween treats in a plot to kill and injure children. The stories exploded in the media, long before there was social media.

National hysteria was created by these news reports of evildoers coming out on Halloween to harm children, and the panic that followed these stories as the appeared over the years exploded because the nature of the stories fit perfectly into the spooky theme of Halloween.

Let’s set the record straight. The hysteria surrounding tainted Halloween candy was based on hoaxes. There have been a few isolated cases where adults or children have gotten into trouble over stupid pranks, but the idea that sinister individuals are lurking in the darkness of Halloween to poison or harm children is generally a myth.

Recently, alleged stories of Halloween candy laced with Ecstasy are nothing more than rebooted stories from the past about candy being laced with marijuana or LSD.

So how did these stories about tainted Halloween candy originate in the media? In 1970, 5-year-old Kevin Toston fell into a coma on Halloween and died four days later. The family called police to report that Kevin had eaten Halloween candy laced with heroin. What the police and the media didn’t initially know was that the family had sprinkled heroin on the candy to make it appear as if the young boy had been poisoned by some evil person who was putting heroin in candy. The truth was that the family was trying to cover up the reality that this 5-year-old boy had gotten into his uncle’s stash of real heroin and consumed it – causing him to fall into a coma and ultimately die. This was a clear case of a family trying to protect themselves from criminal charges by creating a hoax.

In 1974, there was a new national wave of hysteria ignited when 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan died Halloween night after eating Pixie Sticks he got while trick-or-treating. The child did die from cyanide in the Pixie Sticks, but that was not the work of an evil stranger out to kill children on Halloween. Ronald O’Brien, Timothy’s father, put the cyanide in the Pixie Sticks hoping to kill his son for the insurance money.  Ronald O’Brien was prosecuted and convicted of murdering his son in May of 1975 and he was executed in March of 1984.

But from the initial report that a child had died from eating Pixie Sticks laced with cyanide, the media ran with the story about tainted Halloween candy.

A new incident is being reported in Galion, Ohio after his father said his son went trick-or-treating in a neighborhood this past Sunday and started having a seizure. Police confirmed the boy tested positive for meth after he went trick-or-treating. That led to police issuing a warning to all parents, but little is known about how the boy was exposed to the meth. Was it tainted candy or an accident?

To a great degree, the media is responsible for reporting stories that appear to be about children dying or being harmed by tainted Halloween candy without knowing anything beyond the early police reports. As documented, the story of a young boy dying from heroin-laced candy did not initially realize that the parents had sprinkled heroin on the candy to protect themselves from criminal prosecution.

In the 70s and 80s, medical centers urged concerned parents to bring their children’s Halloween candy in to be x-rayed free of charge. And many people did haul their kids’ candy in to be examined.

As I have defended the media as anything but an “enemy of the people” as President Trump continues to insist, I am honest about the media’s tendency to sensationalize and stories about individuals trying to poison kids on Halloween seemed the perfect opportunity to create hysteria, which, in turn, creates an attentive audience.

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