Scoot: Tainted Halloween candy scare based on myth!

October 31, 2017 - 10:31 am

Every Halloween the public is warned about tainted candy and pins and razor blades embedded in apples, but is the threat to children as great as the widespread warnings indicate?

Contrary to what we have all been led to believe, the fear of children being poisoned or injured by altered Halloween candy is mostly based on the hysteria generated from myths rather than reality.

Of course, every parent should visually inspect the candy their children collect from strangers on Halloween night; but the annual fear that evildoers are out to kill children is simply not true.

In recent years, there have been reports that Ecstasy in the form of Gummy Bears, or child-like candy, was being widely distributed on Halloween night.  Warnings about the tainted candy included the premise that dealers were trying to get kids hooked on the drug to create a larger market for their dealings.

Warnings about marijuana-laced candy seem to be the new “razor blades in the apple” fear for this Halloween.  The state of New Jersey has issued a warning of a “significant presence of marijuana candy and other edible forms in New York and nearby states.” 

That warning is based on the case of a 10-year-old boy in New York that became ill after eating candy infused with cannabis he found in the back of the family car.  The pot-infused candy had nothing to do with Halloween, but that didn’t stop the New Jersey state attorney general’s office from issuing the dire warning.

Researching Halloween candy laced with drugs or poison or razor blades and pins in apples and other treats yields a shocking list of warnings that were founded on myths or were concocted by hysteria-prone adults.  History shows that nearly all of the candy scares were hoaxes and never the result of attempts to hurt or kill innocent children on Halloween night.

The fear and warnings about malicious attempts to poison or injure children can be traced back decades.  In 1970, 5-year-old Kevin Toston fell into a coma and died four days later from a heroin overdose.  Tests did show the Halloween candy he ate had been sprinkled with heroin, and this case caused some panic about fact that evil individuals were out to poison children.

However, a police investigation found that the 5-year-old boy accidently discovered his uncle’s heroin and had actually poisoned himself.  The family sprinkled heroin on some of the child’s Halloween candy and reported the death to police – all in an attempt to cover up the child finding the uncle’s heroin.

But there was a case in 1974 that got a lot of attention and sparked a new wave of hysteria.

In 1974, 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan died Halloween night at 10:00 pm as a result of eating cyanide-laced Pixie Stix that he got while trick-or-treating.  Timothy’s sister and three other children also received the altered Pixie Stix, but none of those children actually ate the candy.

You can imagine how a story like this spread and instilled fear in people that malicious individuals were tainting candy in an effort to kill kids.

Here’s the truth behind the story:  Ronald O’Bryan, Timothy’s father, bought cyanide and put it in Pixie Stix.  The father’s goal was to kill Timothy and blame it on a Halloween prank in a plot to cash in on a large insurance policy on his son’s life.

To add credibility to his story about his son getting the poison-infused candy while trick-or-treating Halloween night, Ronald O’Brien also gave the poisonous Pixie Stix to his daughter and three of her friends.  Fortunately, no one else ate the candy.

Ronald O’Brien was prosecuted and convicted of murdering his son in May of 1975.  O’Brien was sentenced to death and was executed in March of 1984.

Those are the facts behind a story that created much hysteria over kids getting poison-laced candy on Halloween night.

In 1982, the Halloween candy scare ramped up in the wake of 7 people dying from Tylenol that had been laced with potassium cyanide.  A deranged individual in the Chicago area opened packages of Tylenol and placed the poison-laced pills back in the container and back on the store shelves.  Seven unsuspecting consumers ingested the poisonous pills and died.

The secure packaging around all over-the-counter drugs today is the result of the infused Tylenol crisis in 1982.  No suspect was ever arrested or convicted for the crime, but the idea that a mad individual would purposely taint medicine sent chills throughout the country and lent credibility to the stories about tainted Halloween candy.

There have been numerous cases where it appeared that someone had tainted Halloween candy for the purpose of killing or injuring innocent children, but investigations debunked nearly every case.  The idea that evil people are using Halloween candy to kill children is not true.  There have been a few cases where young people altered candy as a prank and some of the candy was eaten and a few may have gotten sick, but there is no evidence to support the fear that people are trying to kill children on Halloween.

If you are a parent or a grandparent and you take kids trick-or-treating, be cautious; but don’t be scared, at least not of the candy!

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