Let’s start off with the ‘lightest’ legend and the one that everyone, no matter their age or interest in Halloween, has heard of – deadly candy being given out to trick or treaters. Common variations on this story are cyanide pills disguised as treats or razorblades, needles and broken glass hidden inside apples. This legend has been around for as long as trick or treating, and serves as a good lesson to kids to be wary of taking candy from strangers, regardless of the time of year!
Although this legend pops up every year, there hasn’t been a recorded case of tampered-with candy for a while. That said, this legend springs from the truth.
In 1959, a Californian dentist was discovered to be giving out sugar-coated laxatives to trick or treaters (although, to be fair, these wouldn’t have been deadly). Again, in New York in the 60’s a woman was found to be giving out inedible objects like steel wool and ant poison to children she deemed ‘too old’ to be trick or treating. At the same time there were reports of lye-filled bubblegum and disguised rat poison turning up in the hands and mouths of children throughout major US cities.
After a letter was printed in The New York Times in 1970 warning people of the dangers of Halloween, the story of poisoned candy entered the public zeitgeist. With odd incidents recorded here and there throughout the US since then, it may seem like this danger has been overblown. But then again, it’s better to be safe…