More Halloween Facts

Posted by Mary Ricksen | 12:00 AM | , , | 9 comments »

Is Halloween Candy Tampering a Myth?


By and large, yes. Despite a very few well-publicized cases of alleged Halloween candy tampering during the 1960s and 1970s -- nearly all of which were found to be false or unverifiable upon further investigation -- no child has ever been injured or killed as a result of ingesting adulterated candy, apples, or other treats collected on Halloween.

Nevertheless, what sociologist Joel Best dubbed "the myth of the Halloween sadist" became so firmly entrenched in the American psyche from the 1970s on that aspects of the holiday were fundamentally changed. Most crucially, it became everyone's urgent priority to protect young trick-or-treaters from the malicious acts of strangers. Parents were warned by law enforcement officials to thoroughly inspect Halloween treats for tampering before allowing children to consume them. Hospitals offered the free use of x-ray facilities to detect foreign objects such as razor blades, pins, and needles. And though the moral panic that gave rise to these measures began to subside during the 1990s, parental accompaniment and supervision had already became a widely adopted addition to the trick-or-treat ritual.

This is not to say that parents needn't watch out for their children's safety on Halloween, or that inspecting Halloween treats is never warranted. The point to be gleaned from the research of Best and others is that these dangers were considerably overblown when they first came to light and created an atmosphere of fear and paranoia which, for a time, tainted everyone's enjoyment of the holiday. More recently we have seen an easing of this regime and a welcome change of emphasis in the direction of reasonable concern and due caution.

Happy Halloween to all of you!


  1. Judy // October 25, 2009 at 7:53 AM  

    Hi, Mary! Thanks for the information. Halloween can be a lot of fun but I'd still be careful of all kinds of things. Rather err on the side of caution than not, but we don't want to frighten the littlest unnecessarily. One boo! is enough to do it to some...

  2. Autumn Jordon // October 25, 2009 at 2:15 PM  

    We live in a strange world. It's better to be reminded than have to deal with tragic events. Thanks for the reminder, Mary. (((HUGS)) di

  3. Nightingale // October 25, 2009 at 3:11 PM  

    I love Halloween trick or treaters. I usually dress in costume to hand out the candy. But this year I'll be out of town.

  4. Joanne // October 25, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

    Very interesting and useful information, Mary. Well said.

  5. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 25, 2009 at 8:00 PM  

    When my kids were small, during the 70's I took them only to the houses of people I knew. Still today, with my granddaughter and nieces and nephews we don't allow them to go to strangers houses, nor do we let them walk alone. Times have changed. The cases in Florida this week of the seven year old kidnapped a murdered brings it home in a horrifying manner.

    When I was a child we would walk for miles. My mother would put us out two miles from my grandmother's house and we would walk from house to house until we reached grandmother's. My brother's who were older and stronger would continue on to my aunts house which was another three miles down the road! Mother would then drive to my aunt's house and we would wait there for the boys to arrive. Never a thought of danger, she knew who lived in every house along the way. How I miss those carefree days!

  6. Barbara Monajem // October 25, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

    My house is a long way from the road and looks haunted, so I don't get any trick-or-treaters. I like walking around a neighborhood on Hallowe'en, so I can see all the costumes and the happy children.

  7. Pamela Varnado // October 25, 2009 at 10:42 PM  

    I was a child in the 70s and can remember my mother refusing to allow me to go trick or treating. It's a painful memory. I didn't care about the dangers, I wanted candy. When my kids were young, I did allow them to go out, but I checked everything thoroughly. I guess that fear had been ingrained into me. Now inspecting treats is like an old habit, which we all know dies hard.

  8. Mary Marvella // October 25, 2009 at 11:46 PM  

    As a child I loved the homemade cookies and other homemade treats. We went trick or treating in groups.

    My daughter is a tad old for that now.

  9. Beth Trissel // October 26, 2009 at 1:26 PM  

    Hail Mary, wherever you are in your travels. Enjoyed your very interesting Halloween post.