Editor's note: This is the third piece in a pre-Halloween series about candy. To read the first post, on the origins of trick-or-treating, click here. To read the second, about Candy Day (the original October candy holiday), click here.
The whole point of Halloween for kids these days is taking candy from strangers. Of course, that's just what we are never supposed to do. To protect children from the dangers of strangers' candies, parents everywhere are on high alert for the menace sometimes known as the "Halloween sadist." You know the one—that psychopath who uses the occasion of trick-or-treat as an opportunity to poison the neighborhood kiddies with strychnine-laced Pixie Stix and razor blade-studded caramels. Every piece of candy is guilty until proven innocent by thorough examination.
And how many children have been harmed by randomly poisoned trick-or-treat candy? Approximately zero. It turns out that the Halloween sadist is about 1 percent fact and 99 percent myth. One California dentist in 1959 did pass out candy-coated laxatives, and some kids got bad stomachaches. But instances over the past 40 years where children were allegedly harmed by tainted candy have invariably fallen apart under scrutiny. In some cases, there was evidence that someone (a family member) was attempting to harm a particular child under cover of Halloween. In other cases, poisoning which had another cause was misattributed to candy. Not surprisingly, the myth created its own reality: As the stories of Halloween tampering spread, some kids got the idea of faking tampering as a sort of prank. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the myth persists.