For Atlas Obscura, Jennifer Byrne spoke to sociologist and “Halloween sadism” expert Joel Best about the enduring myths surrounding Halloween poison candy in the US. Since 1982, the fear of rat/ant poison in Halloween candy and razor blades in apples has caused a panic amongst parents and officials with the latter going as far as imposing jail time for offenders and hospitals offering free X-rays on seasonal treats (because radiation isn’t a problem, right?) But Best knows better:
“All I can say is I don’t know of a single case of a child killed by a Halloween poisoner,” says Best. “I’ve seen five news stories that attributed deaths to Halloween poisoning. In one case, it was the child’s own father, and the other four were all retracted.” […]
“My favorite story of this kind was the one where a kid had taken a bite out of a candy bar and said to his parents, ‘I think there’s ant poison on this candy bar,’” says Best. “So the candy bar got analyzed, and sure enough, there was ant poison on it, but it was on the end of the candy bar the kid hadn’t taken a bite from.” The child later admitted to having put the poison on the candy bar himself.
In a similar case, a child claiming that he’d found a pin in his Tootsie Roll led his parents to accuse a neighbor of the deed. After 20 years of no doubt awkward neighborhood interactions, the child, by then an adult, confessed to planting the pin himself.
I think the wildest story I read was an 8-year-old who died after eating a poisoned Pixy Stix. The culprit was his father who was “intent on collecting his son’s life insurance money”. I think that says a lot about where the dangers of unfounded moral panic really lie.