Top 5 Halloween Candy Urban Legends
2. The Legend of the Razor Blade Runner: After every Halloween, we hear variations of this story: Some poor kid was the victim of a sadistic prankster who put a razor, pin, glass shard or other sharp object in an apple or a candy bar. Until 2000, this was largely an urban legend; most of the reported cases were attributed to innocent pranks and hoaxes. At the turn of this century, however, James Joseph Smith gave the myth the credibility it lacked. He stuck needles in Snickers bars and gave them to trick-or-treaters. An unfortunate teenage boy bit into the bar; luckily, he was not seriously harmed. Smith was charged with adulterating a substance with the intent to cause harm.
T. Nguyen Apples with pins, just one of many Halloween urban legends
1. The Legend of the Poisoned Candy: By far, the most popular Halloween candy urban legend spins the tale of a stranger who laces candy with poison and distributes the goods to innocent children dressed up as cowboys and princesses. The actual reported number of strangers doing such a thing on Halloween is virtually nil. As Chip and Dan Heath write in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, only two children have died as result of Halloween candy poisoning -- but the perpetrators were relatives not strangers. In the most famous story, a father, motivated by a $20,000 life insurance policy, laced his son's Pixie Sticks with a lethal dose of cyanide. "In other words," the authors conclude, "The best social science evidence reveals that taking candy from strangers is perfectly okay. It's your family you should worry about."
T. Nguyen What's inside this Snickers bar?
Why this myth persists despite ample evidence to the contrary is perhaps more fascinating than the myth itself. The Heaths believe that, like any other "sticky idea," the myth stays in the popular psyche because it is simple and unexpected, with concrete, vivid details that can be spun into infinite variations on a theme.
Samira Kawash, writing in The Atlantic, chalks it up to our stubbornly blind trust in large corporations: "The Halloween sadist legends are part of a larger movement in American culture away from our sense that we can do it ourselves. The factory does it better, tastier, safer." The squeaky clean large-scale factory is an urban legend of its own. Given the rate of food recalls, we probably ought to fear Mars, Inc. more than Boo Radley.
Nonetheless, considering that the potential harm is so great and the cost of prevention so small, it probably doesn't matter that this myth is a product of our collective imagination. As Kawash sheepishly acknowledges after thoroughly deconstructing the myth, "My scholarly, historical, rational self tells me that psychopaths don't go to the trouble to bake cookies or soak loose lemon drops in LSD. My hovering, nervous, worried mother self doesn't care. Unwrapped jelly beans, into the trash you go."