Halloween is perhaps the most macabre day in the United States. Leading up to, and including, this day people decorate their homes with miniature cemeteries, skeletons, cobwebs, monsters and ghosts. It's all in good fun, but the dark day does attract some fascinating urban legends.*
Poisoned Candy –
Perhaps the most widespread of Halloween legends is the poisoned candy. Stories of small, innocent children sitting down to enjoy their trick-or-treating spoils only to be found tragically dead shortly after. The candy, it turns out, was poisoned by some psychopath with a grudge against kids!!
Yeah… not so much.
This urban legend is just that. Legend. Only a few cases of Halloween poisonings have actually occurred and it either wasn't accidental or the candy wasn't to blame.
1974 – A young boy dies after eating a Pixie Stick laced with cyanide. Though the candy was to blame, it was no accident. The boy's father planted it in his bag, interested in getting the insurance money for his son's death. To appear more ominous the father planted several other poisoned Pixie Stix in other children's bags, including his own daughter's. Thankfully these children didn't eat them before they were discovered. The father was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
1970 – A 5 year old boy lapses into a coma and dies of a heroin overdose. His candy seemed to have been sprinkled with the drug. Further investigation found that the child had discovered his uncle's heroin stash and consumed it. The family, wanting to protect the druggie, sprinkled the boy's candy with the drug so an outside source would be blamed.
Razor Blades in Apples –
Lots of horror movies have this old bit in it. More modern stories tell of needles or pins being found in candy that's given to children, adding to the fear of injury the panic of AIDS or other diseases.
And it's true…
Minneapolis, 2000 – 49 year old James Smith is charged with one count of adulterating a substance with intent to cause death, harm or illness after planting pins inside several Snickers bars and passing them out to kids. Only one child was injured, suffering a minor pin prick.
Halloween Hangings –
We've all seen them. Bodies hanging from trees in the days leading up to Halloween. There's one right down the street from my house right now. But is it just a decoration?
1990 – A 17 year old boy pulling a stunt with friends dies after accidentally hanging himself.
1990 – A 15 year old boy dies after staging a gallows scene at a party
2001 – A 14 year old boy decides to improve his part in a haunted trail and takes the place of a hanging skeleton. He dies.
2005 – Drivers on a busy road pass what they think is the decoration of a woman hanging from a tree. It isn't until hours later that police discover the "decoration" is actually a suicide victim.
Black Cat Block –
Black cats have long been connected with witches, accused of being unlucky and, worst of all, sought out by the truly twisted to play a grisly part in Halloween rituals. True?
Well to be honest, it's hard to say yes or no to that last one. Some people are, pure and simply put, insane. While we'd like to think that no one would go hunting down black cats only to sacrifice them to some devilish deity, animal shelters around America believe in this myth so much that, during the month of October, many of them refuse to adopt out any black cats they may have.
*Many thanks to Snopes.com for the dates and names found in this post.