Urban legends are a huge part of Halloween. There have been dozens of urban legends about Halloween that have become a part of Halloween lore. Some are true and some aren’t, but they are all scary. Some of them have shaped the way that Halloween is celebrated.
Others have even been used to pass laws regulating the celebration of Halloween. Even before there was social media these urban legends were passed from family to family and generation to generation and have become as much a part of the holiday as Trick or Treating or carving Jack O’Lanterns. Some of the most well known urban legends are:
If you’re like most people you grew up always giving your Trick or Treat candy to your parents to be checked before you could eat it. You probably check your child’s candy as well, or take it to the hospital to be X rayed. Many hospitals and clinics have programs on Halloween night that let parents and kids bring candy to be X rayed so that they can be sure there is nothing harmful in the candy. Have you ever wondered why candy has to be checked on Halloween when it is never checked any other night? That’s because of an urban legend about kids eating candy that has been poisoned by madmen who wanted to kill random children on Halloween by lacing treats with poison.
This urban legend is based on several cases where children were actually injured by poisoned candy. But in each case the children were deliberately poisoned by someone close to them who tried to make the poisoning seem random. The most famous case is the case of Timothy O’Bryan, an eight year old boy who was killed by his stepfather on Halloween in 1974. The stepfather put cyanide in pixie sticks that he gave to Timothy, his own daughter, and several other children. None of the other children ate the candy. Timothy was the target but the stepfather poisoned the other pixie stix to make the poisoning seem random.
Even though Timothy’s case was the most widely publicized murder of children on Halloween by poisoning there have been other cases throughout the years. By the time Timothy was murdered in 1974 the legend of poisoned candy was already a part of Halloween lore. There are documented cases of children dying from candy laced with heroin, cocaine, arsenic and other drugs that go back to the early 1950s when Trick or Treating was just becoming popular.
Razor Blades and Pins in Trick or Treat Candy
The fear of razor blades and other sharp items being put into Halloween treats first appeared to be part of Halloween lore in the 1960s but it wasn’t until the 1980s that parents became so concerned about it that they would actually have their children’s candy X rayed. It was also in the 1980s that people stopped giving out homemade Halloween treats and fruit as Trick or Treat items and began to only give out pre-wrapped candy. Unlike the legend of randomly poisoned candy which was based on cases of people targeting specific children the legend of people placing needles, pins and razor blades in random is based on real events. There have been dozens of documented cases over the years of people placing needles and razor blades in candy bars and other treats and then giving them out during Trick or Treating.
The urban legend about sharp items in treats really become part of the popular culture in 1982, when there were several major random poisonings that occurred. That was the year that random Tylenol bottles were tampered with and injected with cyanide. Seven people died. After that happened nearly 250 more people were the victims of copycat poisonings. No children have ever died from eating a treat containing a needle or blade although several have been injured. Now parents can have their children’s candy X rayed for free at local hospitals on Halloween to make sure they don’t eat a treat containing a nasty sharp surprise.
Very Realistic Halloween Show / Is is real?
Another popular Halloween urban legend is that someone who works in a haunted house or haunted Halloween show actually dies as part of the show and that people are parading past the real dead body all night long thinking it’s part of the show. Like several other fairly gruesome Halloween urban legends this one is true. Over the years there have been several cases where young men who were supposed to hang themselves in a haunted house or in a haunted show actually managed to hang themselves for real.
The circumstances of each case were very different. Some of the men were brought to a gallows and ceremoniously hung the way that prisoners were hung in the past. Others were supposed to be acting as a body that had been hung in a haunted house. But in each case the men were supposed to wear harnesses or protective gear that would prevent them from actually being injured. And in every case the safety measure that had been put in place either failed or were never implemented and the men would end up actually hanging themselves and dying. The guests at the haunted houses and the shows were delighted at the realism of the show not realizing that the men were actually dying in front of them.
In another case from 2005 a woman in Delaware committed suicide by hanging herself from a utility pole at a busy intersection in her town. The body was hanging about 15 feet above the street and was visible to all the cars that passed by as well as pedestrians. Since it was just a few days before Halloween people assumed the body hanging from the pole was just a very realistic looking Halloween decoration. After a few days it was discovered that the body wasn’t a prop and horrified townspeople called police to cut the body down and investigate the death.