But the truth doesn’t stand in the way of a good story and fear is so much harder to quell once it’s out there. The MoH story linked to this press release by Joel Best, the world’s authority on this powerful cultural myth. After decades of looking, he STILL hasn’t found basis for the fear of poisoned candy.
Each year, I update my research and post the new version on the UD library’s UDSpace [UD’s institutional repository], but my conclusions haven’t changed. Over the years, my findings have been reported in fairly visible media, including USA Today, Reader’s Digest, Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, and NPR’s “All Things Considered”—as well as hundreds of newspapers with circulations large and small. My findings also have been posted on all manner of websites, although those folks rarely bother interviewing me.
Of course, it is fun to have people interested in my research. Yet the fact that I have been giving essentially the same interview for more than 25 years makes me wonder about the value of news coverage for social scientific research. My data now cover more than 50 years, and I still haven’t found a documented case of a child who was seriously harmed by a contaminated treat. I can’t say it has never happened; after all, logicians tell us that it is impossible to prove a negative. But I can say with great confidence that it isn’t common. Nonetheless, people still worry: a 2011 poll of parents with young children found that 24 percent had concerns about poisoned treats.
How did this myth get started? Well, we can blame Dear Abby a bit…
On October 31, 1983, advice columnist Abigail Van Buren—better known as “Dear Abby”—published a Halloween-themed column titled “A Night of Treats, not Tricks.” In that column, she wanted to “remind [readers] that,” among other things, “[s]omebody’s child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade.” Twelve years later, advice columnist Ann Landers (who, by the way, was Dear Abby’s sister) also wrote a Halloween article—“Twisted minds make Halloween a dangerous time”—echoing that concern. “In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in taffy apples and Halloween candy,” Landers wrote. “It is no longer safe to let your child eat treats that come from strangers.”
Let’s be rational… A person who does this WILL most likely get caught. Tampered candy is obvious. I always check for broken wrappers since that could mean it’s been dropped, stepped on, or gnawed on by the dog. I throw that away. People out there to intentionally harm kids are exceedingly RARE. Strangers are almost always not of evil intentions. Ann Landers was a bit paranoid and untrusting toward strangers. And, WHO gives out apples anymore?! No kid eats the apple.
Back in 2011, we posted the same story about cars being more dangerous than candy on Halloween. It is confirmed that children ARE hit by cars and die. THIS is what you need to be concerned about.
If you are going to say something about Halloween, make sure you know what you are talking about. Check out the History of Halloween | Halloween Facts from LiveScience.
Halloween can be traced back about 2,000 years to an Oct. 31 Gaelic festival called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), which means “summer’s end” in Gaelic. Because ancient records are sparse and fragmentary, the exact nature of Samhain is not fully understood, but it was an annual communal meeting at the end of the harvest year, a time to gather resources for the winter months. There were supernatural and religious aspects to the pagan festival, though nothing that would be considered sinister by modern standards.
I like Halloween. So do kids. With a few minor safety precautions that you should follow all the time and some common sense actions about over indulging on treats, Halloween is perfectly safe. Lighten up.