As Goes Halloween, So Goes Childhood

In several of my classes this week, I asked the students to estimate how many children had been poisoned by Halloween candy in the last 20 years. Guesses ranged from one per year to one, but nobody guessed zero.

No child has been poisoned by a stranger’s goodies on Halloween, ever, as far as we can determine. Joel Best, a sociology professor at the University of Delaware, studied November newspapers from 1958 to the present, scouring them for any accounts of kids felled by felonious candy. And…he didn’t find any. He did find one account of a boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix his father gave him. Dad did it for the insurance money and, Best says, he probably figured that so many kids are poisoned on Halloween, no one would notice one more.

Well, they did and dad was executed. That’s Texas for you. Another boy died after he got into his uncle’s heroin stash and relatives tried to make it look like he’d been killed by candy. And that’s it.

Now look at how the fear that our nice, normal-seeming neighbors might actually be moppet-murdering psychopaths has turned the one kiddie independence day of the year into yet another excuse to micromanage childhood. —Lenore Skenazy, Huffington Post


Razor blades in apples! Poison in home-made cookies! Hospitals offer to X-ray your candy for you (while passing out brochures featuring smiling doctors in front of gleaming new equipment). In 2003, The Onion memorably spoofed the Halloween candy fear in “Generic Candy Corn Will Give You AIDS.”