Halloween Reminder That People Putting Drugs in Kid’s Candy Is an Urban Myth—Mostly
If you have grown up with Halloween in America, likely at some point you have been warned about the idea of strangers putting drugs, needles, razor blades, or something dangerous into children’s candy during trick-or-treating. Despite this being a debunked urban legend it has persisted and seems to reemerge in a new form each year. Why? Because while strangers don’t put things in kids’ candy, sometimes the danger is coming from inside the house.
In 1974 in Pasadena, Texas, Ronald Clark O’Bryan took his two children out trick-or-treating along with an adult neighbor and their two kids. They came across a house that was empty, but Ronald stayed behind to make sure while the rest of the group went forward. Moments later he returned from the house with five Pixy Stix that he claimed came from the house. At the end of the night he gave the candy to the kids in his party and the fifth one to a child who went to their church.
That night as the sugar rush was taking off, Ronald’s son Timothy ate the Pixy Stix and complained that it tasted bitter. Moments later the young boy began vomiting and convulsing on the floor. He was rushed to the hospital, but died on the way there only an hour after eating the candy.
During Timothy’s autopsy it was revealed that the Pixy Stix was laced with a fatal dose of potassium cyanide. The police tracked down the remaining Pixy Stix and found that all of them had a lethal dose put into the candy and had been resealed by an industry stapler. The person who tested the Pixy Stix said that it contained enough cyanide to kill two adults, and the other four contained enough to kill three to four adults
This is the stuff that nightmares and new Halloween propaganda are built upon, but like I said at the top, this is mostly an urban myth. The widespread idea that total strangers are out to hurt children en masse grew from isolated stories like O’Bryan’s case and America’s “stranger danger” obsession.
When the police tried to locate the house O’Bryan claimed that he got the candy from, he said he couldn’t remember. After eventually picking one place, it was revealed that the owner of the house had an alibi and wasn’t even at home at the time. This turned attention towards the person who delivered the candy—Ronald Clark O’Bryan himself.
It was revealed that Ronald O’Bryan was deep, deep, deep in debt and had taken out life insurance policies on his children to try and get out of debt. Of course, O’Bryan denied that he ever did it and continued to blame the urban legend of a stranger being responsible. In the press, due to his actions, O’Bryan was dubbed “The Candy Man” and “The Man Who Killed Halloween.” He was convicted and later put to death for the murder of his son.
Despite the fact that cases like O’Bryan and other Halloween drugged candy stories almost all end up pointing towards family members, or are pranks gone wrong, we still have an irrational fear that something deadly is lurking, hidden in Halloween candy.
Every year the conversation seems to reappear, and fears spread easily on social media. These days, the moral panic around Halloween candy tends to focus on the idea that people are handing out marijuana-laced treats to the children, as though anyone wants to throw away their expensive edibles on kids. Kids are even apparently being warned to check for this hazard, though some parents and adults are taking such warnings in stride.
At the bus stop, one son says, “we learned about drugs today! People make gummy bears with marijuana, and they’re called edibles. You have to go through our Halloween candy to check for them.”
— She Sounds Hideous (@megc1977) October 18, 2021
When you don’t find Marijuana edibles in your Halloween candy like the news warned you about pic.twitter.com/GFWJnxhIg5
— Super Saiyan Batman™ aka TLocness™ (@TLocV) October 15, 2021
the only reason i’d ever want kids is that i would get to look for edibles in their halloween candy
— 5’7 and spooky (@TheH0eNick) October 15, 2021
check your kids halloween candy. my cousin found the assassination of archduke franz ferdinand in sarajevo by serbian nationalist gavrilo princip inside a snickers bar pic.twitter.com/3EgySLKapD
— everett byram (@rad_milk) October 18, 2021
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