The World’s Leading Authority on Poisoned Candy

In 1985, Joel Best published an article in the sociology journal Social Problems analyzing reports of children receiving dangerous treats on Halloween (razor blades in apples, poisoned candy, etc.).

After doing an extensive review of newspaper databases for all cases between 1959 and 1984, he couldn't find a single instance of a child being killed by a Halloween treat, although there were a handful of cases (18) of minor injuries, and a larger number of reports of the discovery of contaminated treats without injury. Although he suspected that most if not all of these discovery reports were hoaxes.

So he concluded that the idea of "Halloween Sadism" was an urban legend that emerged into national prominence during the early 1970s because of fears about the safety of children:

The Halloween sadist has become an annual reminder of the fragility of the social bond — an expression of growing doubts about the safety of children, the trustworthiness of strangers, and the strength of the modern urban community.

In an article recently posted on the website of the University of Delaware (where he teaches) Best looks back on that article and notes that ever since its publication he's been the go-to guy for reporters writing about Halloween safety:

Every October since 1985, I've continued to get calls from reporters. Usually, it's a young person working for a newspaper who's been assigned to write a piece about Halloween safety. There's a pretty good chance that a reporter who goes online to review last year's stories about the topic will see me quoted, so I get called and re-interviewed.

Because of the ongoing interest in this mostly non-existent problem, Best has continued to scan newspapers for reports of Halloween injuries, and he says that "I still haven't found a documented case of a child who was seriously harmed by a contaminated treat."

Though he notes that this shouldn't be taken to mean that Halloween isn't a potentially dangerous holiday. It is. But for another reason altogether. On Halloween the risk of a child being struck by a car is four times higher than on other nights.

Celebrations Urban Legends

Posted on Sat Oct 26, 2013


Yep.. there HAVE been deaths and injuries due to tampered candy.. but that was due to the PARENTS tampering with the candy, then blaming it on someone else...

So yeah... number of deaths: ZERO.

Another fun statistic: Number of deaths due to falling elevators - ZERO. There has been one, single instance of an elevator losing all power, and the saftey devices not kicking in. Emptire State building, no less. The cushion of air padded the descent, and the woman inside suffered only a broken arm. Hands down THE safest form of transportation.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  on  Sat Oct 26, 2013  at  09:01 PM
My brother is an X-ray Tech and tells me of parents bringing in candy for processing and then when told how much it will cost them the result is usually an insulting remark. The parents expect it to be done for free. He suspects that this an offshoot of the "Hallowe'en Sadism" (nice term, BTW) urban legend that local municipalities have offered or paid for such services in the past but no one can cite any cases.

And taking a picture of candy doesn't uncover suspected harmful chemical additions, which would be much easier to introduce. Any shyster lawyer would claim that this leaves the hospital / practice open to liability. No insurance would cover that and as a consequence offering such a service isn't even in the realm of possibility.
Posted by KDP  on  Wed Oct 30, 2013  at  12:16 PM
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