Halloween Urban Legends That Just Won't Die
November 1, 2017 By Cait Russell
Are These Candy Apples a Sweet Treat, Or Are They Hiding Something More Sinister Under Their Candy Coat?
Photo by: JackMac34, via PixaBay.
For generations, there's been hand wringing over the certain urban legends pertaining to trick or treating and Halloween, that have been perpetuated in movies, on the small screen, and even by local law enforcement agencies (as a precaution of course). Fears of candies being poisoned or tampered with, or even tainted treats being handed out intentionally. While it's important to be prudent and careful when it comes to enjoying sweet treats on Halloween, most of the biggest urban legends have little to no basis in fact.
Many of the "candy poisoning" hysteria started in the early 1980s after the Chicago Tylenol murders, where the medication was tampered with in-store, leading to the deaths of seven people. The aftermath of that event left people apprehensive about accepting treats from strangers the following Halloween, and it also lead to the drastic change in packaging for medications and foods we see today, where candies, treats, and other consumables are 100% sealed, with no paper or foil wrap that could be easily opened and re-closed inconspicuously.
Here are some of the biggest Halloween Urban Legends that have continued to run rampant for decades:
Halloween Candy & Treat Myths & Urban Legends
- Menaces & Monsters Are Handing Out Poisoned Halloween Candy - This is a pervasive concern of parents for generations. After a young boy in Texas died after consuming Halloween candy laced with cyanide, there was wide-spread panic. It was later determined that it was the boy's own father - not some scary stranger - that had dosed the child, but that did little to quell the hysteria - especially considering the boy's father was nicknamed "The Candy Man Killer".
- Treats Such as Candy Apples & Other Homemade Goodies Could Contain Razor Blades - There's a reason homemade treats being given out on Halloween is a rarity nowadays, and that's largely in part due to parents fear of their neighbors potentially harming, or poisoning their children. While "candy apples with razor blades" have become staples of horror movie iconography, there have been only a few isolated incidents of Halloween candy containing sharp or harmful objects, and most of these instances seem to be fueled by the persistent use of this Halloween horror being a main stay of horror flicks, and pranks gone awry, not nefarious folks handing out homemade goodies concealing something sinister.
- Candy Laced with Drugs, Specifically Marijuana is Being Handed Out on Purpose by Evil-Doers - While this has been a pervasive urban legend for decades, it's become huge in recent years, as marijuana is legalized in more and more states across the US, and as marijuana "edibles" - candies, cookies, and other foods containing marijuana - have become more widely available in the states in which marijuana is available.
In October 2014, not long after marijuana had been legalized in Colorado, the Denver Police Department shared a photo on social media asking parents which candy was the one that contained marijuana, which caused great alarm with parents, and which marijuana-advocates called "fear mongering", because the product is clearly labeled when it is packaged, and the candies pictured contained no packages or labeling.
Regardless, drug and marijuana laced candy has been a rising concern of parents over the years, and with the legalization of pot continuing to spread, this legend isn't going anywhere anytime soon, especially with local authorities across the country reinforcing this one (the New Jersey Attorney General tweeted a warning urging parents to check their Halloween candy for Marijuana earlier this month (see below).
- It's Not Just Candy Laced with Drugs, It's Temporary Tattoos, Too - Another long-standing urban legend is that those cute little Halloween temporary tattoos that are handed out on Halloween (you know the ones - smiling pumpkins, spooky bats, vampires, mummies, and other Halloween icons), can also be laced with drugs - LSD specifically. Despite the New York Times debunking this myth back in 1988, it's still one that causes a lot of hand wringing.
If you think the Urban Legends end at the candy bowl, you're sorely mistaken - there's a ton of Halloween myths that aren't candy related at all, but involve murder, gangs, witches, the supernatural, and other terrifying threats.
Other Pervasive Halloween Urban Legends
- There's Going to Be a Halloween Massacre by a Psycho - This is a recurring threat that's gone on for decades, and one that social media has made even more rampant. The jyst of this one is that there's a killer on the loose, and he's out for blood, and is typically armed with a machete, an axe, or some other gory weapon. Sound familiar? This has also been the plot of many a Halloween Horror movie.
More recently, there have been viral "memes" on social media that essentially share fake news reports of these events actually happening, in some small town. This is particularly scary because there's real monsters out there committing crimes - there's no need to be "pranking" people by spreading urban legends about murderers killing trick or treaters on Halloween - the kids are the ones who are going to suffer from that.
Another twist on the "Halloween Massacre Myth" has been that if it's gonna happen, it's gonna be clowns that are behind the massacre. As you might have guessed, with the recent remake of Stephen King's IT, this "popular twist" on the Halloween Massacre urban legend has been quite prominent on social media this year.
- Those Cool Halloween Decorations Are Actually REAL Dead Bodies - We can't blame people for believing this one - this myth has been around forever, and it's perpetuated by pop culture - this Halloween horror has been featured on a variety of forensic science and crime dramas, including Bones, in which a skeleton scarecrow in a corn maze turned out to be a REAL dead body, and was the focus of the entire episode. With "real dead bodies being disguised as decorations" a popular Halloween Horror theme for tv shows, it's no wonder folks are suspicious of the more elaborate and scary Halloween displays that some neighborhoods are known for.
There have also been several real-life events that have fueled this legend - in the 90s, there were two cases of actual dead bodies being mistaken for Halloween decorations, which authorities have determined were stunts gone awry, and more recently, there were two cases - one in Delaware, and one in California, where a dead body was assumed to be a particularly ghoulish or frightening Halloween decoration for far longer than you'd expect before being discovered to be real dead folks. This is another Halloween Urban Legend that's not going to be going anywhere anytime soon.
- Various Gangs Are Going to Be Killing 31 People This Halloween - Nothing is scarier than the threat of real violence, and in the early 2000s, a chain email (remember those?) circulated warning that various gangs were planning on going out, and killing 31 people on Halloween night (you know, since Halloween is on October 31st, and street gangs are really into numerology, and all).
This myth has persisted, and even grown with the rise of social media, but the group of alleged, would-be perpetrators changes regularly, depending on what group is in the public eye at the moment. So far, there haven't been any Halloween Gang Murders of 31 innocent people on Halloween Night, at least not that we know of.
- People Aren't The Only Target of Violent Monsters on Halloween - Pets Are in Danger Too - For decades, owners of black cats and dogs have been urged to keep their pets inside on Halloween, as they may be the targets of so-called pranks which involve harming or even killing the pets, as black cats & dogs can be considered back luck, or even evil by some superstitious folks.
According to The Guardian's rundown on Halloween Myths, a recent "twist" on this awful myth is that October 31st is "National Kill a Pitbull Day", although Snopes debunked this one as a trollish prank aimed at a Missouri councilman, who had been key in developing a local pet ordinance targeting pit pulls, and other "bully breed" dogs in 2012.
While this myth was debunked, pet owners are still urged to keep their furry friends inside on Halloween, as the masked trick or treaters, constant stream of strangers to your door, and other unusual activity can be stressful and upsettting for pets.
This is by far not a complete list of all of the Halloween Myths and Urban Legends - that list would be almost endless, but these are some of the most well-known myths, and ones that have been most pervasive in recent years. While the Urban Legends themselves are just that - legends - it's still important to stay safe on Halloween by being aware of your surroundings, and staying on alert when talking to strangers - that's just common sense.
What Urban Legends Are Big in Your Area? Let Us Know in the Comments Below!