Razors, poison, now pot — tainted Halloween treats are a durable urban myth

I am old enough to remember being solemnly lectured in a grade-school classroom, in 1975 or so, about the perils of razor blades in Halloween apples. Back then, a few serious-minded people still did give trick-or-treaters apples. (The local dentist gave out toothbrushes.)

The concept was surprisingly durable — a ‘Dear Abby’ column in 1983 told its readers, as a certainty, that “somebody’s child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade” in an October 31 column.

However, there is only one example of pins or razors being given out to trick-or-treaters in apples in North America in decades, and no examples of poisoned candy involving strangers. (A Texas man murdered his son in the 1970s with cyanide-laced candy that he claimed came from trick-or-treating.)

Other reports, when scrutinized, turn out to involve bad luck, pre-existing health problems, or in one case a family trying to cover up the fact that a boy had overdosed on a relative’s heroin.


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“Halloween sadism can be viewed as an urban legend which emerged during the early 1970s to give expression to growing fears about the safety of children, the danger of crime and other sources of social strain,” a researcher wrote in 1985.

This year started to see a kind of third wave — a fear that trick-or-treaters might be given cannabis edibles. All over the continent this year, authorities warned of edibles being given away to trick-or-treaters.

It’s not, on the face of it, completely impossible to see. Colorado allows edibles in candy form (other U.S. states with legal recreational pot don’t) and it’s rare but not unheard-of for kids to get into them if they’re not properly stored.

Predictably, though, the holiday came and went without any children being given any edibles anywhere, except for an odd incident in Victoria:

The release makes it clear that the edibles were found because they were in a clearly labelled package complete with warnings, though, which indicated that something else was going on.

Details started to emerge:

Given that millions of children ring millions of doorbells on Halloween, and have every year for decades, the holiday has a remarkable safety record. The fact that so much emotion and alarm has been expended over the years over a danger that has been shown to exist only in the imagination says more about those propagating the myth than anything else.

WATCH: We demonstrate some key safety tips for your children when they go trick-or-treating on Halloween.


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