During my days as a Halloween beggar, I never bit down on an apple and started chewing on a sharp object. According to Web sites specializing in fact-checking urban legends, nearly no one has ever been a victim of fruit with sharp edges or popcorn balls that have been tainted with more than butter.
During my days as a Halloween beggar, I never bit down on an apple and started chewing on a sharp object.
I’ve talked to friends about the danger of biting into a razor blade and they’ve never personally known anybody who has needed to be taken to an emergency room either. They might have had greedy little siblings who felt like getting their stomachs pumped, but that wasn’t a pattern of poisoning, it was an overdose of Snickers and Three Musketeers bars.
So why these days are we all on pins and needles over our fear of Halloween safety hazards? Who among us has been harmed?
According to Web sites specializing in fact-checking urban legends, nearly no one has ever been a victim of fruit with sharp edges or popcorn balls that have been tainted with more than butter.
Basis in fact
This is not to say that bad things have not happened on Halloween.
“Claim: Pins, needle, and other razor blades have been found in trick-or-treater’s loot,” says a report at Snopes.com. “Status: True.”
The Snopes site went on to give the example of a 49-year-old Minneapolis man who was charged with “adulterating a substance with the intent to cause death, harm or illness” in 2000 after a 14-year-old boy was pricked by a needle that the man allegedly had hidden in a candy bar.
But that was years after we all first were told to be on the lookout for such dangers. And it seems more of an isolated incident than a frequently reoccurring crime.
“As author Jack Santino noted in his history of Halloween, ‘pins and needles’ rumors began to supplant ‘poisoned candy’ rumors in the mid-1960s,” explained Snopes, “and nearly all such reports of such rumors proved to be hoaxes.”
Perception or reality?
It isn’t difficult to understand why the perception of danger took hold in America and heightened our awareness of it to the point of paranoia.
“It combines the most common themes in urban legends including (1) danger to children, (2) contamination of food, (3) mistrust of others, and (4) fear of crime,” reasons an entry entitled “Apples and Razor Blades” posted on the “my-retrospace” blog. “Plus it capitalizes on some pretty nasty fears.”
So, long after newspaper articles and television reports first began annually warning us to be vigilant for tainted treats in the 1970s, we continue to search through our young trick-or-treaters loot, picking out homemade sweets and throwing out fruits.
It’s the prudent thing to do. That would be my advice to you. Foolishness is to ignore a danger, once we are aware of it.
Still, it seems a shame that we live in a world so routinely insane and inherently evil that we feel — fear — such isolated incidents are likely to occur just down our streets.
Gary Brown writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.