Do Strangers Really Tamper with Halloween Candy?

Despite the evidence, this ‘stranger danger’ fear prevails every year

Every year, parents tell their children that they are not allowed to eat any of their trick-or-treating bounty until it has been carefully checked for needles and razor blades. But are these fears based on fact, or are they the result of urban legend?

According to How Stuff Works, the only proven incident (that wasn't a prank) in which a child was injured from a stranger's Halloween candy was in 2000. James Joseph Smith, 49, of Minneapolis had handed out candy bars that he had put needles in. He was later charged with one count of adulterating a substance with intent to cause death, harm, or illness. But even then, only one 14-year-old boy was pricked with a needle after biting into a candy bar. No one was seriously injured.

And what about the infamous razor blade in an apple? The problem with widespread rumors is that many pranksters will do what they can to make them true. For example, in 1968, the stage legislature in New Jersey passed a law mandating prison terms for anyone caught tampering apples. On Halloween of that year, thirteen apples with razor blades were found in five counties. But when following up on the reported cases, officials found that virtually all the reports were hoaxes devised by kids or parents.

As far as poison goes, there have been two confirmed deaths linked to tainted Halloween candy. Neither of them was caused by strangers however. In 1970, a 5-year-old boy accidentally poisoned himself when he found his uncle's hidden heroin. After the boy died, the family sprinkled the heroin on the child's Halloween candy in an attempt to cover up the uncle's crime. In 1974, 8-year-old Timothy O'Bryan died as a result of eating cyanide-laced candy given to him by his own father, who likely wanted to collect on a large insurance policy. The dad had poisoned 4 other children's candy as well to make the act appear "random," but fortunately, none of the other children ate the poisoned candy.

Given this evidence (or lack thereof), your children face a slim-to-none chance of running into problems with their Halloween candy. Of course, if it makes you feel better, go ahead and inspect it, but there's no need to have it X-rayed. In fact, along with examining what your little ghouls and goblins are eating, you should probably keep a closer eye on how much they're eating.

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