SEVERAL PEOPLE wrote in after reading my article saying that Halloween candy tampering is "by and large a myth" to point out that 8-year-old Timothy O'Bryan of Houston, Texas actually did die in 1974 after eating a Pixie Stick laced with cyanide on Halloween night which is true, but there's a kicker. Investigators found that the candy had been poisoned by O'Bryan's own father, who, unbelievable as it may seem, hoped to collect on a life insurance policy he had taken out on his son.
This was, in fact, one of the incidents which, when first reported, fueled the candy tampering panic of the 1970s. Please note, what sociologist Joel Best and others are categorizing as a myth is the notion that there have been a great many instances of strangers putting poison, razor blades, or needles in items handed out to trick-or-treating children on Halloween. Best's research has shown that of the five alleged child fatalities attributed to candy tampering between 1970 and 2001, four were eventually determined to have been due to natural causes and one, the O'Bryan case, was an instance of a parent poisoning his own child.
Every year or so a new case crops up in the media, and, while we oughtn't to dismiss such reports given that copycat crimes can and do occur, experience has shown that it's only after a proper investigation that we can say for sure in any particular instance what really happened. Plus, the occasional isolated incident does not a widespread phenomenon make.
Speaking of which...
Halloween 2007: Razor Blade Found in Candy Bar in Minneola, Florida
At this point we only have the barest details, but local news sources reported on November 1 that police in the small town of Minneola, Florida are investigating the discovery of what was described as a small blade "from a disposable razor" in a partially-opened Three Musketeers mini bar a child picked up off the street while trick-or-treating. The Orlando Sentinel has a close-up photo of the candy bar.
Halloween 2007: Needle Found in Candy Bar, Littleton, Colorado
The parents of an 11-year-old boy filed a complaint with police the day after Halloween when the youngster reported finding a large-gauge sewing needle in a Milky Way bar he received while trick-or-treating (via KWGN-TV News).
Halloween 2007: Candy Scare at Wahlgreens in Tucson, Arizona
A Walgreens store on Grant Rd. in Tucson stopped selling Halloween candy for a short time on Halloween night after an open pack of needles was discovered on the floor of the candy aisle. Apparently, one needle was missing from the pack. Health Department officials inspected some of the candy and found no evidence of tampering, but police advised anyone who purchased candy at the store to check it thoroughly before handing it out or consuming it.
Read More About It:
• Is Halloween Candy Tampering a Myth? - About.com Urban Legends
• Halloween Sadism: The Evidence - Report by Joel best