Halloween Tales: Razor Blades in Apples and Poisoned Candy
Candy Corn - a Popular and Common Halloween Treat
Poison First, Then Razor Blades and Sharp Objects
Something strange has happened to the urban legends surrounding candy/food tampering from the late 1960s to present day. Most stories you'll hear, especially concerning Halloween treat tampering and dangers are basically urban legends - not true events.
In fact, the only "true" poisoned candy story I have been able to find was no Halloween trickster, it was a father who killed his own son - nearly killed both his kids, except one child did not eat the candy the father laced with poison... I'll give the details to this true crime story later in the hub because I want to explore the value in the "not really true" urban legends about halloween treat scares...
The main interest for me is that, regardless of true or not-true stories, the stories have changed a great deal over the years from poison in the late 1960s and the 1970s to razor blades, pins and sharp objects in the late 70's and 1980s. (Personally, I have heard tales switching from the sharp objects to drugs as of late but I haven't been finding online sources to support what I am hearing by word of mouth in my region).
Urban legend details that "morph" are always of great interest to me because the morphing indicates that something very drastic and important (usually based around fears and taboos, social constructions) is happening in the society in which the tales are told...
I'll say this early on... I think I am witnessing a "morphing" process in my Canadian region - concerning fears about Halloween and teen "coming of age" issues... drugs are in the picture in the tales about tampered-with candy at Halloween time, so this indicates, to me, that adults are becoming very afraid of teen drug use in my area... I've also heard a short version about technology and safety/privacy scares - cell phones (a limited number, of course) being handed out (last year...so the story goes...the story being told THIS YEAR as a cautionary tale, it seems) into halloween treat bags by wealthy citizens... but something goes wrong with some of the kids who receive the cell phones and they are stalked and murdered... NO - there is no evidence of this, no news bytes from last year about murdered teens during Halloween celebrations, etc., so don't worry - these stories are not true events...however, they contain some possible truths about how parents are feeling about child safety or lack of safety.
Let's just say the latter version is BRAND NEW but might indicate that parents fear what is happening with cell phones and their children... how the cell phones make their children accessible to strangers, possibly stalkers and murderers... These are very interesting versions of Halloween fright tales that wouldn't even be possible a decade ago... back when cell phones were bulkier, more expensive, less accessible to teens...
Live Version of Candyman by Siouxie and the Banshees
What The Various Tampering Methods Might Mean
Poisoned Candy: generally a quick route to death.
Razor Blades: generally, something to cause pain and fright, but not to cause death
Drugs: generally, something to cause disorientation (perhaps leading into something worse), fright and endanger someone's trust
Technology: a sign that the public is uncomfortable with gadgets that may be used for bad purposes or that may malfunction in a way that can harm someone
So how serious are these various tampering methods or the suggestions they provide in myths, urban legends and stories?
- Poisoned Apple: Naturally, with poison, one has to realize that tale tellers and the audience allow tales with poison to circulate when they are concerned with or afraid of things in society which cause death...remember Snow White? Didn't Snow White bite into a poisoned apple? One given to her by her step-mother? In this tale, we learn quickly that the stepmother's intent was ultimately dark - the worst... she wanted Snow White to die...
- Razor Blades and Pins: The seriousness of a poisoned apple intended to kill someone is much more severe than an apple with a pin or razor blade (which might be noticed and SEEN before biting an apple) in it. If an apple with dangerous objects embedded in it was noticed before the first bite, the effect of the objects and the fear they would instill in the person who almost "bit down" on the apple is absolutely effective. If a person didn't see the embedded objects, he/she could be very harmed but almost surely would NOT die from biting into the said apple. An easily associated idea with the razor blade/pins in apple is the concept of maiming or disfiguring someone. This can add a second level of fear to the razor blade/pins in apple stories - 1) pain and fear of biting into something sharp 2) permanent disfigurement - probably entirely visible in the face, a definite taboo in most societies... it is NOT well accepted when someone is out in public with a scar on his/her face... quite a deep level of possibilities can be associated with this tampering method.
- Drugs: The seriousness of a drugged apple is something that might get more complex yet - and lead to another event, crime or stage of intimidation, but one would associate "great danger" to the drugged fruit, not necessarily "Death" as with the poisoned apple - and not a "maiming" quality of harm as might be present with the razor blade embedded apple. An issue of invaded privacy pops out with the drugged apple concept - a suggestion of being violated while drugged (especially since most of us associated "drugged" with being unconscious, blacked out or at least incapacitated in a way that we cannot control our own bodily movements, sometimes can't control thoughts).
If Snow White's stepmother had given her a drugged apple and rendered her unconscious, the Snow White story would have to be different - to accommodate a probable second part of the stepmother's plans - which might have included death but also might have uncluded public shaming, maiming, anything that could be done to Snow White while she was blacked out/drugged.
- Technology: A fear of technology used in an urban legend or cautionary tale usually means that people are worried about whether or not a new gadget can be used to the detriment of society. Gadgets usually appear in society, invented, then dispersed to a general public because a need for them or a perceived need for the gadget was realized... after a little while, most people go through "doubting" the beneficial uses of a gadget and wondering if the item will be more often used for bad things in society than for the good use it was seemingly invented for.
In the case of legends involving cell phones, often people are specifically concerned about accessibility of people with cell phones and the accessibility of their private identity being manipulated, stolen, used against them. We can all be pretty sure that cell phones were not invented with "identity theft" in mind - but undesireables have quickly turned a new invention into something that can lead dangerous people to us and make the source of communication look like a detrimental tool to society.
As far as comparisons with poison, razor blades and drugs, a technology item in a legend is probably not an immediate "threat of death" like poison is. A tech item is probably not something intended to maim as with razor blades. It's sole purpose is probably not to incapacitate a "victim" as drugs might be intended for... but the technology item can still be feared and it is wise to take a good look at the possibilities for danger that surround the tech item. Probably, in most legends, the tech item will be a stage of inducing fear, discomfort and confusion...but is unlikely to be a "murder weapon," (like poison) an "assault" (razor blades) or "incapacitation" (drugs) weapon.
Hallowe'en Safety - Planning Routes for Walking
Safety Tips For Hallowe'en
The Case of the Murder of Timothy O'Bryan
There has only been 1 death related specifically to Hallowe'en candy/treat tampering, however, this case is NOT any sort of urban legend, accident, harmful act brought upon by a stranger to anonymous or unknown kids.
Timothy O'Bryan, a little innocent boy in Texas - was MURDERED by his own father... and the father used the event of Hallowe'en and the presence of Hallowe'en treats to be his "cover" for the murder. He attempted to kill BOTH his children but one (Timothy's sister, Elizabeth) did NOT eat the poison-laced treats as Timothy did.
Source (Murderpedia .org)
On October 31, 1974, Ronald Clark O'Bryan attempted to kill his two children. He had put cyanide in the childrens' Hallowe'en candy. In trying to cover his tracks, Mr. R.C. O'Bryan also gave away some of the poison-laced candy to other children but luckily, none of the others ate any of the candy from the O'Bryan home.
This case was complete with evidence of new life insurance policies taken out on the two children - by the father - just a month or two before the Hallowe'en event... and yes, Mr. O'Bryan definitely got caught, was tried and convicted.
Source (Houston Chronicle, 2004 Article)
Mr. O'Bryan was executed for this crime on March 31, 1984... In Mr. O'Bryan's last statement he said he made a mistake and that execution for this mistake was wrong and too harsh but that he forgave everyone for having any part in his death...along with a few other things.
Mr. O'Bryan has been given the name "Candyman" by a general public, this notoriety helped along by the fact that Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a song, "Candyman" as their first cut on their seventh studio album called, "Tinderbox." (1986? Not positive of the original release date but a re-release was done on CD in 1986).
Source (TruTV - 2013 article, Spotlight: The Infamous Candyman of Texas.)
Teen Safety on Hallowe'en
Don't Feel Too Safe
I hope readers won't feel too safe just because I have outlined only one candy-tampering related death from the 1970s...
It is still important to properly educate children on how to behave and take safety precautions during Hallowe'en fun-times.
Hallowe'en is supposed to be a fun event and things like proper attire should be made available for children (it often snows on Hallowe'en night where I am from, so most kids are outfitted in full snow-suits for Hallowe'en trick-or-treating), as well as rules about staying in groups, not talking to strangers while isolated from other people, and - of course - adamant rules about not eating candy until it has been checked and deemed to be safe to eat!
(a LOT of SICKNESS is avoided by children who do wait to get the treats home and sorted through before eating...most Hallowe'en treats are very unhealthy when eaten in large amounts and will make children nervous/hyper, nauseated, etc)
Also - Teens should be discouraged from driving on Hallowe'en night - not because parents are trying to be buttheads and control freaks but because Hallowe'en night is NOT A NORMAL NIGHT and there will DEFINITELY BE COUNTLESS individuals out after dark, walking, running around - some of them misbehaving and playing pranks. Not all children are old enough to be responsible for their own safety and even WITH an adult, small children can get carried away in the moment and in all the fun and end up darting and running around... Many Teens might be very good drivers and very responsible, too - but just their age makes them less experienced on the road. To allow teens out driving during a time of mass pedestrian activity that will also involve a night of pranks and tricks and treats is just sooooo risky.
No offense to any teens who might be reading... I'd just hate to see any teen behind the wheel forced into a situation not of their making - whereby some toddler or anyone else (could be an adult, under the influence of some hallowe'en party "spirits") runs out into the road without thinking... I can't imagine the thought of any teen ending up surrounded by cops and emergency personnel in a situation not their fault... on a night that is supposed to be filled with fun.