Most kids have memories of coming home after trick-or-treating, excited to gorge themselves on candy, only to have their parents take their hard-earned treats and begin sorting through them. If you ask a parent why they do this, most will say they want to make sure none of it is poisoned. But why are parents and other adults so paranoid about Halloween, and are their fears justified? Many parents fear that their children’s candy has been tampered with. There are many legends about caramel apples booby-trapped with razor blades and candy laced with cocaine, but do these have any truth to them? It’s reasonable for a parent to be afraid. What other night would a loving parent send their child to dozens of strangers’ houses in the middle of the night? However, parents have nearly nothing to fear from stranger’s candy.
That is not to say that poisoned candy is unheard of. The poison doesn’t come from strangers, though– the truth is much worse. In most cases, it is a family member who poisons or tampers with the candy. Many of the common fears parents face surrounding candy can be traced back to one case: that of Ronald O’Bryan, a.k.a. the Candyman. O’Bryan was charged with the murder of his own son by lacing his Pixie Stick with cyanide. O’Bryan’s defending lawyer, Marvin Teague, is quoted as saying, “As you all know, my client killed Halloween.” This case spawned so much fear from parents over candy that one of the main points of the case was lost: it was the father who killed his own child to gain insurance money, not some stranger handing out poisoned candy.
Parents really have nothing to fear from stranger’s candy. It would be a pretty poorly executed crime, anyway; the would-be criminal handing poisoned candy out directly from his own house would not be hard to locate. In fact, since most cases of poisoning occur when a family member tampers with the candy, a child would be safer to not let their parents near their candy than to let them sort through it.
Poisoned candy isn’t the only thing parents fear about this holiday. Every year, hundreds of news articles are published on how to have a so-called “safe” halloween. Much of these include endless warnings about the type of costume a child should wear. According to these annual paranoid rantings, you can’t have a costume too loose– it may catch fire on a jack-o-lantern! But, it can’t be too tight, either– that could restrict air flow! You can’t have masks, any false weapons, anything sharp, anything not covered in reflective tape,or anything a person may consider fun– er, “dangerous”.
The problem with these tips is that they automatically assume that both parent and child are completely incompetent. Would a parent not notice their child having problems with their costumes? But it is easy to convince parents to do things in the name of “safety,” whether or not any child is actually endangered. In fact, Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, found, “There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children…we almost called this paper, ‘Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,’ because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day (The Wall Street Journal).”
Parents must realize the facts; Halloween is no more dangerous than any other night of the year. Although the desire to keep one’s child safe is an admirable cause, overdoing the safety measures takes all the enjoyment out of the holiday. Parents must allow their children the freedom to experience Halloween without so much paranoia.
Mikayla Rust, Editor in Chief