Every Halloween, kids across the country get dressed to the nines and go door-to-door, hoping to score a pillowcase full of candy.
But, once many kids return home, their inevitable sugar comas are put on hold. Why, you might ask? Well, their parents want to check the candy for tampering first.
Myths about poisoned and tainted candy being distributed to unsuspecting kids on Halloween have swirled for decades. But, just how real is this threat, and should parents be so worried?
According to criminal justice experts and sociologists Joel Best and Gerald T. Horiuchi, the risk of your child picking up some dangerous candy is, thankfully, very low.
“Many, if not most, reports of Halloween sadism are of questionable authenticity,” the pair wrote following an extensive study of crimes linked to Halloween candies and traditions.
In fact, the study found that the myth is played up and blown out of proportion. And the few cases that were true were often exaggerated or had no definitive links to the fall holiday.
In turn, the sociologists believe that anxiety about Halloween wrongdoing rise during times of uncertainty and fear.
For example, in the early 1980s, there was outrage following a myriad of Tylenol poisonings. At the time, the acetaminophen had been laced with cyanide, placed on store shelves, and sold to unsuspecting customers. Then, once Halloween rolled around, fears surrounding the threat of poisoned candy skyrocketed.
Additionally, a few true Halloween crimes have contributed to the growing societal fear. First, back in 1964, a woman from New York named Helen Pfeil distributed dog biscuits and ant poison to children.