Halloween Myths

Are you looking for a real blood-curdling scare on Halloween, or are you already paralyzed with fright?

Some people love the adrenaline rush that seizes them when they”re truly frightened. They love nothing better than swapping ghost stories around a fire. Halloween is the perfect time for swapping “true” stories with your friends and scaring the pants off of another. After all, everyone knows at least one person who knows someone who”s seen a ghost. And remember the one about the kids parked in the local Lovers” Lane who saw a frightening apparition and sped off with a hook hanging off their car door handle?

Of course, some of us are merely amused by such stories. Still others wish those creepy legends would just go away.

Over the past few decades, some stories have been passed around specifically to scare kids and their parents as they prepare for Halloween. Some demand attention while others have been verified and have been labeled as hoaxes by the Computer Incident Advisory Committee (CIAA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy.

On this page, you”ll find a sampling of urban myths and ingenious stories specifically designed to frighten your kids on Halloween.

Myths: Tainted Candy

Two specific categories of urban myths concern tainted treats purportedly handed out to children as they make their rounds on Halloween night.

The first type concerns the distribution of poisoned treats. The poisons in question include insecticides, illegal drugs or cyanide. In the 30-year span from 1958 to 1988, some 78 deaths on Halloween were the result of poisoning. Some were accidental and incorrectly attributed to poisoned treats. Two of them, sadly, were deliberate, but were made to appear as accidental ingestions of tainted Halloween treats.

As far as investigators can tell, no madman is out there waiting to poison children.

The second type of assault on trick-or-treaters is highly exaggerated but at least partly based on fact: the placement of injurious objects such as pins, needles and razor blades in apples and other treats.

The exaggeration of the effects of this cruel prank and the actual number of cases verified makes the fear of dangerous objects in treats an urban myth. In a few instances, needles and pins have been found in candy bars and apples, but few kids have actually been hurt by them.

The frenzy surrounding the possibility of treats being tainted with poison or foreign objects grew particularly manic after 1982, the year of the Tylenol poisonings and the rash of copycat incidents that followed.

A number of police investigations of purported poisonings or sharps inserted in Halloween candy and apples revealed that kids became fond of scaring their parents by tampering with their own treats. What could be more fun than scaring your own parents on Halloween night?

Post-9/11 Halloween Myths

Shortly after the tragic assault on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in 2001, people were naturally cautious about gathering in large groups where they might be susceptible to attack.

This caution led to fears that large shopping malls crowded with trick-or-treaters and their parents would be subject to a terrorist strike on Halloween night 2001. Of course, the threats never materialized, but they were spread throughout the Internet by people assuring their friends that the news had been passed on to them by a friend of a friend or close acquaintance. This is exactly how typical urban myths and legends gain a foothold.

Halloween Predictions

A modern urban legend first appeared in the Midwest in 1968, but made a huge comeback in 1998 after the film Urban Legends was released. The story goes that a psychic made a prediction on a popular TV talk show that a large college campus would be the scene of a mass murder, specifically of females, on Halloween night.

Frightened coeds didn”t stop to chuckle at the prediction that the assault was to occur at a school whose colors were orange and black! The urban legend continues to circulate, prompting students to move around in groups and be on the lookout for suspicious charactersprobably wise advice on any dark night on college campuses throughout the country.

Finding the Truth Behind Halloween Myths

If thoughts of tainted candy or mass murder are scaring you to death, or if you receive an e-mail during the month of October that rings alarm bells, here are a few things you can do:

  • Check a few urban myths and legends web sites to see if what you heard or read matches any of the classic hoaxes that have been around for decadesor new ones that have come up recently. Most of them take a while to get around.
  • Avoid spreading rumors or sending on any warnings. Call the police if you”re sure that what you found out isn”t an urban myth.
  • Do check your kids” treats. Discard food items that are homemade, unwrapped or come in homemade wrappings such as cellophane or plastic wrap. Don”t let small children under the age of four keep plastic rings, charms or novelties that might choke them.
  • Trick-or-treating is a group activity. Don”t let teens go out by themselves and make sure that reliable adults accompany young children as they go door to door.

Then relax and enjoy the thrills and chills.