Let’s Kill the “Kids Get Poisoned on Halloween!” Myth

Hi Readers! I don’t know about you, but I let my kids eat their Halloween candy without my inspecting it. In fact, they can eat any homemade treats or apples they get, too. (Ha! Like they’d ever eat an apple on Halloween.)

If you also happen to trust the world not to be poisoning your kids — and I think you should: there have been no instances of a child ever poisoned by a stranger on Halloween (here’s the Snopes report) — I’m wondering if you’d consider doing this:

Send me a photo or video of your children eating an unwrapped treat.

That is, any treat that’s not factory- or perfectly wrapped.

If I get some of these images, I will edit them into a little package — a treat of my own, for the media. Next year, as Halloween approaches, I’ll try to get it some air time, to counter all the Halloween hysteria.

Why is that of any importance? Because hysteria unhinges us. Fear of poisoned candy (and, more recently, rampant sex offenders) has led communities around the country to curtail kids’ freedom on Halloween. Think about that: the ONE DAY OF THE YEAR that kids get to DRESS  and ACT like adults and GO OUT INTO THE WORLD and DO SOMETHING ON THEIR OWN is being whittled away.  That’s not happening everywhere, of course. But many places and parents now consider trick-or-treating to dangerous to condone, despite the fact that crime is down since when they were young. So kids are corralled into parties instead, where the fun is created and supervised by adults. And, of course, the candy is “safe.” (WHICH IT WAS IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD TOO!!!)

As I’ve written before, Halloween is the day we seem to test-market new fears. If they’re successful there, they spread. So if we can show people that a lot of us actually TRUST our neighbors not to be psychopathic child-poisoners, maybe we can start turning this stranger-danger (and neighbor-danger, and homemade treat-danger) thing around.

If you’re interested, you can email me your photos, or a video, or a link to either of those at heylenore3@gmail.com. By doing so, I will assume you are fine with my using the images in a package I will distribute to the media. Thanks and happy Halloween! — Lenore

Eat ’em and weep?

88 Responses to Let’s Kill the “Kids Get Poisoned on Halloween!” Myth

  1. Jess October 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    A quick trip down the costume aisle at Target indicates that children aren’t actually expected to be outside trick-or-treating at all anymore. Everything I saw was sleeveless, short, and made out of that flimsy, cold polyester. Given that there’s actually snow on the ground right now, no kid is going to want to trick-or-treat in a costume like that, and where’s the fun of covering up with a big, puffy coat? My girls are still too young to go out alone or for long anyway (three and 18mo), but I can see that homemade is the route I’ll have to go during their trick-or-treating years, because retailers apparently don’t want them to go out.

    On another note, the homemade treats were always the best growing up. One neighbor, a preschool teacher, dressed up every year like a witch and served homemade donuts and rootbeer. She always had a line around the block. It makes me sad to think that she probably can’t do that anymore now that she’s moved to a new neighborhood where people don’t know her.

  2. Jennifer October 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    I use “candy inspection” to hand select my favorites. Any Milky Way Darks are suspect and absolutely must be given to Mom for “proper disposal”.

  3. Uly October 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    I think searching diligently through your candy (and making trades along the way) is a crucial part of Halloween. “Poisoned candy!” isn’t really that much stupider than “Zombies and vampires on the loose!”, is it?

  4. Yan Seiner October 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Our kids’ swim club puts on a big bash for all the neighborhood kids at Halloween. It’s indoors (important here in the PNW where it’s been raining and freezing and raining and freezing since Monday). We (I) cook hotdogs, and the swim kids run the games and have a blast with the little ones in costume.

    It’s not the traditional house to house, but it’s mostly run by older kids for younger kids, it brings in kids and families from all over the neighborhood, and it’s fun all around.

    So it’s a win-loss – we don’t cater to the paranoia (we don’t say come play with us because it’s safe) but I am sure that’s on many parents’ minds. But the kids run it, so it’s a win for them.

  5. Amber Kent October 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    There is a crazy old German lady on our street that always hands out apples. We let our kids eat them. And I’m proud to say that they both ate them right then and there (while we were trick or treating). I didn’t even wash them off first!

  6. bmax October 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Yes it’s probably OK to eat unwrapped candy. The question is – why would you want to? And any homemade treat I ever got as a kid looked really unappetizing to say the least. Those always went into the garbage first.

  7. dancing on thin ice October 25, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Its not just Halloween where non existent or rare fears are pushed.
    What about TV? Turn on the closed captioning and notice that nearly every sentence of the news ends in an exclamation mark! The stories on the Biography channel are now of mass murderers instead of great figures of history. Many documentaries offer junk science with an ominous sounding announcer.
    Halloween is a time for scares but hearing them year round removes the perspective that almost all fears are make believe.

  8. Sara October 25, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Oh! I am so excited because I hand out cocoa, cider and Grammie’s homemade cookies every year with candy and light up bracelets (because my real fears are the crazy people speeding in my neighborhood ..no sidewalks). We set up a table outside and the kids trick or treat while the moms hang out in the cul-de-sac. One year we didn’t do this because it rained and we almost had a neighborhood uprising. People actually asked “Where are the cookies and cider?” Generally some little zany something happens…I’ll let you know what it is this year.

  9. Laura October 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Eat unwrapped Halloween candy, from trick-or-treating? No thanks. I’m not afraid that it’s poisoned, I’m afraid because it’s gross. It could have been touched or handled by any number of adults and/or kids digging through the treat bowl. Yuck.

  10. marie October 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Uh oh. You are going to publish photos of our children? But what if the child molesters SEE the photos?? Perverts are everywhere! Especially on Halloween!

  11. Heather P. October 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    I have another friend who’s posted about GMOs and additives in the candy.
    So the factory-made mass-produced stuff is poison because of the additives, food coloring, etc. and the homemade stuff is poisoned because people are crazy.

    Got it.

    *pounds head*

  12. Buzz Bishop October 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    Here here Lenore!

    I did a video blog for Babble this week pleading with parents to come and join us on the streets for one of the best community building nights of the year:


  13. Amanda Matthews October 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    “the ONE DAY OF THE YEAR that kids get to DRESS and ACT like adults and GO OUT INTO THE WORLD and DO SOMETHING ON THEIR OWN”

    The announcement for trick-or-treating times in my town said for parents to please accompany their children. Sigh. It was a request and not a demand, but still, sigh.

    @Jess you are so right. Last year I bought the costumes way too big so that my kids could wear their coats under them. And fortunately my daughter wanted a boy’s costume – there would be no way to make that work with a store-bought girl’s costume, with as skimpy as they are. This year I crocheted their costumes; warm sweaters and hats that look like what they wanted to be, so they are actually meant to be worn outside (and only cost me $4 each to make vs the $25 each for the lightweight inspiration costumes… I have 4 kids so…).

  14. Corey October 25, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    I’m always shocked at how many parents ignore the REAL danger at Halloween… automobiles. Last Halloween I was scolded for letting my kid wear his Darth Vader mask, because “he can’t see and might fall”. But I was the ONLY PARENT of 20 or 30 kids in a large group that got right out on the road and waved down cars that were speeding. They let their kids run across the road willy-nilly, while college kids raced home in the dark, without a care. Good thing they weren’t wearing masks! Most of them were drinking beer from the adult ‘wagon’ and feeling quite safe.

    Focus on the REAL danger this year, please!

  15. Mike October 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Everyone go watch the classic movie “Meet me in St. Louis”. The Halloween scene is how Halloween used to be, and still SHOULD be. Except for maybe not lighting a wagon on fire in the middle of the street…

    Seriously though, it was clearly a night for children. The idea “a parent needs to escort them everywhere they go, standing 3 feet off of the porch” was beyond inconceivable.

    Watch it. Really.

  16. Andrea Clark October 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    My children were trick-or-treating a couple of years ago, and one woman, whom we did not know, was passing out homemade mini muffins. Of course, my alarm bells immediately went off, but attached to the individually wrapped muffins was this woman’s name, address, and phone number. The label calmed my fears. She was willing to attach her name and stand behind her product, so I didn’t have a problem letting my children eat the muffins, which were easily both the healthiest and the yummiest treat in their bags.

  17. Justin October 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    I wish I could remember where I saw it but there was an article that took all the cases of Halloween candy being poisoned by strangers versus all the cases where a parent poisoned their own children’s Halloween candy. Apparently letting your parents inspect your candy is much riskier than not letting them inspect it.

  18. Justin October 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Just found Snopes talking about it http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp

  19. Havva October 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    I’m not sure where you would get a genuine home made treat from a stranger anymore, outside of one of those safety parties.

    Anything that wasn’t prepackaged was already gone by the time I was a kid. Unless it was at a safety party. The only time I ever saw traditional treats was when a friend’s mom extended our range by having us finish our evening at the house of an old woman she knew. The grandma plied us with popcorn balls and candy apples, and took picture of us all, while we waited for our ride back. I swear every one of us hesitated the first time we saw these foreign foods. We arrived late into the evening and when she presented the tray, there was never an empty spot on the baking sheet. And far more than we could ever eat.

    Where we were taken back to my house for the great inspection and swap. My parents were “in charge,” and I guess everyone trusted the doctor to be careful inspecting all that candy. Here is what actually happened:
    1) My parents just told us unwrapped candy isn’t poison, but it probably had a lot of germy hands on it tonight.
    2) They showed the newbies how to inspect their own candy.
    3) They gleefully kicked back and ate all the candy corn getting ejected from our bags.

    Honestly don’t know how you would stage the photos so that people immediately see that these weren’t treat from a ‘safe alternative to trick-or-treating party.”

  20. Havva October 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    @ Jess… costumes built on accessories, or home made, are my solution. My 20 month old is going as a fairy this year. We got a set with wings, wand, and tutu that all match her coat. Depending on the weather she will wear a dress and tights, or the tutu over pants.
    The wings say for age 5+ (probably for liability reasons) but they fit great. And she is completely tiny for her age. I was sort of relieved to find that toddler accessories still exist, they just don’t admit they are for toddlers.

  21. mr. joseph's dad October 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    @jennifer, going back to when my sister’s kids were little, there was always an “uncle tax” when they came over and my wife would give them treats. now my son has to deal with the “dad tax” on any goodies he brings home.

  22. JustaDad October 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    How timely, the morning news report on my commute this morning had the standard list of Halloween safety rules today some i agree with, with regards to costumes and the way they fit, etc but i was yelling at the radio when the candy danger and homemade treat warning was emphasized twice. This urban legend gets trotted out every year. I e-mailed the radio station with the snopes link hoping for them to correct it , but i know it is futile.

  23. squishymama October 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    The only candy inspection that goes on in our house is for treats containing peanuts. Eldest is allergic but youngest is not, so she gets to take what she wants. But mama ends up with most of it, which is fine with me.

  24. Warren October 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Society has to destroy trick or treating, on Halloween. Why? Because it is the one day a year that people ignore “stranger danger” and send their kids out looking for candy. Completely against the “don’t take candy from strangers” rule. Our kids go out, have a great time, get a cool sugar rush, lots of loot, except dad’s tootsie roll tax, and OH MY GOD…………………THEY COME HOME ALIVE, AND UNHARMED.
    Stranger danger supporters cannot allow this to continue.

  25. Michelle October 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Not sure why anyone would think homemade treats are gross! My kids usually get at least one homemade cookie or rice crispies treat, or something. They’re always wrapped in Saran Wrap, so no worries about having been touched by dozens of other trick-or-treaters, and they’re perfectly yummy!

    I do go through my kids’ candy looking for the ones I like best! We call it the Candy Tax. :) I can see making a joke out of looking for poisoned candy, as long as the kids get that it’s just part of the Halloween fun and not a real concern. I’d hate for my kids to actually be afraid to eat their candy!

    Also, I don’t see why parents shouldn’t go trick-or-treating with their kids. It’s fun! I’d be sad if I had to stay at home all by myself while the kids went out. I’ve only ever missed one year of trick-or-treating, when I moved out of my parents’ house and away from the younger neighborhood kids I used to take out when I was in high school. The next year I had my own kids and got to go with them! :) I know the kids like it, too; they begged Daddy to go with us this year!

  26. Lollipoplover October 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Long live carmel apples dipped in roasted peanuts! I gladly risk damage to my dental work each year for one of these yummy treats and so do my kids.

    After trick or treating, most of the kids in our ‘hood come back to my house for a candy swap. Skittles are swapped for M&M’s, and negotiations and trades are part of the fun! They usually bag up all of the Almond Joys (which no kids want) for the lady across the street. I charge a fee for this exchange- I prefer to be paid in 100 Grands and Twix, but will accept Butterfingers and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

  27. Jen Connelly October 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I remember my parents inspecting my candy back when I was a kid in the 80s. My mom also always went with us until we we moved when we were 12 and 10 then we went together with our friends after that. I never really thought much of it but my mom enjoyed Halloween and always dressed up so it wasn’t like she was coming just to watch us (she used to go up and get candy, too, lol). There were always kids out without adults back then (usually causing mischief).

    My older kids all have plans this Halloween. My 12yo is maybe going out with her friends but they haven’t decided yet if they are too old or not (her friends are 13). My 11yo son is going with his best friend and hoping to find a ride to the “rich” neighborhood (my oldest did that last year and got better candy he said). My 10yo got asked to go with her friend who is 11 but I told her she had to take her 6yo sister with her because I really don’t feel like going out. It’s supposed to be 50F and 60% chance of rain that day.

    I’ll probably take my 2yo around the block but then I’m going home and passing out candy (first time in like 10 years).

    As for checking candy. I think I did it like one year when the kids were really little. Back then all candy got dumped into one big pile, all unwrapped (ew, germs) and hard candies were tossed (except for Jolly ranchers). Also those taffy type candies because my kids couldn’t chew them. Then I’d take all the stuff I like best (Peanut Butter Cups) and then let them fight for the rest, lol.

    Now I don’t even look in their bags and they always bring me some of the stuff I love without me asking. They also love getting homemade stuff and LOVE apples, they eat those as they’re walking.

  28. CrazyCatLady October 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Trust my neighbors! Yup, but because we are in the country, there are not enough kids to do the trick or treating with them.

    So, instead, I TRUST STRANGERS! Yup, I take my kids to a neighborhood where I know not ONE single person and let them trick or treat with the crowds of kids. And yes, I do go with my kids, but pretty much only because we have to drive to get close enough to anyone who has candy. And I think lots of other people are doing the same thing. Most of the parents I encounter at the curb seem to not live there either and are doing the same thing I am.

  29. Warren October 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    In the town I used to live in, it was surrounded by farming communities. One elderly couple didnt hand out candy to the kids, instead there were platters of baked goods, fresh coffee and tea, and lawn chairs. This was for the parents to sit, gab and let the little monsters run wild, knowing where to find us.
    Not one parent got sick from the baked goods. A little tipsy maybe….mmmmmmmm rumballs.

  30. Seoppy October 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    When I was a kid I remember getting caramel popcorn from a little old lady. I was too picky to eat it but my friend ate both and certainly lived to tell the tale. My parents never checked our candy, except when my dad swooped in to grab a handful :-)

  31. Donna October 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    My 7 year old wanted to go trick-or-treating with one of her friend’s alone without parents. I’m not really sure where she got the idea but she had her heart set on it. Sadly, this friend quickly shot the idea down by refusing to go without her mother. Mom didn’t even get to weigh in.

    My kid tries to strike out independently on her own and is shot down by other KIDS who are too afraid to go out alone. Sigh. Instead my daughter, her friend, her friend’s mother and I will all go trick-or-treating together. I would have much rather hung out with adults while the kids ran around trick-or-treating.

  32. Julie October 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    @Jess: Two things about the mass-produced Halloween costumes at Target, WalMart, etc. 1)Clearly you don’t live in California! Last year it was 70 degrees after dark on Halloween. I was in short sleeves (and I usually run cold).
    2) I doubt it’s about whether or not the kids are meant to be outside, but more about how the manufacturer can make a costume for less than $20 (and thereby get people to buy instead of making their own). Cheaper/thinner materials get the price down.

    Both my kids will be in (mostly) homemade costumes this year. Which is great.

  33. Lainie October 25, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Ahhh…the “mama tax.” Love it!

    As for the inspection, I got a lot of raised eyebrows at a Halloween party last year, when I told someone that I generally don’t inspect each piece of candy the kids bring home. First of all, they eat a good chunk of it while they’re out and I don’t have control over that. But, I told them, when they got home to do their sorting, counting and swapping, they could see pieces that might have been unwrapped or mangled. Those quickly got to the reject pile.

    I love the idea of mentioning that unwrapped candy is more likely to be infested with germs than poison…

  34. C.J. October 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    My kids get to eat the homade treats if it is from someone I know. We live in a small town so we know quite a few people. If it is from someone we don’t know it goes in the garbage. Not because I think it is poisoned but because I don’t know their kitchen habits. I don’t like potlucks either for the same reason.

  35. Sarah in WA October 25, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    I have to wonder what children with severe peanut allergies do on Halloween. Without labels, it’s impossible to determine if it might contain the allergen. Do they just not trick-or-treat? That would be sad. :( But, what can you do? We can’t force Halloween to be peanut-free, nor should we.

    Luckily, my kids aren’t allergic, so I’ve never inspected their candy. The whole idea of poisoned candy is just ridiculous.

  36. Captain America October 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    We used to get corn balls all the time. I hated them; either threw them away or made my brother take them.

    Sweet Tarts, baby. . .

  37. CrazyCatLady October 26, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    If I live in town again, I am going to set up chairs and coffee for parents. That sounds like a lot of fun!

  38. Lollipoplover October 26, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    @CrazyCatLady- we have a happy hour every year on Halloween. Kids play games, have brains and innards for dinner (spagetti and meatballs) and the adults all share mulled cider or other festive cocktails. We give out soda to trick-or-treaters and refill cocktails to parents who stop by or want to hang out. All of our lawn furniture is on the front lawn!
    I love Halloween.

  39. Miss Happ N Stance October 26, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    I’ve always wanted to bake cookies for hallowe’en, and never thought that it would be anything but a waste because of this myth… I’d like to think that maybe, maybe some people wouldn’t boycott or throw them away, but I have a feeling they’d just be wasted. Makes me sad.

  40. Ruth October 26, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    Off topic for this thread, but I’m not sure how to contact you. Check this out….extreme paranoia!


  41. Dave October 26, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    Halloween is the highlight of the year in my neighborhood. Bands on the street, people make cookies for the children. One elderly couple hand out red juice pretending its blood. I’ll send you some pictures.

  42. socalledauthor October 26, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    I also wonder, honestly, if laziness is a part of the rise in some of these “safe” events, particularly the Trunk-or-Treat that’s really gaining popularity where I live. (Basically, the cars park in, say, the church parking lot, and hand out candy as kids walk the small distance.)

    Parents are expected to go with now because of the perceived risk, but many are not interested in several hours of walking around the neighborhood, especially if it’s cold or damp. And kids are picking up on this laziness too– my nephew came back after like half a block last year because he admitted that he didn’t feel like walking any more. So, they opt for easier, “safer” alternatives where they can walk the 50 feet in a parking lot rather than the half mile through the subdivision.

  43. Tsu Dho Nimh October 26, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    I have a confession to make. My brother and I started the whole problem in the early 1960s.

    When I was a teenager, my slightly older brother and I were home alone at Halloween, and when we ran out of candy we turned the lights off. We expected that the signal would be respected and the hordes of children would skip our house.

    But they kept coming, and coming … and the pressure got to us. We cracked. We did an evil thing. We cut squares of waxed paper and wrapped chunks of dog kibble in it just to have something, anything, to hand out. They kinda looked like those paper-wrapped taffy candies.

    Half hour or so after our ingenious solution was in effect, a local cop came to the door, showed a handful of our hand-crafted treats and asked “did you hand these out?”

    My brother said, “Yes”, reached out and grabbed one, unwrapped it and ate it. Then he smiled at the cop and said, “See, delicious!”

    That was the end of the problem, the cop told us to stop handing it out, and we turned off the lights – ALL of the lights – and ignored the damned doorbell for another two hours.

    But the damage was done. Rumors spread, and it went from “I heard a kid got inedible crap in his bag” to “I heard a kid got toxic crap in his bag” to “I heard a kid got poison crap in his bag” to “I heard a kid got poisoned candy in his bag and he died” …

    Sorry ’bout that Lenore. My brother and I ruined Halloween forever.

  44. Jenna October 26, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    I’m with some of the others. The only candy inspection we do is to look through and pick out our favorites!

    Do people even hand out home-made treats anymore? Not where I live! I’d love to do that, but would anybody actually accept one?

  45. AW13 October 26, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    @Jenna – I was just having this discussion with a friend of mine who wanted to hand out homemade treats. She opted not to, but it would be nice to have the option, wouldn’t it?

  46. Emily October 26, 2012 at 3:33 am #

    1. Now that I remember it, my parents never inspected my brother’s and my Halloween candy–they figured that if it was packaged, it was okay to eat, and everything we got was packaged, so therefore, by that logic, it was safe. We’re both alive to tell the tale.

    2. One Halloween, when my brother was handing out candy, he wanted to keep as many leftovers as possible, so he mixed individual packets of INSTANT OATMEAL in with the packets of candy. To one of the kids, he actually asked, “Would you like some delicious oatmeal, or these crummy sour strawberry candies?”; and the child actually chose oatmeal. Needless to say, it’s one of our family’s favourite stories.

    3. Just for the record, my Halloween candies of choice are Skittles, Starbursts, Cherry Blasters, Swedish Berries, Fuzzy Peach Slices, and Blow Pops–but, I’m an adult (or, at least, I look like one), and I can have candy any time I want.

  47. Lea October 26, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    When I was four I lost my first tooth on Halloween while eating an apple someone had given me. I remember plenty of home made treats, apples, boxes of raisins, popcorn balls, home made suckers, cookies, cocca and lots more. aside from the rasins I loved them all. We don’t generally find people giving out home made goodies anymore and it’s sad. A couple times I’ve had folks giving out coffee or hot chocolate to adults, once someone was grilling hot dogs. The only time we seem to get good home made stuff is at parties.

    I always went trick or treating with freinds, not parents, from about 8ish up. “Big” kids didn’t need a parent and if you were seen with one you’d better have a good story ready for why. I remember one Halloween, I was 9 or 10 and it was raining and cold. Most of my freinds just went a couple blocks and home. Me and one other went all over the place and filled our bags. we then went home to alter our home made costumes and do it all again as “new” kids. It was a great haul. My mom didn’t inspect my candy when I came home but she did eat some of it.

    I wish my kids could have those kinds of experiences. The majority of my neighborhood doesn’t pass out candy so we end up driving to other areas, to avoid the walk a whole block for one house evening. That means I’m there anyway so I walk along. I generally enjoy the door to door and eating their candy with them as we go. I don’t check the candy they get or eat. I do tell them that completely unwrapped candy has probably been touched by lots of hands and I wouldn’t eat it but they are free to. If it’s chocolate they will always risk it.

  48. suzyq October 26, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    I check my kids’ candy because it might be poisoned. I only check the good stuff, though. If I can eat it and not keel over, I’ve not only saved my kids from a potential poisoning but also saved them from hundreds of extra calories.

  49. Emily October 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    You know, the bummer about Halloween is, it’s a co-operative, community-wide event. So, this is one of the times when one set of parents can’t just unilaterally decide to let their kids do the free-range thing, make their own costumes, and go trick-or-treating, because the rest of the neighbourhood might not be participating, because they’re all off at “safe,” supervised Halloween events, or church-based “Hallelujah houses.” Even if some of the neighbours are home, someone would probably comment on the kids being out alone, and not in a good way. In fact, since we’ve had stories about people calling the police on people for letting their kids wait in the car, or play outside alone in their own yards, in broad daylight, this would be a much bigger risk–not necessarily safety-wise, but definitely lawsuit-wise.

    Anyway, this year, for Halloween, I’ve signed up to be a “monster” (I’ll probably just slash up an old T-shirt and paint my face) in a haunted house that’s being sponsored by a local radio station and grocery store, and I know that seems like it’s part of the “bubble wrap” trend, but it’s really not–the woman in our community who’s organizing it understands that SO much of Halloween has been sacrificed on the altar of “safety,” that she’s volunteering her house for the evening to give kids a bit of Halloween back, in a way that their parents will be comfortable with. On the plus side, nobody uttered a word about the “monsters” having to be background-checked.

  50. Suze October 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    I have to cope to the fact that I did check my child’s Halloween candy. But none of it ever got thrown out as I recall. He’s fine to this day; no poisoning !!!!

    As I child I remember many homemade treats which we loved; especially homemade fudge and other goodies put in those little paper halloween bags. You scored big if you got a candy apple too.

    My girlfriend did something a few years ago that I thought was smart but sad at the same time. She made candy apples and affixed a tag with her name, address and phone number so parent’s knew who made it etc. I guess so kids could get those kinds of treats again but at the same time a sad commentary on the climate of fear with halloween we now live in.

    Again, just for good measure….. We had a Fuller Brush man that lived around the corner from us. He gave out little spiked soap holders every Halloween instead of candy. My Dad used to ask when I came back from the nights candy haul if I got my “soap thingy”… it was always in there to replace the grubby one from last year. One year I even got two. Fun times :)

  51. Lollipoplover October 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    @Suze- we have a dentist who lives on our neighborhood trick-or-treat route. He gives out…toothbrushes. I force my kids to go there even though they groan. I tell them it’s always nice to have extra toothbrushes for guests just in case (and to replace grubby ones).

  52. Tina October 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Sociologist Joel Best has done research on this myth. He makes the media rounds every year debunking it over and over.

  53. mollie October 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    I want to live in Dave’s neighbourhood!!!

  54. Vanessa October 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    I saw a thread on Facebook earlier this week where people were recommending that you not only check the candy, but break each individual piece open to look for needles and razor blades. Quite a few people also mentioned letting the kids eat one or two pieces and throwing the rest away, I guess because candy is Bad and Makes You Fat. I would have been LIVID as a kid if my parents threw my candy away – I guess you’ve got to train ’em from the start to accept that sort of thing.

  55. AngieT October 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Reminds me of last year when a “facebook” friend (honestly I don’t remember friending this person but they are a friend of my cousin), who swore up and down that her aunt’s friend’s kids got poisoned by Halloween candy that they got trick or treating. I posted that snoops article and asked for the news coverage of it. She got all pissy on my and said her aunt had no reason to make this stuff up. She did post on her local news paper’s (for Howard City, MI) fb page asking for coverage. The paper responded that they hadn’t heard about it and would look into it. Shortly after that the posting on the news paper’s page was removed and she de-friended me. Guess she found out it wasn’t true. There wasn’t ever any posting about this and I suspect the Fox station for Grand Rapids would have eaten this story up if it were true.

  56. Cin October 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    @Vanessa, I think the whole “candy makes you fat” from helicopter parents who drive their kids everywhere and never allow them to go out and run the neighbourhood is the height of ironic hilarity.

  57. Donna October 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    @Vanessa – What a waste. Why even take the candy if you are just going to throw it away? I will generally go through my daughter’s candy with her after Halloween and take a bunch of it to work for my coworkers to eat, but this is self-preservation. I have no will power and eat far more of my daughter’s Halloween candy than she does. But throwing it away is ridiculous.

  58. Bob October 26, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I grew up thinking that candy-poisoning was a common thing, because my father wouldn’t let my brothers and me eat any treats we collected on Halloween unless they had been packaged in a factory. As a small child, I thought my dad knew everything, so I assumed that eating treats that hadn’t been packaged in a factory really was potentially life-threatening. Now here’s the kicker: I was born in 1954. Yes, even back in the old days this kind of silly paranoia was rampant.

  59. Vanessa October 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    @Donna – yeah, it seems weird and wasteful to me too! If someone doesn’t want their child to have candy, then they ought not let them go trick or treating in the first place, or at least donate the candy to a homeless shelter or something. Personally, I always let my daughter have one big festival of candy for the first couple of days, until she was sated and/or out of stuff she liked (didn’t take long, since she doesn’t like caramel, nuts or peanut butter). I didn’t want to be the Candy Police doling out one sucker a day for weeks on end.

  60. linvo October 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Here in Australia trick or treating for halloween is a very recent fad, so there is no long history and no childhood memories attached.

    But I noticed that the Halloween lollies they sold at the local department store were all individually wrapped. But I have not seen any mention in the media to the dangers of unwrapped lollies at all. Not that I follow the news, mind you, especially not the sensationalist media.

    We went trick or treating in our street last year with a bunch of kids from our street. The parents went with because we wanted to make sure that the kids didn’t suffer abuse from those who think Halloween has no place in Australia (beware of the Americanisation of our culture!) and also because there is no ‘code of conduct’ for the kids or the adults to follow and they had to stay as a group so people would only have to open the door to them once. We had the youngest ones running ahead and knocking on doors while the older ones hadn’t caught up yet, so us parents looked like a bunch of sheep dogs…

    No one checked their loot. There weren’t any home-made treats, but I’m sure they got some stuff that wasn’t wrapped.

  61. Rebekah October 27, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    I like most candies but do not remember any home made treats. I think I would have liked that even more. But my favorite part of Halloween has always been and still is the dressing up. We always made our own costumes. this year though sad to say I have not prepared like I usualy do so my son has a store bought one, he is 3 so a relitive picked it out. Going through Ideas tomorrow though and maybe it can stay home for dress up time.

  62. Library Diva October 27, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    On the “candy will make you fat” thread, the weirdest one I found was a local dentist who would x-ray all your candy for you for free.Then, so you didn’t get cavities, you could donate a portion of it…to the troops in Afghanistan. I admit to not knowing very much about the daily lives of deployed combat troops, but I’m guessing that a cavity there would be much harder to treat than a cavity in the suburbs where there is almost literally a dentist’s office on every street corner.

  63. Uly October 27, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    Yeah, but they get free dental, don’t they? I know people who joined up just so the military would fix their teeth. Or so they say….

  64. hineata October 27, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Halloween is newish here as well – frankly it seems to have been imported here as a marketing exercise for a few larger chain stores – and nobody I’ve heard of ever got poisoned candy. We do the church thing instead though, so are often out when the few kids who trick and treat do it, so occasionally have had the house egged and last year got left with someone else’s Nikes! Never did find the owners, sad for them.

    The stories about razors in lollies though is at least as old as I am – I remember my father telling us those sorts of urban legends gleefully when we’d complain that we didn’t have a night when the neighbourhood served us up free lollies….

    Personally I prefer Guy Fawkes Night (‘Do you remember the fifth of November?’) – there’s nothing quite like setting off fireworks and burning effigies in remembrance of some poor fool trying to blow up the English Parliament. Sick, really – but an awful lot of fun! Like the night they built the town bonfire in the paddock next door to the church, and one of the skyrockets tipped, taking out a stainglass window and setting fire to the steeple….Small town living sets you up to be content with the little pleasures of life :-) !

  65. Andy October 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    @Library Diva I guess that soldiers will appreciate candy anyway. I guess that they get to eat treats much less then suburban kids, so their teeth should be fine. They exercise quite a lot, so they should not get fat. Each of them will get less candies than most of those suburban kids anyway.

    Plus, they can use military doctors. They do not have to hire local doctor for basic health care. At least, I hope.

  66. Matt in GA October 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    I remember telling my father once that he was supposed to inspect my trick or treat candy (they must’ve coached us about this in school).

    Dad asked why. I told him he had to check it to make sure it hadn’t been poisoned.

    “How the hell am I supposed to know if it’s been poisoned?” he replied.

    That was the first and last time we dealt with the candy scare non-issue.

  67. Beth October 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    @Matt in GA…yeah, I never understood exactly what I was supposed to be inspecting the candy *for*, as a parent. Ah, but I see above that I was supposed to break all candy in pieces to look for needles! And I guess I could have inspected wrappers for needle prick marks (assuming hypodermics woud have been used to inject the poison), or sniffed all the candy for unusual odors.

    Amazingly, my kids, and all kids ever who went trick-or-treating and weren’t poisoned by a family member, lived.

  68. Elaine G October 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    My Dad wouldn’t let us eat the apples we got as kids on Halloween, but that was because a boy (the previous yr or so…can’t remember exactly..it was the 70’s) bit in to one that had sewing needles pushed into it. The rest of our candy was “inspected (translation-picked through for their favorites) and the apples were used for the pies my Dad would make for dessert the following Sunday. My son wouldn’t touch his candy till he got home…actually he hardly hate any of it, his fun was the dressing up and going out with his friends. My daughter..well..i had to tell her not to eat any until she was home, or she’d eat herself sick and not enjoy the rest of the evening (yup, she’s a candy fiend) LOL!

  69. Arianne October 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Hey, Lenore, I thought you’d be interested to see this little update: http://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-to-get-to-school-in-style.html

    Also, fyi, it looks like the twitter feed on the FRK home page is a few weeks behind…not sure what that means. :-)

  70. Donald October 28, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    @ uly

    I like your comparison between poisoned candy
    and vampires. Both are figments of the imagination

  71. Jenny Islander October 28, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Re individually wrapped lollies: I live in an area of high humidity. Lollipops and so forth are always sold wrapped because if you put a bunch of unwrapped hard candies in a bag, they’ll stick together after about an hour.

  72. Sarah October 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    There’s a great article about this on MentalFloss.com:


  73. Kimberly October 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    I grew up in Houston so under the shadow of both Candyman Killers. Ronald O’brien who tried to mask the murder for profit of his children as a “Halloween” poisoning case – was also dubbed the Man who Killed Halloween.

    Dean Corll was a serial killer of young men. His family owned a small candy manufacturing company.

    Some people get the two confused and swear there was a serial killer that murded children on Halloween for years.

    O’brien used giant pixie sticks to hide the cyanide. For a while my mom wouldn’t let us eat pixie sticks. Apparently one day when she was objecting to us being given pixie sticks I asked her if she or Dad were planning on killing us. She said no. Then why worry about the pixie sticks the man was trying to kill his own kids. She let us have the pixie sticks – and Dad decided I watched way to much news on TV.

    I also remember arguing with my parents that I should be allowed to eat hard candy from my trick or treat bag, before the inspected it for peanuts. Hard candy unlike chocolate doesn’t hide peanuts/peanut oil. So we agreed on certain types of candy I could eat “on my own”.

    We had a big carnival at school and went trick or treating afterwards. After the 1st year we moved there – our neighbors made an effort to have peanut free candy for me. The rule at the carnival was you take what you were given, but I remember the parents asking “:can you eat this” if the answer was no – they would let me select something I could eat. With the exception of 1 bully and one family that didn’t believe in allergies no one objected to my “special treatment”. There was also a special bowl of sugar free candy for 2 kids that were diabetic. (The family that didn’t believe in allergies also didn’t believe id diabetes so they were wackoloons 2x)

  74. ifsogirl October 29, 2012 at 4:39 am #

    I think I’m going to post an update on FB letting everyone know I WON’T be checking my kids Halloween candy. Kinda curious what kind of response I’ll get.

    As for the costumes, living just above the PNW in Canada we have nothing but rainy and/or cold Halloweens here too. I made a deal with my kids that they must have long sleeves to wear flannels under and thick leggings must be worn as well. I will carry their coats for warming up in. There is always the mall trick or treating but it’s always so boring. Everyone in a giant line walking sooooo slowly from store to store. My oldest got bored of it by age 4. They want to go door to door, see the decorated houses and pumpkins. I might be freezing cold but it’s all for them. Being that they are only 5 and 7 and our streets have no sidewalks or streetlights I will go with them for now.

  75. hineata October 29, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    @Kimberly – wow, I always thought the Candyman was one of those silly horror movie characters. Didn’t realise there were real ones…..

    Learning something new every day…

  76. Amanda Matthews October 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    @Sarah in WA – pretty much all candy has allergen warnings nowadays, even when they don’t contain a nutrition label.

    You just have to tell kids that are allergic to peanuts not to eat anything they aren’t sure about – that’s important year-round, not just on Halloween. My niece is allergic to peanuts, and she just doesn’t eat anything she’s unsure about; she trades that stuff, and the stuff she knows contains peanuts, to her cousins or friends.

  77. Jenny Islander October 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Living on an island at 58 degrees north, I make sure that all of my children have costumes that can stand up to the weather. If I can’t find what they want, I pay to have it made. We even made a weather-ready mermaid one year. It seems as though the older my girls get, the harder it becomes to find weather-ready costumes in their size. Luckily, this year they both agreed to something a size bigger than they actually wear, and in colors that coordinate with their silk long johns. (Silk long johns are one of the best winter purchases for free-range kids, along with clingfree insulated gloves and real wool socks!) So they are going as a well-insulated vampire lady and spiderweb fairy, with a play wig to keep one head warm and a cute knitted cap for the other.

  78. Carol October 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Proud to say that during my kids’ prime Trick or Treat years– approximately 1988-2002 inclusive –I never once cautioned them about poison or razor blades, neglecting as well to warn them of the possibility of being molested by random sex offenders on the front steps of their homes. Once the oldest was 11, and the youngest 5, I judged them competent to do their begging without adult supervision, and encouraged them to wait until dark to do it. Most years we managed the unpredictable Halloween weather by home made costumes– it’s easy enough to have a suitable jacket on hand for a gypsy, vampire, pirate, punk-rocker or whatever.

    They usually brought home reams of school-issued handouts “suggesting” a boring, regimented, parent-run late afternoon snoozefest, but they had learned at an early age that in mom’s world, nobody from school is the boss of you after or away from school, so they felt free to ignore it all. For the better part of their childhoods we lived in one of the poorer neighborhoods of a blue-collar town, an area where in most families a fair amount of self-reliance was expected of kids, so at least I didn’t have to worry about scandalizing the neighbors.

    In that paradise of parental neglect, the only questionable treats were from one elderly couple who regularly handed out little packets of condiments snagged at restaurants– mayonnaise, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, the works. It didn’t require adult supervision to keep the kids from gobbling those up, although for some the little cups of jam or jelly were an enjoyable change of pace.

  79. Robert October 29, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Bucking trends, it seems, over the past decade or more my neighborhood here in the Bronx has become more trick-or-treat friendly than I ever remember from my own childhood. They seem to come from afar the the blocks around here, some families driving in.

    For years I was giving out samples of my bubble bath (see link) instead of or in addition to edibles. However, people I’ve talked to about it seem to indicate that, paradoxically, parents would be more likely to throw that away out of fear than they would edibles! Even though since then I’ve seen online recommend’ns to give out bubble bath among other non-edibles as treats, it seems that anything that’s unusual is considered “weird’ and therefore dangerous. Maybe in my case all the more so since it’s not a major brand.

  80. Robert October 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    @Bob, coincidentally I too am a Bob born in 1954, and my mother said she too heard those stories of razor blades in apples on Halloween.

  81. Jenny Islander October 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    We have the best reason ever for sending kids to downtown trick-or-treat instead of going out to the neighborhoods: Multiple large and hungry bears are hanging around in wooded neighborhoods, hoping to score one last big meal before hibernation. It’s the lead article in Monday’s paper. Downtown ToT ends before sunset. Other tips:

    Be indoors by 8 p.m. because the bears are most active at night.

    Don’t send little kids out alone. Stick together in groups and don’t sneak around–bears hate to be surprised.

    Everybody take flashlights. If you plan to ToT where there are a lot of trees and brush nearby, take an airhorn.

    Don’t actually go into the woods this Halloween, OK?

    And no bear costumes.

    Also, just like every day of the year, don’t go near Dumpsters or trash cans after dark.

    And if you see a bear, call out “BEAR!” and walk (don’t run) away from there and call the cops!

  82. Maegan October 30, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    My husband and I love taking my siblings, nieces, and nephews trick-or-treating. And I love that my mom doesn’t come along and lecture them the entire way. We let the older kids run ahead if they want to. We don’t mind when kids get too hot and start shedding layers or eat (packaged and homemade) treats along the route. My mom was so upset a few years ago when we walked in the house and my sister’s elephant suit was half-off. The poor kid was sweating. I think we’ve finally put a stop to inspections (though I believe my sister still sifts through her 5-year-old’s bucket and, of course, rations out his treats for the evening, which instills in me a deep sense of pity for the poor boy). The rest of the kids poor out their sacks, organize the treats, trade them, and give me dark chocolate and sour gummies. Next year well have our own 8-month-old twins to take along. We’ll keep the tradition of trick-or-treating alive as long as they enjoy it. And, I’d like to mention that pedestrian fatalities are not rampant on Halloween, either. It’s very sad when it does happen and the chances are higher than on other days (about 5 kids a year), but it’s important to keep that in perspective, while, of course, teaching traffic safety to both pedestrians and drivers.

  83. Celina November 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Sorry Lenore! No pics! Only because my girls went trick or treating without me and had their candy apples eaten by the time they got home. It was the only home made treat they received, and was from a neighbour several homes down. They had a great time! They are 6 & 11.


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