As the holiday that makes it okay to beg strangers for candy approaches, there is an uptick in Halloween crime warnings about poisoned candy, ding, dong ditch with fatal results, razor blades in homemade goods like Candy Apples and fake kidnapping rings looking to steal children for sex trafficking. Let’s discuss a few of these.
Poisoned Candy: This is based on an actual case of a poisoned Pixy Stix. Halloween 1974 netted the O’Bryan children (Timothy 8 and Elizabeth 5). This is a bit complicated, so I’ll try to explain it briefly. The O’Bryan children and some friends, were trick or treating with a handful of parents, including Ron O’Bryan, father of Timothy and Elizabeth. At one house, the occupants didn’t answer the knocks of the children and after a few moments the kids moved on to a different house. Ron O’Bryan joined them a few minutes later with 5 large Pixy Stix that he said he’d gotten from the house with no answer. At the end of the evening, Ron gave two of the 5 sticks to his own children and the others were given to those that had gone trick or treating with his kids. As the kids were getting ready for bed, Tim asked to eat some of his Halloween candy. His father selected one of the Pixy Stix. Tim began to feel sick and then have convulsions. He was rushed to the hospital where it was determined he’d ingested cyanide. Sadly, he died. During the investigation, the remaining four Pixy Stix were tested and found to contain Cyanide. The police went to the house where Ron claimed to receive the poisoned Pixy Stix that Timothy ate. The police interviewed the occupants of the house and learned they had been out of town on Halloween so absolutely could not have given Ron the poisoned candy. It was later determined that Ron poisoned the 5 Pixy Stix. In the months leading up to Halloween he had taken out life insurance in the amount of $100,000 on each of his children. He poisoned the Pixy Stix for the life insurance money. He was convicted of 1st degree murder and 4 counts of attempted murder. And he was executed by the state of Texas for his crimes. However, this is the only confirmed case of poisoned candy in the US.
Trick Or Treat Robbery Leads to Murder: In 1982, an Iowa couple opened the door to what they thought were trick or treaters, but the trick was on them sadly. A man in a mask stood at their door and demanded they open their safe and give him all the money. The couple thought it was a joke until the man barged into the house, pulled out a gun, and threatened to shoot both of them. The husband opened the safe and gave the man the contents, then grabbed for the man’s mask. The man shoot and killed him. However, police quickly learned it had to be an inside job as almost no one knew about the safe. Several members of the couple’s family has been investigated for the murder, but no arrest or conviction has been made due to lack of evidence. However, at least one detective is positive he knows which member of the family committed the crime and he gave all his notes to a different detective when he retired and it is still being investigated. There is hope the advent of touch DNA will solve the case, as the man left his mask at the scene.
Kidnapped for Sex Trafficking: I searched the internet for three days to find a case of a child being kidnapped on Halloween and later found to be the victim of trafficking. I found none. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even find many kidnappings. Mostly, I found attempted kidnappings. Since the 1970s, it has been normal for parents to accompany children trick or treating in the US. And there is usually a group of children chaperoned by several adults when going door to door getting candy. This makes kidnappings difficult and usually a parent figures out what is going on which is why most of the cases I found were attempted kidnappings. So, I’m going to say as long as a few adults accompany a group of children out trick or treating, the chances of this happening are indeed slim. Having cell phones has increased the difficulty.
Razor blades in Homemade Goods: When I was a child, god forbid I get a candy apple or rice Krispie Treat that came out of someone’s kitchen. My parents were convinced that these homemade goods might contain anything from razor blades to straight pins to needles, to HIV tainted blood. I couldn’t find any evidence this had happened in the history of trick or treating in the US. Probably because it defies common sense. If you’ve ever eaten a candy apple, you know there is no way to stick a razor blade in it. Furthermore, straight pins aren’t that stiff, and bend when they try to pierce a ripe apple and I did try this just to see how it would work. Needles those are the things that went in. But needles are not bite friendly. They are longer than the bite of most adults and definitely longer than the bite of a child. In order to end up with a needle in the mouth, the bite would need to be deep enough to pull the needle completely out of the apple. Otherwise, it’s going to stick out of the mouth. Also, while people have been known to swallow needles, they are always instances where the person was sucking on it or holding it between their teeth. If you managed to get the needle out without it sticking out of your mouth from your bite into the apple, it’s still a stick of metal in a piece of crunchy fruit. This is important, because apples have to be chewed and teeth hitting a needle while chewing is something we would all notice, even the most unobservant child would figure out it was there before they swallowed it. As for the HIV tainted treats… again this isn’t real plausible. Rice Krispie treats and Candy apples might be served cold and they might not be “cooked” but elements of them are; marshmallow has to be melted as does caramel. Both melt only after being exposed to prolonged temps around 180 degrees which is why they burn you if you touch them. Yes, it eventually cools, but blood born illnesses can’t survive these temps. So even if you smeared an apple with blood and then dipped it in the caramel, the initial dipping would kill the virus. Same with rice krispie treats. Now, you could try to add the blood after it had cooled, but people are going to notice it, even if you dye the marshamallows red, you’ll never get it the same shade of red/brown that blood is. Same for caramel (I am willing to try dying caramel though, just because I’m not sure it will take the color). And good lord, have you seen the size of a razor blade? No one is accidentally swallow one of these from a homemade candy treat. There has never been an instance of homemade Halloween treats containing poison. A few cases of food poisoning, but that’s because shit happens and it definitely isn’t the same as say cyanide or arsenic or ricin. The closest I could find to one of these strange scenarios happening was a little boy in New Jersey cutting himself on an open pocket knife that was put in his trick or treat bag. However, it was a cheap kid’s pocket knife and the “closing mechanism” turned out to suck and even investigators couldn’t get it to stay closed.
Now, there are two other crimes I could mention here. We’ll start with the murder of Karl Jackson in 1998. Karl had just turned 21. He and his girlfriend had gone over to a friend’s house to pick up the girlfriend’s 2 year old child from a kid’s Halloween party in the Bronx. Karl noticed some teens throwing eggs, got out of his car where he was waiting on his girlfriend, and went over to them, admonishing them for throwing the eggs. After the lecture, Karl went back to his car and as he sat in the driver’s seat, one of the teens walked over to his window and shot him at point blank in the head.
In 2008, TJ Darrisaw was 12 years old when he was murdered. Darrisaw, his father, and his younger brother knocked on the door of a house where Quentin Patrick lived and were mowed down by gunfire from an AK-47. Patrick thought the trick or treaters were rival gang members come to kill him. He did look outside and assumed the masked children and their father were there to kill him. He fired 29 shots through the front door and the walls near it. Despite receiving multiple gunshot wounds, Darrisaw’s father and younger brother survived. The investigation showed that Quentin Patrick did indeed have his porch light on that night, the understood signal in the US that the occupants are handing out candy.
So kick back and enjoy your candy and remember you are far more likely to be killed by someone you know, than by a stranger, even on Halloween.