Candy from strangers: researching Halloween parenting myths

You've spent months pinning perfect family costume ideas. You've bought--and probably replaced--your basket of candy. You've put finishing touches on DIY costumes or fixed already-broken ready-made masks. Now it's time for good wholesome Halloween fun!

But wait. Don't let the kids eat any candy while they're walking around the neighborhood, because it might be poisoned.

And when they get home, make them pour out the candy so that you can check it all for hidden razor blades and pins. 

And watch out for killer clowns.

Perhaps because it's a holiday built around the supernatural, Halloween has inspired countless horror stories about children being harmed by their neighbors. The titles and accompanying images tend to be share-worthy, so they zoom around social media, inciting general panic about the safety of the holiday. Some of these stories have a kernel of truth, but most are completely fabricated. 

This Halloween, let me treat you to snopes, one of my go-to resources for debunking the scariest of claims I see bouncing around on social media. Take the poisoned candy scare. There is a well-documented case of a child being poisoned on Halloween, but that child was poisoned by his own father in an attempt to receive a large life-insurance settlement. The snopes investigation found not a single case of a person randomly passing out poisoned candy on Halloween. 

Is the mystery flavor poison? No. 

Is the mystery flavor poison? No. 

So you can rest easy about poisoned candy. What about razor blades? That one's a little trickier. There are documented instances of children finding sharp objects in apples or candy. Mikkelson, however, notes that none of these instances ever caused serious injury, and that it's hard to determine whether or not children received candy with sharp objects or put sharp objects in their candy in order to panic their parents

You're certainly going to see clowns on Halloween, but how many of them have intent to harm? The creepy clown murders you've read about are false, and the clowns are not starting the purge on Halloween, either. So all the clowns you see are just run-of-the-mill scary clowns. 

Halloween's safer than we're led to believe. Go enjoy your evening. Meet the neighbors. Eat some candy. And if you need a last-minute DIY costume, consider going as an internet sleuth. Take your computer from house to house and teach your neighbors about snopes.


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