Sunday, November 7, 2010

Again, trust your neighbors: trick-or-treating is safe

This topic is a perennial pet peeve of mine, and I mention it in my book. It parallels my last post (about Kitty Genovese), as another example of misinformation that leads to less trust in society and a more pessimistic worldview than is warranted.

This article in the Daily Herald, "Schaumburg Halloween candy tampering a hoax, police say", is about a 16-year-old boy who, to get attention, stuck a needle in his own Halloween candy and claimed he found it there.

The article runs along fine until the last paragraph, which states:

"According to websites like and, true incidents of trick-or-treat candy tampering and other related examples of “Halloween sadism” have been documented and, while rare, are not urban legends as they’re sometimes claimed to be."

Which is wrong. If you go to Snopes and look up Halloween poisonings, a big red circle is sitting next to a very clear "FALSE".

I recommend the Snopes article to everyone; I won't repeat all its details here. It lists several incidents, but none fit the story of neighbors inserting needles or poison or razor blades into candy and them giving them out for Halloween. The story has been around for 50 years, and is simply not true.

I think it's amazing that the Daily Herald article itself is about a hoax (it even clearly says "hoax" in the title), and they are aware of and even mention it, and yet still can not give up the belief that Halloween poisonings are real. It's like they threw "" in there without anyone clicking through and actually reading it.

It's sad that it's so difficult for us to believe people wouldn't poison kids. As I said in my last post, trust your neighbors a little more. They're not as bad as you think.

Update: Ok, there is a second Snopes article here that focuses on needles, not poison. It's weird that there would be two separate articles on this. Nevertheless, it seems like many more cases involving pins and needles have been documented than poison. However, most were revealed to be hoaxes, with the exception of one event in Minneapolis in 2000. No one was hurt.

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