Back in the early '80s, when Blondie's "Call Me," Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" and "Every Breath You Take" by the Police were topping the charts, the urban myth of razor-blade apples and poisoned candy paralyzed parents of would-be trick-or-treaters.
And if you are still worried, at least one hospital in the state will X-ray your candy for you!
For years, the urban myth has circulated around Halloween-time. Claims of heroin-laced candy and cyanide-filled Pixi Sticks helped fuel what became known as "Halloween Sadism."
Today, the idea that there are people who contaminate candy for the purpose of harming or killing randomly targeted children remains fixed in the Halloween consciousness.
Moses Lake will X-ray
Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake, Wash., has had a free x-ray screening every Halloween for the past 20 years. Parents and children are invited to the hospital and dump their candy on a cafeteria tray which then is run through the x-ray machine.
Children can even watch the candy go through the x-ray on screens in the hospital lobby.
Halloween safety from 1985: “There are a few people who will do things to hurt kids. They might put sharp or hard objects in candy or apples …”
Connie Opheikens, community relations director for the hospital, said that while the service gives parents peace of mind, it also exposes children to hospitals, reported the Columbia Basin Herald.
"We show them that the candy comes out just perfectly fine and if you have to have your arm X-rayed, your arm's going to be perfectly fine, too," she said.
At one point the service may have been more for the parents' piece of mind, said Bim Lindsey, Diagnostic Imaging Director at Samaritan Hospital.
“But now I think it’s more educational," he said.
In the 20 years that Samaritan Hospital has been doing the screening, the only out-of-place object radiologists have encountered are a few paper-clips. But those were believed to have just been stapled to some candy rather than an act of Halloween Sadism.
Just a myth
But Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, says that this myth is just that: a myth.
Best has been studying Halloween Sadism since the early 1980s.
“I have been unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating,” he writes in his Wall Street Journal post.
A survey of news reports, Best writes, found no more than two reported incidents of this type in any given year since 1982, and Best notes that researchers who follow up such stories find they are usually hoaxes or a murder of a child attempting to use the myth as a cover-up for the crime.
Still, the myth remains prevalent even today.
The relentless urban legend
Keeping the urban legends alive in the following video “The Dangers Of Halloween Candy”
The Moses Lake hospital has continued its X-ray service despite the small risk of actually finding contaminated candy.
"You never know," said Lindsey. "You hope that the community is not that type, and I don’t think the community is."
Another reason, Lindsey suggested, was to "dispel urban myth."
Halloween safety from 1985:“Getting my insides scooped out tickles me. It would tickle you too if you were a pumpkin!”
On the web
- Snopes on Halloween Sadism
- The Wall Street Journal: "Razor blades in candy? Basically a myth, says professor."
- Halloween Safety Tips from the Seattle Police Department