Hallowe'en is safe, your kids are safe, the only scary thing is the warnings

Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy has a stirring editorial in defense of Hallowe'en and kids in today's Huffpo:
It's not that I'm cavalier about safety. I'm just a sucker -- so to speak -- for the facts. And the fact is: No child has been poisoned by a stranger's goodies on Halloween, ever, as far as we can determine. Joel Best, a sociology professor at the University of Delaware, studied November newspapers from 1958 to the present, scouring them for any accounts of kids felled by felonious candy. And...he didn't find any. He did find one account of a boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix his father gave him. Dad did it for the insurance money and, Best says, he probably figured that so many kids are poisoned on Halloween, no one would notice one more...

It's not just the fact that churches and community centers are throwing parties so that kids don't go out on their own. It's not just the fact that Bobtown, Pennsylvania has gone so far as to "cancel" Halloween altogether -- for the sake of "safety." (The authorities there were surprised to find this decision unpopular.) It's not even that those of us who'd like to hand out homemade cookies know they'll be instantly tossed in the trash.

No, the truly spooky thing is that Halloween has become a riot of warnings that are way scarier than the holiday itself. The website Halloween-Safety.com recommends that if your child is carrying a fake butcher knife, make sure the tip is "smooth and flexible enough to not cause injury if fallen upon."

As Goes Halloween, So Goes Childhood


  1. “The website Halloween-Safety.com recommends that if your child is carrying a fake butcher knife, make sure the tip is “smooth and flexible enough to not cause injury if fallen upon.””

    Which is really important. I mean, all those overzealous parents today what with the playdates and the real armaments for the trick or treating.

    “what’s that Johnny? Homicidal postman you say, I’ve got the perfect riot control pump action shotgun for you. Oh, jack the ripper you say, I’ve got just the perfect flaying knife from that new japanese sushi prep set I picked up the other day.”

    I can’t seem to find the key for the tongue in cheek emoticon.

    Most of the warnings I see about Halloween go into the if you have to warn them about, we should seriously think about a 24/7 handholder.

    But, every generation has to have it’s Man, killin the fun loudly for everyone else.

  2. It’s never too late to trick-or-treat! I tried last year for the first time in over a decade (I’m in my 20’s) and people were surprisingly friendly about it. You just need to be in the right neighborhood- say, a section full of Halloween-loving college students, rather than the haters who turn off their lights and hide from all the kids, let alone anyone older. I even got a cute, cat-shaped homemade cookie, which of course I didn’t throw away.

    1. This sounds pretty sour, but I’m in my early 20’s and call me traditional, but I’ve always found the idea of adults trick-or-treating to be oddly offensive. Maybe it’s the thought of giving sweets to someone who can buy all the candy they want any time of the year. If someone my age or older came to my door expecting candy, I would refuse. You should be giving out candy!

      1. I can understand where you’re coming from, and I agree partially- in normal circumstances, giving out candy is what adults should do, if only because if they don’t, there’s no candy for the kids. However, I live in a condo. Trick or treaters simply never come through here, so giving out candy and enjoying seeing what all the kids have come up with for costumes this year simply isn’t an option.

        To Brainspore- trick-or-treating as an adult doesn’t take anything away from the kids out doing it or ruin their fun in any way, so I’m not sure what your point is. But if it makes you feel any better, I was doing it for Unicef- it was for money for a good cause. The people answering their doors apparently didn’t feel the same way as you, because they insisted on giving me treats as well.

        1. Keep on keeping on Hanglyman – I’m a sourpuss and I know it.

          On the topic of safe candy, my dad was in the air force, so I lived on base when I was a kid. I guess that made us all feel safer about who was giving out candy, and I think trick-or-treating was pretty large scale because it was one of the easier ways the parents could make sure we had “regular kid” childhood memories. Still, baked goods and opened stuff got dumped in my house. we also had a dentist nearby who dutifully doled out floss and sugar-free lollipops every year.

    2. Sorry, I’ll have to second that “yes you are too old to trick or treat” sentiment. Not because it’s unsafe or anything, but because it’s one of the few awesome things left within the sole realm of children.

      Adults get to do all kinds of fun stuff that kids don’t: driving, drinking, financial freedom, R-rated movies, sex… is it really asking too much to leave one thing that makes it fun to be a kid? Go to a costume party and leave the candy for the shorties.

  3. I was a kid in Houston when the ass hat gave his kid the tainted pixi-stick. I remember mom hysterically throwing out my remaining ones in the morning and asking,”Did you eat any, DID YOU EAT ANY?”

    I also remember a father of the year award winner who placed radio-active stuff in his kids socks. BAN SOCKS!

  4. Ha! Where I live in PG County MD you have much more to fear from the trick or treating kids than they have to fear from you! We’re changing it up this year, we bought 100 22″ glowsticks on amazon to give out instead of candy. Guess I have to warn the kids not to eat them.

  5. I want my daughter to wait until she gets home to eat the candy… not because I’m worried about some SOB putting poison in the food but because she’s too little for bubble gum and I want a chance to fish it out of her stash first. I’m far more worried about excited children ressed in dark colour costumes bing hit by inattentive drivers then I am about the candy.

  6. You know the little chocolates that come wrapped in foil? I’ve always thought it would be cool to have little rectangular chocolates wrapped in foil with an image of a razor blade on it to give out. “Mom look, a razor blade!!!” (*mother faints*)

  7. I have to go through my kids’ candy stash to remove all that dangerous chocolate. They can keep the gummi bears and the dum dums.

  8. I remember one year there was a local hospital that would X-RAY!!! your bag of candy for free just to check for razor blades and staples. Friggin’ ridiculous.

  9. The Halloween Candy Panic du jour is H1N1 of course! My roommate said they’re telling people to WASH THEIR CANDY before eating it.

  10. I’m pretty sure the safety-nazi have long-ago moved on from the poisoned-candy/razor-blade-apple fear mongering. The big safety bugaboo they like to trot-out now is the one about all the child-molesters and sexual predators stalking our neighborhoods each Halloween. Hell, some of them live among you and can’t wait to snatch your young ones off the front porch.

  11. When I was a kid, my parents always made us wait until we got home and they inspected the candy before eating. This was probably overkill because I grew up in the country and we trick-or-treated by car, visiting only neighbors my parents knew. To add insult to injury, they exacted a ‘tax’ for the inspection service. :-)

  12. Every Halloween I hear the same anti-scare comments. I was one of the kids who received a sewing needle embedded in the roof of my mouth. Way not cool.

    So…I don’t advocate having a freak-out and not letting your kids have candy at Halloween, but I do strongly recommend checking the candy out before the kids eat it. My 3 year old daughter will be trick-or-treating and will be allowed candy today. I’ll just do a quick visual check of it before she gets it. Doing that much would have saved me considerable pain when it happened to me.

  13. Our country church has a Halloween party complete with trick-or-treating in the parking lot. The twisty turny road we’re on has idiots going 55mph (or more) in a 40mph zone in the rain anyway, and we don’t want to add trick-or-treating kids into that mix. (That, and quite a few of our members live on farms with long driveways so they never see any trick-or-treaters anyway.)

  14. Kickstart, Urbandude, I hope you reported these incidents to the police? They need something to keep them busy, after all. If they don’t have real crimes to track they get up to mischief; idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

    Cory, I don’t believe my kids are safe, nor do I believe Hallowe’en is safe. I don’t expect safety, I don’t believe it exists in this world, and I think that the real “terror” problem in the USA today is that most people are cowards who want to live in unachievable swaddled safety instead of in the real live unsafe exciting dangerous wonderful world.

    But yeah, I’m on my soap-box again. Sorry.

    1. Ito….no, the incident was never reported to police, because I am not an asshat and neither were my parents. We pulled the needle out, saw that the bleeding would stop fine, realized that we could never track down where the needle came from, and moved on. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t watch their kid’s candy however.

      1. the incident was never reported to police, because I am not an asshat and neither were my parents.

        Your thought process defies comprehension.

        Either you just made the story up, or you and your non-asshat parents have embraced a philosophy that it doesn’t matter how many other children are injured as long as you’re okay. Explain to me how either of those scenarios qualifies you as ‘not an asshat’. Because I’m really not getting it.

  15. Urbandude and chgoliz, that looks more like a machine part from the manufacturing facility than a razor blade to me. Stray parts end up manufactured food all the time, no big deal, no bad intentions, nothing to get hysterical about.

  16. What do you mean “safe.” Don’t you realize that, in the last thousand years, many people have been hit by METEORS?

    Where your kids are concerned, any danger is too much danger. Those kids should always be kept safe indoors.

  17. As a kid I always inspected my own candy. It was more for the fun aspect than anything else. I’m a weirdo and seriously picky about my candy, and it was always fun to trade with my sister. My son is an only child, and his candy will be inspected, more for the fun aspect than for the “my god, someone’s trying to kill him”. And yeah, when I was a kid and now that I have a son, we throw out candy that’s been opened.
    On another note, I’m really irritated by some of the comments on this over at the Huffington Post site. People have been abducting and doing terrible things to children for a very, very long time. (I’m thinking Albert Fish, for example). It’s not a new concept. There have been crazy people for as long as people have been crazy.

  18. When I was a kid we had all those scary stories about tainted treats but my parents were wise enough to discount them. They did take control of the booty under the guise of checking it to keep me from gorging myself sick on it however. The biggest fear parents should have is from traffic and older children preying on younger ones.

    My fondest memories from Halloween involve houses that went the extra mile to make it more fun. We had garages filled with wonders like haunted houses, bobbing for apples, and best of all cotton candy and fresh popcorn. Happy Halloween all!

  19. We get over 100 trick or treaters which is considered a lot for our small town. I don’t mind the older teens who come and have at least attempted a costume (I got a preteen who said he was Little Red Riding Hood in his red hoodie and jeans). It is the adult, not in costume, with the infant, who is clearly just there for the candy. It is just not in the spirit of the night.

    I will be one of those “candy-taxing” inspector moms when my son is old enough.

    1. Completely agree about taking infants trick-or-treating. Yet for some reason, 4 people have already asked me today if we took our son out. He’s 6 months old. No, we didn’t take him trick-or-treating.

      I’m going by the general guideline that my boy won’t be ready to trick-or-treat until he can voice an opinion in his costume. Which easily could be next year.

  20. ….but if i don’t inspect my kid’s candy, how do I get any? I mean….candy tax is my livelyhood!


  21. I don’t think my parents ever checked my candy. There was no need considering I grew up on the same street my dad grew up on. He knew everyone and, therefore, everyone knew me. There were several houses that set aside home baked treats especially for my sister and I to ensure we got them before the kids they didn’t know. I feel sorry for kids today. Being deprived of candy apples is truly tragic.

  22. Got an actual staple in a chocolate bar once, but it was a factory error, not human depravity. I sent it back via the mail with an explanation and got a “sorry for your inconvenience, not that we admit to anything at all” letter plus a bunch of free candy bar certificates.

  23. I’ve always vaguely suspected that part of the hysteria may be driven by candy companies. Consider – who really profits from the idea that poison or razorblades could be hidden in any unwrapped or home-made item?

  24. I’m all in favour of free-range kids and playing the odds instead of fears. I don’t “check” my kids halloween candy (maybe because their route is still quite small and local). But saying the razor blade things doesn’t happen is a bit of a stretch. Sure don’t count on it but know to keep an eye out for the weirdos – they do exist… for example: todays paper

  25. Guess they didn’t check the Canadian papers:

    Toronto Police are warning parents to take a closer look at their child’s Halloween treats after a North York family discovered a razor blade in a loot bag.

    Police say the youth’s parents discovered the razor just after 10 p.m. Saturday night while they were checking his treats. No one was injured.

    The razor was discovered in the area of Leslie Street and Bannatyne Drive.

    Similar incidents were also reported in Whitby, north of Toronto, and Nova Scotia.

    On Saturday, an Annapolis County woman found told police she found a razor blade hidden within an apple that her child received.

    Police there say they’ve seized the items and are investigating.

    The Nova Scotia youngster had been trick-or-treating in Melvern Square in Annapolis County and in Kingston, located in Kings County.

    In Whitby, a two-inch needle was found in a Tootsie Roll. The candy wrapper appeared to be tampered with and the parent found the needle.

    Last Halloween, police in that region reported five instances of pills found inside Smarties boxes given out as trick-or-treating loot.


    1. So many citations about news articles about police statements about children saying that they got razor blades in apples. Can anyone produce a single credible report of a conviction? A trial? A perpetrator? A suspect? What bumbling incompetents do you have for law enforcement up there in Canada that you have this epidemic of attacks on children and not a single case solved?

      I don’t know about you, but if I got an apple in my plastic pumpkin, I’d remember who the loser was that didn’t give me candy. In fact, more than 40 years later, I can still tell you which neighbors gave out non-candy treats. And yet, where’s the news story about the arrest?

      I call shenanigans on these stories until police name a suspect. Or perhaps I call Balloon Boy.

      1. More on the Canadian razor blade story–apparently the razor blade was not in any of the candy, but just in the bag used to collect the candy. (Where do you buy razor blades these days anyway? Most of the stores are full of disposables or those multi-blade cartridge jobs).

        I’m not surprised there are reports of candy tampering, and I suspect that some are real. (Not all tampering is poisoning). I suspect these are perpetrated by the same crowd that eggs cars and smashes pumpkins. You know. Jerks. Not some chuckling pervert rubbing his hands together behind a bush or something. And I suspect that there are just about the same number of incidents every year, which are always immediately seized upon as evidence of evil-doers in our midst.

  26. The police chief in Boulder, CO seemingly had a paranoid breakdown — he closed 6 public parking garages, had a SWAT team on standby, police on overtime, and plans to close the highway, accompanied by announcements for the public to stay away from downtown or risk arrest. One might expect this in a religious backwater where officials believe Halloween is satanic, but this was the intellectual college town of Boulder, CO; turned into a police state for a week. The only thing I can compare this to was Boston’s lightbright scare (but at least that was a clear play for overtime pay). This was just strange behavior.

  27. Regarding adults trick or treating…a guy I used to work with always went out with his sons. They had their candy sacks, he had his brandy snifter.

  28. I always thought these were urban legends too but when my friend was a child he actually did get his insides cut up with a razor blade from Halloween candy. I guess everything has happened at least once!

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