The truth about three Halloween urban legends: Internet ScamBusters #307
If there's one thing people like to do, it's scare themselves. Maybe that's why Halloween urban legends are so popular this time of year.
As if ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night weren't enough, most people seem determined to scare themselves silly with Halloween urban legends. Some of these legends are generic -- basically "Darwin Awards" type cautionary tales about doing stupid things.
Quite a few, though, focus on the things we hold most dear -- for example, our children and pets. Worse, while many of these urban legends are demonstrably false, we can't laugh them all off. Some hold some truth; some can't be proven either true or false. And some are true.
Today we offer a lighter Scambusters issue and focus on three of the most popular Halloween urban legends. Which do you think are true?
Let's check out today's...
Halloween Urban Legend 1: Lots of kids have been victims of random Halloween candy poisonings
This is one of our most enduring Halloween urban legends, but the statistics don't back it up. While there have been several documented cases in which deaths have initially been blamed on poisoned candy, later investigation proved that the cause was something else entirely -- except once.
However, even that case wasn't a random poisoning by a stranger.
In 1974, a Houston man deliberately poisoned his son with a cyanide-laced Pixie Stix. He did hand them out to four other children to make it look random, but thankfully, they didn't eat them.
The father's motivation? Insurance money.
He paid for it with a lethal injection in 1984.
On the other hand, experts say the Halloween urban legend that warns of pins, needles, and razor blades in apples and candy is true enough.
It's happened at least a dozen times since 1959, but, luckily, someone is hurt only about one time in ten. The worst case involved a woman who required a few stitches.
Action: Although the scope of this Halloween urban legend is obviously exaggerated, we recommend that parents use common sense and be careful and vigilant.
Halloween Urban Legend 2: Satanists regularly adopt black cats on Halloween just so they can be sacrificed in horrifying rituals
Well... perhaps. But probably not.
While the people who run animal shelters and humane societies tend to accept this as a matter of faith, no one can offer any evidence that it's actually true.
Like most urban legends, it's just something that's passed around from one person to another -- your basic anecdote.
Anecdotal stories that can't be verified are usually telltale signs that a story is an urban legend. Those who have carefully checked for news reports about black cat sacrifices (or any cat sacrifices) around Halloween have never found much of anything.
Halloween Urban Legend 3: People have been known to really hang themselves when staging fake Halloween hangings to scare people
Hanging is an awful way to die, which is probably why a lot of haunted houses and similar exhibitions display lynchings as part of their scary fare.
Sometimes real people take the part of mannequins in the displays.
And sometimes they really do hang themselves, through accident or ignorance.
The idea is to put a fake noose around the neck that doesn't tighten, while hanging from a concealed harness.
Occasionally, for some reason, the noose really does tighten, or the harness deploys wrong, and the person dies -- which is why this urban legend about Halloween is no longer an urban legend at all.
Action: Recognize that this can be a dangerous Halloween prank. Things can go wrong. You might want to consider a different way to celebrate Halloween. 😉
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week. Happy Halloween!