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Handing Out Poisoned Candy?

Convicted and executed for poisoning a child with tainted halloween candy

What is it about Halloween candy that scares you the most? As a dentist, you probably figure that for me, it is the bacteria fueling, cavity causing, tooth rotting sugar that scares me the most. Truth be told, one night of indulgence does not make a rotten mouth. With that said, of course, moderation is the key to most vices:) But, habits of sending small children to bed with a bottle of anything other than water- scary. Children drinking from Sippy cups filled with juice- scary. Sipping on a Pepsi all day long at work- scary!

This got me thinking about the idea of trick or treating and the fear that many people have of strangers (neighbors?) handing out tainted treats. It never made much sense to me since it doesn’t seem like a very likely way to terrorize little kids. The risk of getting caught as people would know exactly where you lived made me wonder if there have been true cases of poisoned Halloween candy being given out to random kids or is this just another urban myth.

So, I came across an article in Mental Floss magazine that seemed to have the answer. Yes, but not really. There wasn’t any evidence to support the idea of random kids being targeted by some mad man. To find where it all began, you have to go back to 1974 when Timothy O’Bryan, a nine year old, died from ingesting Pixy Stix laced with cyanide. At first, the police thought it was the work of some deranged homeowner handing out these deadly treats. But the investigation revealed that no one in the neighborhood was handing out Pixy Stix. Soon, the focus was on Timothy’s father. He had recently bought large insurance policies on Timothy and his sister. It turned out that he had put these Pixy Stix in his children’s bags as well as the bags of two other children to try to divert attention from himself. Fortunately for them, they passed on the Pixy Stix in favor of other candies. Timothy’s father, Ronald O’Bryan, was convicted and executed for the murder of his son.

Pixy Stix

When I heard it was alleged to be a random poisoning by way of Pixy Stix, it jogged my memory of this story from back in the day when I was a teenager. I had just never heard that it turned out to be a targeted attack, by the kid’s own father. There are more stories like this of alleged poisonings by strangers that turn out not to be so on snopes.com. Reports come in to the police every Halloween. It invariably is the result of someone’s bright idea for a prank.

This doesn’t mean that people should not exercise some caution when junior comes home with his loot. An inspection to pull out any candies that look like they could have been tampered with and, of course, to remove all of your favorites is certainly in order :) 

Dr. Pez's Did U Floss Pumpkin

Dr. Pez's Did U Floss Pumpkin

The most damage I see from Halloween candy is not kids with cavities, it is their parents old fillings and crowns (after stealing their kids candy) that have been pulled out. Luckily, we can usually fix that back up quite easily as long as you don’t wait too long.

It seems like what we should fear the most is not our neighbors but instead it is our own lack of willpower!