Halloween Hullabaloo and Terrifying Tales

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on October 05, 2011 with No Comments

Neal F. Litherland

It’s that time of year again; leaves are changing colors, pumpkins are ripe and the reap is upon us.

Kids are thinking about costumes, grown-ups are thinking about parties and the scary stories are once again making the rounds.

While no one may really know who Bloody Mary was, and we’re all quite sure that the Slender Man was made up for an Internet-based contest (because he was), there are a lot of urban legends that people still swear to this day are true. This isn’t to say that All-Hallows-Eve doesn’t have its dangers, but it pays to be worried about the right things when it comes time for trick-or-treat.

The first big urban legend is actually about trick-or-treating.

For decades now there have been warnings, posters and news stories about how you need to carefully check over every piece of candy because somewhere in your community, right near your very home, there is a dangerous madman out to hurt your kids.

Razorblades in apples, needles in Snickers bars and dangerous poison in your pixie sticks.

Now that last one actually happened, but before you get too excited read the rest of the story. The candy, which had been purposefully tainted with poison, was given to a son by his father.

It was also not long before that a large insurance policy was put out on the child.

This urban legend has been in circulation since the 1950s, when an old woman gave out packages to children she thought were too old to be trick-or-treating. Those packages included steel wool and dog biscuits, but the numbers of genuine tamperings that lead to death are in the low, single digits.

And they were, by and large, done knowingly by trusted persons.

Related to the poisoned candy myth is a myth that someone is slipping drugs to children while the drugs are concealed as candy or stick-on tattoos.

The “Blue Star” myth says that deranged drug dealers, who have no interest in making a profit, will give out small, foil wrapped packages with stick on tattoos. The drug, which ranges from LSD to strychnine, is supposed to kill those who take it.

This is a myth that was busted a while ago (who gives away free drugs?), but it is often used as a scapegoat by teenagers who might actually use drugs or alcohol at a party that get busted. Blaming the candy plays right into the urban legend myth.

A final myth that should have died 30 years ago deals with Satanists.

It sounds cliché, but these myths say that Satanists will do everything from kidnapping children to adopting black cats from animal shelters just to kill them at midnight.

This particular myth dates back to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, which was a time that many people in America were soundly convinced there was a worldwide conspiracy of Satanic cultists out to destroy the American way of life as well as the American family.

Ever hear people blame teen violence and family break-ups on violent cartoons, video games or heavy metal music?

That is a remnant of the Satanic Panic, and Halloween is one of the only times of the year that Satanic cultists are considered anything approaching a genuine concern even though they shouldn’t be.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t real dangers out there on Halloween, because there most certainly are.

Most of them are fairly blasé and common place.

Traffic accidents for instance are responsible for the largest number of injuries and fatalities on Halloween. You mix a record number of kids pounding the pavement, many of them wearing all black, with drivers that might be coming home from parties and you have a recipe for disaster.

So it is important that you make sure children trick-or-treat in a group, that they can be seen in the darkness, that they have a flashlight and that they obey rules of road safety like using crosswalks rather than crossing in the middle of the street.

Just because you happen to be a vampire that night, that doesn’t automatically give you the right of way.

Another safety concern that not everyone thinks about is safe costuming. It is important for both kids and adults that a costume fits well, that you can see out of it and that it doesn’t inhibit your movements.

Masks can give you big blind spots when you’re walking down the road and while being a mermaid might be stunning, if you can’t walk normally you’re likely to trip and fall. If not on the sidewalk, then potentially on the stairs, which can be a real worry.

Also, make sure that your costumes are fire resistant if possible; with the profusion of candles and jack-o-lanterns, you can have some major concerns of your cape brushes too close to one of the little lights outlining a neighbor’s walkway.

For more information:

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/hallow.html;

Scam Busters: 3 Creepy Halloween Urban Legends http://www.scambusters.org/halloweenurbanlegends.html;

Blue Star Myth: http://www.halloween-website.com/blue_star.htm.

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About Neal F. Litherland

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal: neal@thechroniclenwi.com.

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