In the 70s and 80s, there was wave of hysteria in the media and among parents over poisoned Halloween candy. I grew up hearing that the world used to be a safer place, but now it was teeming with madmen and perverts. Psychos put razor blades in Snickers Bars and strychnine in Butterfingers. Any bite of chocolate could be your last.
The New York Times started it, writing in an October 1970 issue, “that plump red apple that Junior gets from a kindly old woman down the block. It may have a razor blade hidden inside. The chocolate ‘candy’ bar may be a laxative, the bubble gum may be sprinkled with lye, the popcorn balls may be coated with camphor, the candy may turn out to be packets containing sleeping pills.”
All of this of course, was shit-my-pants-level terrifiyng as a child. Halloween was already bad enough. For one, I could never breathe in the masks, though taking it off was clearly never an option. Or that sweat build up inside the mask, that was more crap. Then, having the front of the skeleton smock rip pathetically on a bush I walked into, as a result of also not being able to see in said mask–what a goddamn injustice. With the threat of ingesting lye at the end of the night, Halloween was just not as great as the 30 days of anticipation that lead up to it.
Here, I always related a bit to Charlie Brown in the Great Pumpkin cartoon, where he always got rocks in his Halloween bag while everyone else got gum and chocolates. Life isn’t just unfair, it’s specifically screwing me. That bush twig ripped my smock. I was going to wear that when I dressed up as a skeleton around the house!
But here’s the thing that really skewered Halloween fairness–my mother. While all the other kids carried pillow cases to fill with 45 lbs of fun sized candy bars, I carried a small pumpkin pail. Once it was full, it was done. And what about going home to make a candy deposit, and going back out for a refill? Not an option. As an adult, I do have to give her credit here. I was never overweight and I never had a cavity. But when I was ten, it was very obivous. I was getting GIPPED.
I got poison candy in my pumpkin pail one year. Well, no, I didn’t. In fact, no one ever got poisoned candy. It’s simply a myth that spawned from a murder in the 70s, where a father put cyanide in his kid’s Pixie Stick. After we would go “trick-er-treetin”, my parents sat at the table, dumped our pumpkin pails on the table, and went through each piece of candy one by one inspecting it for tampering, razor blades, and poison.
I was a morbid child and loved watching this. I waited to see them pull out a mysterious chocolate, with a picture of a dead crow on it, with X’s in his eyes. Yes, that’s what poison would look like. And yet, in the 7-9 years I went Trick or Treating, they only ever sat aside 1 piece of candy. It was a little generic purple box that contained something which looked like mini candy cigarettes. I’m telling you, the temperature dropped in that room as my dad sat that box aside. Only I dared to ask the question on everyone’s lips, “would I die if I ate that?”
Furthermore, we had to remember to break all chocolate bars in half, and visually inspect each half for bobby pins before eating them. I did this religiously and fervently. I was always scared I’d not see the pin, and then I’d feel it slicing open my throat on the way down, causing massive internal bleeding. Sometimes, I even broke the fun-size bar into quarters, just to be safe. Yep, you don’t have to look too deeply into my childhood to learn how I became such a neurotic adult. I tattled on my sister if she ate the chocolates whole. “MOM, she didn’t break it half!”
I never, ever was able to “truly” enjoy a piece of Halloween candy without fully contemplating my own mortality with each bite. However, I do think my parents were able to enjoy a lot of my candy, given the phenomenom of disappearing pieces by the handful. I hope they broke it in half, or I’m telling.