Halloween is one of those days that is both fun and dangerous at the same time. People of all ages get to dress up as just about anything they want. It’s the fact that faces are hidden that can be dangerous because there are bad people out at all times of the year. Halloween, though, allows them to better hide who they are so they can do bad things, either to animals (keep your black cat safe tonight), people, or property.
On Halloween 1974, I was a sophomore at Texas A&M University, about 100 miles northwest of Houston. On that Halloween night, the fun of Halloween died for many Houstonians, Texans, and Americans. In years to come, children no longer had free reign to dress up in costumes and traipse through their neighborhoods gathering as much candy as they could.
October 31, 1974, brought out the most despicable type of person in Ronald Clark O’Bryan, an optician from Deer Park, a Houston suburb. O’Bryan had taken his two children, Timothy and Elizabeth, to a friend’s house for trick-or-treating. O’Bryan slipped several Pixy Stix candies laced with potassium cyanide into the bags of his two children, as well as several other children.
O’Bryan had clipped off one end of the giant plastic Pixy Stix candy straws, sprinkled the cyanide into them, and stapled them shut. Just before bedtime, still at the friend’s house in Pasadena, O’Bryan offered young Timothy one last piece of candy, the tainted one. Within a few hours, his son was dead.
By the time of his trial, O’Bryan was known as The Candyman. He was tried and convicted of murdering his child for insurance money, having taken out life insurance policies for $10,000 on each child in January 1974, and then additional policies of $20,000 on each child a few weeks before Halloween. O’Bryan was executed by lethal injection in 1984.
The only good thing to this tragic story is that parents are more aware of their children’s safety, not only on Halloween but throughout the year. Treasures gathered on Halloween are usually carefully examined before children, or anyone else, are allowed to enjoy them.
Candy tampering apparently peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Usually such tampering involved putting sharp objects (razor blades, pins, needles) in candy and fruit, often candied apples. According to some poisoned candy researchers (what a profession!!), some sharp objects were accidentally inserted into the candy or fruit. Huh? I’m not buying it. How do you accidentally put a sharp object in candy or fruit? Nope. Not buying it.
Candy tampering appears to have died down somewhat in recent years, but it only takes one incident to cause harm. Don’t let that one incident be your child. Accompany your children on their trick-or-treating and note which candy came from which house.
Added with edit: A news story just breaking is about a child who found a rusty razor blade in a package of M&M’s. Police initially say it’s probably a quality control issue because the package appears not to have been tampered with. Doesn’t matter whether or not it’s quality control. It happens! This one probably from a disgruntled or deranged Mars employee! Here’s the report: Razor in Halloween candy.
In remembrance of Timothy. You are not forgotten.
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