The paranoid fear of malicious Halloween candy is one long harbored by parents everywhere, a silent annual tradition accompanying costumes, decorations, and toilet papering your neighbor’s house.
The fears are, inevitably, stoked by a few local news stories every year. This year’s version features several sealed candy bars that reportedly had sewing needles hidden inside.
Five Twix bars and one Snickers bar were collected in the town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. An hour away in Woodbury Heights, New Jersey, one resident reported a “spiked” Snickers after biting into it.
Police are currently investigating the incident in Kennett County to determine if the needles were intentionally inserted into the candy or whether it was a factory error (hypothetically, a box of needles could have been sitting precariously over a mixing vat of delicious chocolate).
But in keeping with the tradition of cruel Halloween candy hoaxes, the New Jersey needle claim turned out to be a trick. The man was treated to a criminal charge after filing a false police report. The man, police discovered, wrote a Facebook post related to needle-tainted candies the day prior to his “discovery.”
Historically speaking, the needle-, razor-blade-, or poison-in-your-Halloween-candy trope has been little more than a suburban legend, fueled by a few random cases whispered about year after year. Rumor alone sustained a 1968 bill by the New Jersey Legislature seeking to punish individuals convicted of placing razor blades in apples. A 1982 Associated Press article counted as many as 300 reports of tainted candy across the country that year, creating a perma-culture of Halloween anxiety. As the L.A. Times reported back in 1998, “A decade ago, sending Halloween treats under the hospital X-ray machine seemed destined to become as much a part of the holiday tradition as jack-o’-lanterns and candy corn.”
In 2000, Joseph Smith of Minneapolis allegedly placed needles into Snickers bars before handing them out to children. His only victim suffered a slight nick on his lip.