The rise of (unnecessary) Halloween candy X-rays
This is Old News, a weekly feature where we knock on history's door to see how many razor blades were actually hiding in the apples.
Halloween is a time for monster myths — and few have taken hold like the notion that trick-or-treaters are likely to be killed by their neighbors.
Flashback: Halloween fears around tainted treats in Utah go back to the 1970s, when the state Safety Council tried to ban trick-or-treating, claiming "a number of instances" where kids received "apples embedded with razor blades or candy which was impregnated with drugs."
- The panic reached a fever pitch in late September 1982 after seven people were mysteriously killed in Chicago by cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. Subsequent copycat poisonings led to warnings that Halloween candy might be similarly contaminated.
Hospitals across the nation began offering free X-rays for kids' treats in the hope of spotting razor blades, needles and pins before they could be eaten.
- News reports show hospitals from St. George to Logan offered the service.
By the numbers: Ashley Valley Medical Center in Vernal scanned 30 bags of candy on Halloween in 1982, the Vernal Express reported. No foreign objects were detected.
- Medical studies found other radiology departments also came up empty. A 1988 report estimated hospitals were spending up to $1.4 million nationwide to screen candy.
Reality check: Joel Best, a University of Delaware sociology professor who specializes in urban legends and has studied "Halloween sadism" reports for decades, hasn't found a single substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by contaminated food they got trick-or-treating.
- Most tainted candy reports turned out to be family violence or hoaxes.
Of note: X-rays don't detect poison — and in one study, an X-ray didn't even capture a needle during a safety check.
- So go ahead and gorge yourself on candy, but mind the roads.
Previously in Old News:
- 👻 Utah ghost sightings of the 1900s.
- 🚹🚺🚺🚺 No more Mormon polygamy (officially)
- ✊ Utah's labor movement caught in violence
- 🛶 John Wesley Powell's crappy night
- 😈 How Lucifer took over a Utah newspaper during the satanic panic
- 📸 A photo history of Utah's impressive and bizarre Pioneer Day floats
- ⛷️ The great Alta freak-out of 1873
- 🍸 A big step toward booze
- 🎉 Ogden: More fun than Salt Lake City for at least 143 years
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