Year after year parents are bombarded with all of the risks of trick or treating. Razor blades in apples, poisoned candy, etc. Even the CDC warns against eating anything homemade or before a parent has inspected it.

With all the hype of what could happen, have there been any confirmed cases of a child being harmed by tampered candy, poisoned food, etc.?

Note, I'm only referring to the candy/treat itself, not the risk of kidnapping, getting lost, etc.

  • It's still important to be aware of the possibility though (and inspect, particularly, your favourite candies since they always seem to be the most suspicious). Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


According to this research paper, only 76 incidents have been documented as 'Halloween sadism' at the time of its writing (1985). Of those, two have resulted in death; however neither case turned out to be caused by candy received from trick-or-treating.

In 1970, five-year-old Kevin Toston died after eating heroin supposedly hidden in his Halloween candy. While this story received considerable publicity, newspapers gave less coverage to the follow-up report that Kevin had found the heroin in his uncle’s home, not his treats (San Francisco Chronicle, 1970).

The second case:

In 1974, eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan died after eating Halloween candy contaminated with cyanide. Investigators concluded that his father had contaminated the treat (Grider. Sylvia, 1982 “The razor blades in the apple syndrome.”).

So in both cases, the deaths resulted from family member negligence or harm, and not some mysterious stranger handing out halloween death. I haven't found anything more recent yet.

From the synopsis at the beginning of the paper:

This paper examines the widespread belief that anonymous sadists give children dangerous treats on Halloween. A review of news stories about Halloween sadism from 1958 to 1983 suggests that the threat has been greatly exaggerated. Halloween sadism can be viewed as an urban legend, which emerged during the early 1970s to give expression to growing fears about the safety of children, the danger of crime, and other sources of social strain.

  • 6
    +1, suggest changing opening line to note that neither death was from candy received via trick-or-treating. Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 1:03
  • 1
    @Russel good point, will do.
    – morganpdx
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 1:06
  • +1 for this answer. I note that it is also consistent with what a police officer said on CBC Radio One (Canada's government funded national radio station) in an interview a few years ago about the number of cases with people being poised by tainted candy handed out anonymously on Old Hallow's Eve' -- his point was that he wasn't aware of any cases in North America involving strangers, just a few where relatives were involved in the poisoning. Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 17:35

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