Halloween Costumes

When Halloween Became America’s Most Dangerous Holiday

The unquiet spirits, vampires and the omnipresent zombies that take over American streets every Oct. 31 may think Halloween is all about spooky fun. But what Halloween masqueraders may not realize is that in the early 1970s and well into the next decade, real fear took over.

The media, police departments and politicians began to tell a new kind of Halloween horror story — about poisoned candy.

No actual events explained this fear: It was driven by social and cultural anxieties. And there is a lesson in that about the power of rumors on this day of dark fantasy.

The Halloween candy scare began in 1970. An op-ed on Oct. 28, 1970, in The New York Times suggested the possibility of strangers using Halloween’s “trick-or treat” tradition to poison children.


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