The Two Michigan Cases That Fueled The ‘Tainted Treat’ Myth
Two Michigan cases of candy poisoning at Halloween wound up being not as true as originally portrayed, and helped perpetuate the myth of tampered treats.
The Myth Of Treats Being Tampered With Goes Back To The Industrial Revolution
The longstanding, but relatively false, idea that every Halloween children were dropping dead because of poisoned candy dates back to the late 1880s when mass produced candy was first finding its way to store shelves.
when food production moved out of the home or local area, where it was made in familiar ways by known and trusted people, to strangers using unknown ingredients and unfamiliar machines and processes. Some doctors publicly claimed that they were treating children poisoned by candy every day. If a child became ill, and had eaten candy, the candy was widely assumed to be the cause. However, no cases of illness or death were ever substantiated.
This rumor held its ground until the 1960s and 70s when unsubstantiated rumors of tampered treats on Halloween were widespread, although actual incidents were rare and usually found later to be false.
Two Michigan Cases That Were Initially Blamed On Strangers Poisoning Children
Two cases of deaths of young children resulting from tainted treats on Halloween were reported in Michigan in the 1970s, but both later turned out to be the result of something entirely different.
The first case was reported in Detroit in 1970 when five-year-old Kevin Tolston passed away due to a heroin overdose. The family made headlines when they claimed that young Kevin got the drug from ingesting the candy he had collected on Halloween. Upon later investigation, it turns out the family had made up the story to cover Kevin's uncle, who had left a capsule of heroin out where Kevin found it and ate some of it.
The first story received a boatload of attention in the media, but the resulting truthful story was buried in the back pages.
1978: The Mysterious Death Of Flint's Patrick Wiederhold
Patrick was only two-years-old when he passed away after eating some of his Halloween candy. The first story that received all of the attention was that some of his treats had been tampered with, and had caused the youngster to die suddenly, prompting a wave of fear through the community, and a whole lot of perfectly good candy tossed away.
However, toxicology tests taken during an autopsy turned up negative, and it was determined that Patrick died of natural causes.
The TV Show 'Adam Ruins Everything' Ruined The Myth Of Poisoned Candy
The show featured Joel Best, a professor at the University of Delaware, who has done extensive research on the topic of poisoned candy.
Best has proven that almost all claims of tampered candy at Halloween were false, and they only legit case was of a dad who poisoned his own son to death and then tried to make it look like a random trick-or-treat gone bad.
I'm not saying you shouldn't use caution when tick-or-treating, I'm just saying don't let fear get in your way of having a good time.
And for those who fear the modern day version of this trend, rainbow colored fentanyl tablets, keep in mind street drugs result in huge profits for drug dealers. They aren't in the market of distributing their product for free. Much less want the attention of police for killing a child. Keep things in perspective.
Seven Types of Candy Givers You'll See This Halloween in Michigan