It’s that magical time of the year again. No, we’re not talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s much too early in the year for that. We’re talking about Halloween, that darkly magical time when spirits are said to roam the earth and children (and the children-at-heart) get giddy at the thought of going trick-or-treating.
Every year, at around this time, people get creative at thinking up and creating their Halloween costumes. For many of us, the scarier and out-of-this-world a costume is, the better. Kids especially get tickled pink at the thought of all the candy they’re going to be receiving.
It is also around this time when all sorts of implausible articles and outlandish memes flood many social media networks referring to various Halloween myths and rumors. In this post, we’re going to talk about five of the most popular myths out there and the truth behind them.
5 Halloween Myths and the Truth Behind Them
1. People Putting Razor Blades in Candy Apples
This is one of the most pervasive Halloween myths of all time. For the longest time, there has always been that widespread fear among the populace that some crazy-eyed loon is inserting razor blades and pins into homemade candy apples that he then gives away to the kids in his neighborhood. This rumor is so widespread that many police stations and medical centers offer free X-rays of Halloween treats at around this time.
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But does this rumor have a basis, though? According to folklore expert Rick Santino of Bowling Green State University, the razor blade scare can be traced back to a series of rumored tamperings way back in the late 1960s in New Jersey. The said incident led to a New Jersey law penalizing people who were caught sticking sharp instruments in apples with prison sentences.
According to an article on Snopes, a fact-finding website, Santino said that when journalists tried to investigate the stories behind these cases, “virtually all of the reports were hoaxes concocted by the children or parents.”
2. Drugs in Halloween Stickers
So we’ve debunked the “razor blades in apples” story, but it seems there’s another rumor going around that’s more or less the same kind of story, except that instead of razor blades and apples, it’s about LSD and Halloween stickers, the kind that’s widely distributed to kids during Halloween. Although there were no actual reports of any kids being given acid-soaked stickers, a lot of parents remained to be concerned about such stories come Halloween time.
Jan Harold Brunvand, a University of Utah professor, finally debunked the rumor, which is another one of the famous Halloween myths people still believe, in good faith, are true, when he revealed in a letter to the New York Times that the story had all started from police alerts back in the 1980s about “blotter acid” sheets, which were sheets of paper dipped in LSD and sold as “hits.” At times the sheets would be imprinted with cartoon figures, which police warned at the time might be appealing to kids. From there, the story quickly changed until it became one of the most popular Halloween myths people revisit every year.
3. People Sacrificing Black Cats
If we were to believe all these rumors, it seems that not only kids are the target of “evil” people on Halloween but also our beloved pets, particularly black cats and even black rabbits. There is this pervasive rumor that goes around that witches and Satanist cults adopt the said animals from animal shelters and even snatch them from homes in order to sacrifice them during Halloween.
Thankfully, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has cleared up this rumor in a statement by Stephen Zawistowski, their senior executive: “While it is true that animals too often become the victims of holiday pranks and cruelty, there is no reason to believe that witches are involved, or that shelters are a source. Normal adoption counseling procedures should be able to screen out those applicants with bad intent. Continued publicity on this tends to make adoption counseling procedures look arbitrary and silly.”
The basis of this rumor supposedly happened in the 1980s when a woman adopted a black cat from a shelter to make the pet an accessory to her Halloween costume. Afterward, a black cat was found dead in the same neighborhood. But the story itself has never been verified, and there has never been any legitimate evidence of Satanic or witchcraft rituals involving black cats during Halloween.
4. Halloween as All-American Tradition
A lot of us think of Halloween as an occasion that’s as American in its origins as Thanksgiving, but we couldn’t be more wrong. The truth is that the celebration originated from an Irish tradition, the Celtic celebration of Samhain, which was a harvest festival usually held on the first of November. The Celts believed that at around that time, the spirits of their dead ancestors returned to feast with their living descendants. When Ireland became a Christian country, some of the traditions of the original Samhain festival were merged with All Hallow’s Day, which was celebrated on October 31. The Christianized version of the festival featured things like bonfires for the dead and distributing food to the poor people who came to their doors. This tradition was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Americans turned the Celtic tradition into something that is truly their own, with the practice of trick or treating.
5. Halloween Is Satanic
For this particular rumor, we have TV evangelist Pat Robertson to blame. In his many sermons, Robertson has often castigated the celebration of Halloween, saying it was “the day when millions of children and adults will be dressing up as devils, witches, and goblins to celebrate Satan. They don’t realize what they’re doing.” It’s a bit of a reach, considering all the kids are really just after dressing up as their favorite cartoon characters or superheroes and being rewarded with candy.
But TV evangelists like Robertson weren’t the only ones to attack the celebration of Halloween. The early Catholic Church itself has tried to shut down pagan practices like Halloween, labeling them as “Satanic.” But it wasn’t until the 1980s when the Halloween-bashing movement really gained ground, as a response to the increasing secularization of Christmas and other Christian holidays.
To put the matter to rest, historian Beth Allison Barr has stated that there is no evidence that will indicate that Halloween has Satanic or pagan roots; rather, it much more likely that the practice itself was rooted in Christian medieval culture.