Nowadays social media makes myths and legends of us all, but back in the day folklore was an important part of learning, development, and giving people, especially kids, a healthy heaping of fear in the interest of preservation.
There was a time when predators were mostly made of fur, teeth, and claws; but as society became integrated and city life was a thing, young people were warned about the escaped mental patient with a sharp hook-hand and a hatred for promiscuity or the creepy old neighbor who’d put razor blades or poison in a trick-or-treater’s Halloween candy.
Then there are the ghost stories – tales of places haunted by the spirits of horrible massacres or suicides. Naturally, these stories are most popular around Halloween.
But are any of them true? Let’s don our virtual deerstalkers and find out.
We’ve heard this story all our lives: Pins, needles, razor blades, poison, and even molly has been found in candy-seeker’s loot.
While this has happened, with the first documented cases cropping up in the late 1950s, no one has died from a random attack by a neighbor. Pranking, especially when it’s a scary or mean one, is part of Halloween, so chomp at your own risk. But usually the culprit is a kid pranking another kid (a friend or a sibling). Cases reported involved pins and tacks, and nothing requiring medical attention.
But in the 1960s, shit got real. The legend escalated from pins in candy bars to apples boobytrapped with razor blades or shards of broken glass. No one knows why the story shifted, but in ’67 The New York Times reported thirteen cases of sharp objects found in apples in New Jersey as wells as “several” others in Ottawa and Toronto. New Jersey state legislature passed a law shortly before Halloween 1968 demanding prison terms for those caught, but there were thirteen more apples with razor blades turned in that year.
The scary story made it into the movies in 1981 in Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II and then again in 1988 with Kevin Tenney’s now-classic chiller Night of the Demons.
When it comes to poison, most of those stories were either made to mislead (in 1970 Kevin Toston, a 5-year-old boy from Detroit, found and ate heroin his uncle had stashed; the kid died following a 4-day coma, and his family attempted to protect the uncle by claiming the drug had been sprinkled in Halloween candy) or as cover-ups for murder (in 1974 Timothy O’Bryan, an 8-year-old boy from Texas, died after eating a cyanide-laced package of Pixie Stix; a police investigation determined that the compromised candy had been planted in his trick-or-treat pile by his own father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, who also gave out poisoned Pixies to other children in an attempt to cover up the murder; the bad dad did it for a life insurance payout.).
As for drugs placed in candy that’s given out, that’s rare. Back in the 1970s, it was rumored to be LSD – nowadays the myth says it’s X/Molly/Ecstasy. In 2015 several Facebook statuses warned: “Parents should keep any eye out for drug-laced Gummy bears and MDMA disguised as Halloween candy being distributed to trick-or-treaters.”
While some kids have taken X on Halloween and later claimed they found it in their Halloween haul, no cases of stranger danger have been substantiated.
DEEP SEA DEEP SIX
Just a few years ago, 53 people were killed with a hatchet aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. You didn’t know about that? Well, read on. Here’s the news story:
“Queen Mary Long Beach, CA – Queen Mary’s “Dark Harbor” is an annual Halloween tradition, where people come from across the country to stay on the haunted ship during the Halloween holiday. The event consists of mazes, monsters, séances and haunted tours. However, the real scare came in a way no one ever expected it to.”
“On Sunday morning, aboard the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach California, a graphic scene emerged as police did their best to get an accurate body count. At 2:33 AM, a guest aboard the ship approached the bartender at the Observation Bar dazed and confused. “Please, go down the hallway and see if you saw what I saw. It’s a massacre, a complete massacre,” said Paul Brown, a hotel guest on the ship.”
“The bartender phoned security, and followed the man’s instructions. What they found down the hallway were 32 open room doors with trails of blood, so much blood that it was unlike anything detectives had seen before. 58 blood covered corpses awaited the police upon their arrival at the crime scene. All 58 victims were found in their beds, with several being dismembered. As detectives went from body to body, they found that 6 of them still had pulses and were immediately rushed to the hospital. One man died while being transported by the ambulance.”
“The police discovered a bloody hatchet about 15 feet from the stairway entrance of the B Deck where the massacre occurred. The brand was a Tactical Tomahawk hatchet with the letters “SA” carved into the side of the handle. Authorities have taken all evidence into custody, but have no leads yet as to who may have committed these heinous murders. Police have released a statement saying they believe the murders may have been an inside job; the murderer entered each room with a master key used in housekeeping. The ship has been shut down indefinitely until detectives can complete their investigation.”
“Police are putting the area of Long Beach, California and the surrounding areas, on high alert; warning that there is a mass murderer on the loose. People are urged to call your local authorities if you see anything suspicious.”
Well, guess what? It was a hoax posted on a fake news site to help promote the “Queen Scary” image.
HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS CATASTROPHE
During the first-ever Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Studios Hollywood back in 1986, one of the scare-actors died in a tragic accident on Halloween night.
It was reported in the paper:
“Paul Rebalde, 20, of Woodland Hills, was an employee of Universal Studios near Los Angeles who was killed on Halloween night. He was stationed on a parked tram filled with mannequins dressed to look like corpses. Rebalde, who was also in costume, was to leap from among the mannequins on the parked tram and frighten people passing on moving trams. Somehow Rebalde became trapped between the third and fourth sections of one of the four-section trams, and was run over and dragged for approximately 100 feet. He was pronounced dead at the scene at about 9 p.m.”
Halloween Horror Nights was discontinued for several years, starting up again in 1992 and going strong ever since.
HALLOWEEN HANGING GONE WRONG
A horrific death by hanging is a favorite trick performed at many Halloween haunts and for decorative displays. It’s done easy-peasy and super-safely by securing the acting victim in a harness that supports his weight when he drops from the gallows so that the noose doesn’t actually snap his neck or squeeze his windpipe.
Unfortunately, such stunts have gone wrong and resulted in actual fatalities.
One incident was reported by the Chicago Tribune in October 1990:
“A teenager who pretended to hang from gallows as part of a pre-Halloween hayride died while performing the stunt. Police said that hayride customers found the body of Brian Jewell, 17, hanging from the gallows, his feet touching the ground.”
“The stunt had worked on other nights and there was no indication of foul play, prosecutor James Holzapfel said. The gallows was being checked for flaws, and an autopsy was performed.”
“‘He’s supposed to have the noose around his neck, but it’s not a noose that tightens,’ said Holzapfel. Jewell would step down about one foot to the ground, making it appear he had been hanged, Holzapfel said.”
“During the ride, about 40 people are driven past several Halloween fright exhibits. The stunt went off without problems earlier [that day]. But the tractor driver became concerned later, when Jewell failed to give a speech he normally made as the wagon passed.”
A similar story was reported that same month by the Los Angeles Times:
“A 15-year-old staging a gallows scene at a Halloween party accidentally hanged himself when the noose somehow tightened, authorities said today. William Anthony Odom of Charlotte, N.C., was pronounced dead Friday night amid fake spider webs and plastic bats decorating an aunt’s home. Odom and several of his friends had staged a haunted house in the basement.”
BABY DON’T GET HOOKED ON ME
(Okay, so all two of the Mac Davis fans reading this got that)
We’ve all heard this one… and many of us have told it at slumber parties or on Halloween night: A couple is in some remote “lover’s lane” when their make-out session is interrupted by a buzzkill report on the car radio about an escaped killer loose in the vicinity. The bad guy is easy to spot, as one of his severed hands has been replaced by a metal hook. He’s supposedly used that hook to murder all of his victims. Yikes! The girl insists on being driven home immediately. The boy argues with her, saying there’s nothing to be afraid of. She persists, and old blue-balls guns the engine and roars away. The couple stews in silence all the way back into town. Upon arrival at her house, a bloody hook is seen hanging from the passenger-side car door handle.
Even good old Dear Abby fell for this one, publishing the story in her column in 1960:
“If you are interested in teenagers, you will print this story. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but it doesn’t matter because it served its purpose on me.”
“A fellow and his date pulled into their favorite “lovers’ lane” to listen to the radio and do a little necking. The music was interrupted by an announcer who said there was an escaped convict in the area who had served time for rape and robbery. He was described as having a hook instead of a right hand. The couple became frightened and drove away. When the boy took his girl home, he went around to open the car door for her. Then he saw — a hook on the door handle! I don’t think I will ever park to make out as long as I live. I hope this does the same for other kids.”
The roots of legends like The Hook lie in exaggerated memories of real life Lover’s Lane murders. There were actual cases of kids who’d gone to make out returning in pine boxes.
The most notorious case that sparked it was the Lovers Lane murders that happened in Texarkana in 1946 (and also inspiration for the 1976 horror film The Town That Dreaded Sundown). After that, and after the legend was firmly fixed, we had the Monster of Florence, the Zodiac Killer and the Son of Sam, all famous for hunting couples in parking cars.
SON OF SAM SAMHAIN SLAYINGS
In the early hours of Halloween 1981, 39-year-old photographer Ronald Sisman and 20-year-old college student Elizabeth Platzman were brutally murdered in their Chelsea apartment. The couple was badly beaten before being shot execution-style.
New York police didn’t have any suspects until the case took a strange and unexpected turn. A prison informant said that one of his fellow inmates – who just happened to be the “Son of Sam” killer, David Berkowitz – had predicted the crime weeks before it actually happened.
At the time Berkowitz had been thought to be involved with a satanic cult that helped him with his previous homicides. According to the informant, Berkowitz claimed that Sisman had footage of one of the Son of Sam shootings from 1977 and was planning to hand it over to the authorities. Or maybe he was going to sell it to a middleman. “Some famous artist wanted that to sell to a collector for about $50,000,” Berkowitz is quoted as saying. Rumor has it that the now-deceased erotic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was the unnamed artist.
But for as many rumors and theories as there are, nothing has come of any of it and the ruthless double-murder of Ronald Sisman and Elizabeth Platzman remains unsolved.
MICHAEL MYERS IS REAL, Y’ALL!
While director John Carpenter has never come right out and said that Michael Myers was based on real-life creepy killer Ed Kemper, some folks insist on connecting the dots. Kemper murdered members of his family, along with many other people (especially coeds). He, like MM, is a huge, hulking dude, standing at 6’9″ and has “the devil’s eyes.” For his final act of murder, Kemper beheaded his mom, screwed her skull then her noggin as a dartboard before ramming her larynx down the garbage disposal. Even Michael Myers never did anything that bad!
Michael Myers cannot die, and even though he was incarcerated in the early 1970s Kemper remains alive to this day. Hmmm.
And then there are the rumors that Michael Myers is based on a serial slayer called Stanley Stiers. As Mystic Investigations claims (and only Mystic Investigations claims), back in 1923, Stiers snapped and slaughtered his entire family on Halloween night at the tender age of 11. After this myth surfaced, stories swirled in chatrooms: “After he killed his family, he went trick or treating, and also killed a few classmates that bullied him. He was described as having an inhuman strength, and escaped from [a] government testing facility where they kept him for 13 years.” Uh-huh. Sure.
What are some of your favorite Halloween-related myths and scary stories? Post them in the comments below!
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