Halloween took off in the 1950s with the first parties involving bobbing for apples and children dressed as their favorite cowboys and superheroes. It evolved in the 1960s with more and more trick-or-treating and school parties, with inventive mostly handmade costumes with some manufactured masks making it on the scene. But, in the 1970s, the industry of Halloween became a money-making beast in a time of innocence when children could trick-or-treat late into the night with pillowcases of loot and only the first mention of candy tampering. So, what was so special about 1970s Halloween? Let's take a look -
There were some wonderful Halloween specials in the 1970s. Halloween was just catching fire big time in popularity and nearly every single child trick-or-treated. I traded in the 1960s plastic pumpkin -
...for a pillowcase. We were greedy boogers and being part of the baby-boomer generation, there were a lot of us!
There is a much darker side to Halloween in the 1970s - the tainted candy fears and sometimes urban legends.
I don’t know about ya’all, but my Halloweens as a kid were totally wild and free orgies in which the children ruled the streets. We carried pillowcases `cause we were cocky son-of-a-bitches and we figured it was going to carry our enormous amount of loot. In my area we knocked on doors until midnight and covered miles and miles of the suburbs. Whoever reached the townhouses knew they had done a huge haul because they were on the periphery of the subdivision.
Even though we were allowed to travel far and alone knocking at strangers’ doors and getting candy offerings from them and sometimes coins or apples (why even answer your door and waste both our time?) we still had to go home and have the candy examined. Then, the kids would begin with all the urban legends of razor blades in apples and ground glass in Bazooka bubble gum and poison injected into Tootsie Rolls. Ironically, it did not stop us from nibbling on the way home. Every candy the parents tossed out that had a loose wrapper caused a sigh of disappointment. Oh, why couldn’t it have been the candy corn, why the Snickers?
The most famous case of actual tampering came from the murder of an 8-year-old named Timothy in the mid 70s, who was actually killed by his father who laced his Pixie Stix with cyanide. And, just as people need to realize, we actually are at more threat by our own family more than strangers (which is why persons of interest are pretty much always a family member--comforting, huh?). This evil man also gave the candy to his daughter and some of her friends, but they hadn’t eaten the candy. This was apparently motivated by an insurance policy on the kid.
A woman named Helen Pfeil in 1964 was tired of older teenagers showing up for free candy so she handed out ant killer poison buttons to those kids. The packages contained steel wool, dog biscuits, and the ant buttons and were marked “poison” and with a skull and crossbones. She told the kids it was a joke and no one was hurt, still she was charged for potential harm.
A great deal of this legend comes from hysteria. Some years, fear of strychnine poisoning made companies and stores destroy packages, but once tested nothing unusual was found. Some children getting sick around Halloween sparked fear of poisoning. Children coming down with infections or dying on that particular day became linked to Halloween and more rumors began.
It’s not to say we shouldn’t continue to look for tampered candy and even better, do like I did and stand at the end of the sidewalk and wave to the person handing out the candy as a show of “I remember you giving my kid candy…”
Still, I have to admit that wicked scene in Halloween 2 where the kid and mom come into the hospital with the kid holding a cloth to her mouth with a razor blade sticking out of the tongue was pretty bad ass and gave me chills. I never did eat those apples on Halloween (but that’s probably because I had a pillowcase filled with candy)!
- Here's a priceless video about safety at Halloween -
Mass manufactured costumes were hitting the stores at Halloween time in the 1970s. Still, a great deal of kids enjoyed cutting eyes into a sheet to make a ghost or painting their faces and wearing a pointed hat to be a witch. What did 1970s kids want to be for Halloween?
- See if any of these vintage photos resemble you in the 1970s -
Feeling nostalgic? How about getting the 1970s candies in a box? Try this fantastic site for a decade in a box of different weights with a pamphlet about your favorite year.
Here's a great 1970s mix for a great price!
- Some candies were delightfully inappropriate -
Schools in the 70s had no political correctness (thank goodness!) The kids all wore costumes to school and they celebrated Halloween fun.
- The games -
- The songs of the 1970s Halloween -
We really were given the freedom to express ourselves in Halloween in the 1970s, whether it was costumes in school or knocking on doors late at night. We were surrounded by awesome TV specials and cute songs about Halloween, a huge array of candies, and enough spooky urban legends to keep us on guard and awaiting witches and full moons, monsters and egging.