Ah, trick-or-treating in the 70s. What a magical time. Parents left us to run like vagabonds and gypsies through the neighborhoods brandishing pillowcases, and for the few good-doer nerds, Unicef boxes. Mass produced costumes were more common than the old-fashioned handmade stuff and everyone wanted the latest plastic mask. School had us wearing our costumes and parading the halls without any kind of "politically correct" protocol other than Women Women would be sent to the office for a sweater to wear over their provocative costume.
I don’t know about ya’all, but my Halloween’s 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 apartment buildings 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 kids.
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)!
Halloween was officially arriving when this was aired -
And if you haven't had enough of this 1970s retro horror stuff, Julie and I are releasing within the month our Zombie Housewives of the 1970s book - What a decade to zombitize!
My book Adult Halloween: Taking Back the Season! had a whole chapter on retro Halloween recreations.