Halloween, the eve of All Saints' Day, is mostly associated with children dressing up as witches, ghosts or superheroes and trick or treating for candy. In addition to this fun-filled image of Halloween, there are countless myths and urban legends surrounding the holiday that have haunted people for decades. Some myths began as a misunderstanding, an embellished story or a reported encounter that quickly turned into a Halloween legend, but many of today's myths have lacked supporting evidence and firsthand accounts that vampires truly exist or black cats are satanic cults' sacrificial animal of choice. Here are 13 haunting Halloween myths debunked:
- There are razor blades and foreign objects in candy
While this myth might be one of the favorite cautionary phrases of parents, right up there with "put on a jacket or you'll catch a cold," there has never been a single documented incident of razor blades in candy. More than likely, parents are trying to find any reason whatsoever to prevent their children from eating 15 pounds of candy in one night. This Halloween, before you carefully inspect each Milk Dud for embedded razor blades, just remember that caution is admirable, but X-raying each piece of candy is nuts.
- Black cats are bad luck
There is absolutely no real evidence to support the idea that black cats are unlucky. In fact, it is equally likely that black cats are good luck since they are harbingers of doom. More likely, black cats have become an iconic symbol of Halloween, due to their association with witches. Despite the folklore surrounding black cats, there is no proof that they are good or bad luck, just adorable.
- Halloween is the Devil's holiday
Halloween is actually rooted in Druid and Celtic ritual, and these religions do not believe in "Satan," at least not in the incarnation that Christians are familiar with. Scholars attribute this myth to Christian fundamentalists who believe that Halloween's dark imagery and association with death make it a product of evil rather than good. However, the Druid and Celtic rituals upon which Halloween is based were celebrations dedicated to much more positive ideas like the harvest and the generosity of the gods.
- Child molesters attack most on Halloween
There has never been a single documented case of a child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick or treating in the United States. That's not to say that it's never happened, but you can rest assured that the mobs of child molesters do not circle Halloween on their calendars, or pose a bigger threat on this day than any other. In fact, many states require convicted sex offenders to follow a curfew, keep their lights off or post 'no candy' signs at their residence. This hysteria is more than likely a product of parents' worries and media scare tactics.
- Strangers poison candy
The chances of your kids eating poisoned candy are actually far smaller than their chance of being involved in a car accident. Again, there has never been a documented incident of intentional candy poisoning in the United States. That's not to say that eating old candy or too much candy is a good idea. Children and parents alike should exercise a reasonable amount of caution and avoid old or unlabeled candy, but, more than likely, tainted candy is the product of careless homeowners rather than evil strangers trying to poison children.
- Gang initiations take place on Halloween
This is a popular myth that has arisen in the era of the "Urban Legend." Gang initiation is a popular subject of myth and misunderstanding mostly because it is a mysterious process that is poorly understood. If you are trick or treating in an area where gang activity is a problem, it might be a good idea to think twice before going trick or treating at all. That being said, there is no evidence to show that Halloween represents any special occasion for gang initiation in the United States.
- Consuming Almond Joy prevents cancer
This myth is absolutely ridiculous. The only thing consumption of Almond Joys, or any other candy for that matter, will prevent is weight loss. If you're looking to prevent cancer, consult a physician, not the guy dressed as a pirate who lives next door.
- Halloween is the second busiest retail day of the year
Halloween actually ranks sixth in terms of retail spending, following holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day. Needless to say, Halloween won't end the current economic recession, but consumers often spend a surprising amount of time and money on the holiday. In the grand scheme of things, though, Halloween doesn't even come close to Christmas in terms of retail spending.
- Cult groups hunt for black cats on Halloween
This myth blends together two other favorite Halloween urban legends, and depicts a marauding band of cult members on the prowl for black cats they can mutilate in a satanic sacrifice. However, the ASPCA has reported no increase in black cat mutilations, rescues or adoptions on Halloween, but many animal shelters halt black cat adoptions around the holiday to be on the safe side.
- People hanging at haunted houses are actually dead
This myth is actually based on truth. In the late '90s, there were several hanging suicides that went unreported by passers-by because it was assumed that the victims were Halloween decorations. Some cities went so far as to outlaw such decorations to prevent this type of problem, but no other incidents have been reported since then.
- Zombies are real
Flesh eating zombies are a Halloween staple, or at least a scary movie staple. While zombies are mostly fiction, there is a compound that can mimic the symptoms of zombie like behavior. Tetrodotoxin is a compound found in puffer fish and other poisonous sea creatures that can slow bodily functions to mimic death. Unfortunately, the slowed bodily functions also deprive the brain of oxygen and cause severe brain damage. When the toxin's affects begin to wear off, the victim emerges from their seemingly dead state and, while they likely won't thirst for flesh, they may walk around disoriented and unable to communicate. Trying to ingest tetrodotoxin as a Halloween prank is a terrible idea because the semi-catatonic state is permanent.
- Vampires are real
It is impossible for humans to survive on blood alone. In fact, there are not enough nutrients in blood to sustain animals much larger than a tick or a flea for much longer than a few days. This makes the idea of the vampire, with super human strength and dashing good looks, impossible. Vampires do make for excellent movies and tales, but science proves these stories to be purely fiction.
- Pumpkins are the historical symbol of Halloween
Actually, the turnip was the original symbolic food of Halloween according to the Druids. It was even carved and decorated much like today's pumpkin. In fact, the pumpkin is a new world plant that didn't even grow in Europe, the birthplace of Halloween. While we may celebrate the jack-o-lantern as a timeless symbol of Halloween, in reality it is a modern American invention that didn't even exist when Halloween was first conceived.