From poison in the sweets and corpses on the porch to murderer jesters and sacrificed pets, here are the myths that keep on going

Like the rascal in the final reel of a slasher movie, the urban legends that surround Halloween refuse to die- in fact, social media seems to have given them a new lease of life.

Though they are often outlandish, some of the myths do have a grain of true- making them all the more potent. Here are some you may have spotted.

Poisoned candy and toxic treats

Trick-or-treating must be perplexing to young children. They expend all time being told not to speak to strangers, then suddenly they find themselves taken all over the neighbourhood and told to knock on random entrances and accept gifts from, well, mainly strangers.

That contradiction has fuelled concerns, especially in the US, that the candy handed out to trick-or-treaters may contain poison.

There are concerns trick-or-treaters could get more than they bargained for Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

There are few real-life incidents of strangers distributing poisoned candy to children. However, there are still such a case in 1974, when eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan, from Texas, died after feeing Halloween candy laced with cyanide.

Police eventually detected the culprit was the child’s father, who had poisoned his son in order to assert life assurance fund. Ronald Clark O’Bryan, nicknamed the Candy Man, was executed for slaying in 1984.

If it isn’t poison, it’s going to be sharp objects

Razor blades and needles hidden in trick-or-treat endowments are also a fear, again with little evidence that this is a widespread difficulty.

There have, however, been isolated incident in the past two decades. In 2000, 49 -year-old James Joseph Smith, from Minneapolis, was charged with concealing needles in chocolate bars.

Similar incidents seem to have been motivated by a misunderstanding of how far a Halloween prank should go rather than malicious attempts to injure.

Of course, parents may have a vested interest in spreading such rumours. Insisting you have to inspect your child’s sweetie drag to remove any suspicious confectionery is clearly an excellent way of extracting the best ones for yourself.

If it isn’t poison or sharp objects, it must be drugs

The idea that candy may contain marijuana also crops up often. But quite why anybody would want to give away their stash for free remains unclear.

There are a couple of incidents that could have sparked this myth. In San Francisco, a post-office worker who handed out unclaimed chocolate barswas apparently unaware the sweet treats had been part of an attempt to smuggle drugs.

In another case, in 1970, a five-year age-old appeared to have died after feeing Halloween candy laced with heroin. However, examiners discovered the medicine had been added to the sweets in an attempt to cover up the fact that the child had accidentally ingested heroin received elsewhere in the house.

There’s a modern twist on this tale: at least one US government bureauthis year has cautioned about cannabidiol candy, which is sold in so-called smoke stores. Reports say the sweets are not meant to include THC, the active marijuana ingredient, but when tested they sometimes do.

NJ Attorney General (@ NewJerseyAG)

Parents: Check #Halloween candy for #marijuana infused candy. i2RpF3Ovo9

October 24, 2017

The New Jersey attorney general’s office has recently issued a similar warning on social media.

And in 2014, police in Denver launched a Facebook campaign challenging parents to identify sweets containing edible marijuana.

Denver Police campaign from 2014 about marijuana candy

If the medicines aren’t in the candy, they will be in the tattoos

Yes, a fear that strangers will give children Halloween-themed temporary tattoos containing LSD actually exists. A letter to the New York Times from 1988 debunksthe story, but it still won’t go away. But devoted how excited children get when they go trick-or-treating, how could anyone tell the difference?

That decoration is actually a dead body

Several real-life incidents have fuelled stories about a corpse being undiscovered for periods because it was mistaken for a Halloween decoration.

In 1990, two deaths in the US were ascribed to fix stunts for Halloween going wrong, with at least two similar demises reported since then.

But the urban legend owes its origins to an incident in Delaware in 2005, when a hanged girl was left in a tree for a few hours because people accepted it was a Halloween prop; and another case in California in 2009, when a corpse lay on a porch for two weeks because neighbours accepted it was a particularly spooky Halloween decoration.

There’s going to be a massacre

A recurring Halloween myth is the threat of a massacre. The format is usually that a TV psychic has predicted a series of killings but the details are vague, with messages saying, for example, that the targeted school will begin with the letter M or N. The gossip usually furnishes just enough specificity to build the advise apply to a large section of the population.

One such gossip can be traced to 2001, when there were false reports that an Afghan man had written to his American former girlfriend in early September to warn her not to fly on the 11 th of that month and to avoid shopping centres on 31 October.

Stories of supposed historic carnages have been was transformed into memes, building them easier to spread and appear more authoritative, despite the fact there isn’t a shred of evidence to back them up.

This Halloween murder meme isn’t based on a true story. Photograph: Various websites

Sharing creepy stories and urban legends on social media is perhaps a modern take on the age-old practise of telling unattributable specter narratives around a campfire or at bedtime.

If there is a massacre, murderer clowns may be responsible

Clowning around: Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, superstar of the remaking of Stephen King’s It. Photo: Brooke Palmer/ AP

It’s been a tough couple of years for comedians, what with Pennywise being the face of a popular ogre movie based on Stephen King’s It, which followed an epidemic of sightings of silent creepy jesters.

Last year, the reporting of a clown leaving a threatening note outside a school on a now-defunct satirical website determined that particular internet rumour-mill in motion. However, anyone suffered by coulrophobia- an irrational fear of buffoons- will be reassured to know that while the media often refer to these pranksters as” assassin comedians “, no deaths have been attributed to them.

… Or gangs

There are deviations on the narrative, but from the late 2000 s a spate of chain emails and text messages warned that various gangs were planning to carry out a ritual initiation rite on Halloween targeting a particular number of women or white people, typically between 31 and 34.

More recently, the rumours tend to centre on supposed gangs of African-American humen targeting white people. This time, the myth involves a US Antifa uprising on 4 November.

Pets are going to be targeted

Not simply white people, but pets are also predicted to be preyed upon on Halloween- or so the myth moves. This tall tale typically claims black cats will be sacrificed in various witchcraft ceremonies.

More bizarrely, in recent years there has also been a rumor that 31 October has been named” National Kill a Pit Bull Day “. This hoax seemed to be originated as a protest against a specific piece of legislation in Slater, Missouri, in 2012.

McDonald’s is giving away Ouija boards

This particular favourite from 2014, supported by a photoshopped mock-up, swept the internet. Rumour had it that McDonald’s was giving away children’s Happy Dinners that contained a doll Ouija board alongside the usual burgers and McNuggets.

Holly hori (@ IloveJAPAN1 234)

This would be the only reason I’d ever get a McDonalds @HeyCloverHey #ouijaboard lQbbSAhLVj

October 26, 2014

Most of these urban legends are as persuading as this…

Stan (@ HitmanStan)

Halloween falls on Friday the 13 th this Time? It’s been ‘6 66 ‘ Times since that has Happened…… lBuu7zfjrD

August 22, 2016

Did you spot what’s wrong with this meme?

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