Halloween: Today’s Evidence That People Are Totally Irrational

KTBS has a poll on the front page asking “Do you think trick or treating is as safe now as when you were a child?” The results: 834 nays to 146 yays. So about 85% of the people who answered think they were safer during the Halloweens of their childhood.

Meanwhile, from the Wall Street Journal the other day:

there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger’s Halloween candy.

Never, as in not once in the Halloween’s of yesteryear or even last year. On Halloween, candy from strangers is perfectly safe. Always has been, and still is. Again, consider the facts, this time from the Atlantic:

And how many children have been harmed by randomly poisoned trick-or-treat candy? Approximately zero. It turns out that the Halloween sadist is about 1 percent fact and 99 percent myth. One California dentist in 1959 did pass out candy-coated laxatives, and some kids got bad stomachaches. But instances over the past 40 years where children were allegedly harmed by tainted candy have invariably fallen apart under scrutiny. In some cases, there was evidence that someone (a family member) was attempting to harm a particular child under cover of Halloween. In other cases, poisoning which had another cause was misattributed to candy.

B-b-b-but, what about all the child predators? Well, first, does anyone really think they’re going to pick tonight to steal a child? The night with the most groups of kids? The night with the most lights on? The night with the most adults out walking the neighborhood? The night with the most cops on patrol? The night when fear of predators is at its highest?

Besides, the question isn’t absolute safety, it’s comparative safety: The past to today. I’m sure there were just as many predators lurking in neighborhoods yesterday as there are today. The difference is that now, thanks to technology and reporting laws, everyone knows ahead of time exactly where all these predators are. Not so in the past. So if this is something to worry about, the fact is that kids face less danger today.

Not surprisingly, then, there’s no reason to fear child predators on Halloween. From the same WSJ article:

Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studied crime statistics from 30 states and found, “There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation.”

In fact, she says, “We almost called this paper, ‘Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,’ because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day.”

In short, there might be lots of urban legends and unfounded rumors keeping people from letting kids enjoy the same kinds of Halloween fun that they did, but there aren’t any facts that justify ruining the fun. But hey, why should the facts keep anyone from abandoning what they normally consider their perfectly safe neighborhood, and going to some stupid faux festival at a local church or mall, and then standing in line for two hours before grabbing a couple of tootsie rolls from the trunk of some stranger’s car.

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