It's hard to believe that we already on the heels of Halloween. Before you know it, our neighborhoods will look a little spooky, our grocery stores will be full of bags of fun-size candy, and our nation's children will be running down the streets looking for a trick or a treat. With that being said, there's no better time than now to take a look back at some of the holiday's craziest and spookiest facts that will leave most of us shaking in our boots.
So, take a seat and get ready to learn more than you probably care to know about the spookiest holiday of them all...
For as long as any of us can remember, there have been rumors of some kid eating candy that was either poisoned or contained razor blades, but like most urban legends, those fears simply are not true - at least not entirely. According to Live Science (via Business Insider), the only two recorded cases of children dying from ingesting tainted Halloween candy, and both of those involved the children's family, one way or another.
The first case involved a child whose family said they died from an apparent overdose after ingesting tainted candy. The truth, however, is that the child got a hold of a family member's stash and the family simple sprinkled some of it on the child's Halloween candy to cover it up.
The second case involved Timothy O'Bryan, who passed away in 1974 after his father mixed cyanide in with the child's Pixi Stix in an attempt to collect on an insurance policy he had taken out in his son's name.
As people begin to put up Halloween decorations inside and outside their homes this fall, they'll probably put up witches, cats, and spooky full moons. The decorative moon, however, is the only full moon we'll see this year, as a full moon on Halloween isn't as common as one might assume.
According to the Chicago Tribune's Tom Skilling, a full moon last occurred on Halloween in 2001, and the next time kids trick or treat under the light of full moon won't be until October 2020. Skilling also notes that there will only be four additional full moons this century that take place on Halloween - in 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096.
While the customs we take part in on Halloween have evolved over the centuries, the celebration itself originated with the Celts, who created many of the traditions we keep alive to this day. According to Business Insider, the Halloween has its roots with Samhain, a festival marking the end of the harvest season.
"Celts believed Samhain was a time when the wall between our world and the paranormal world was porous and spirits could get through," the article reads. "Because of this belief, it was common for the Celts to wear costumes and masks during the festival to ward off or befuddle any evil spirits."
The act of carving a jack-o-lantern comes from Celtic folklore about a stingy farmer named Jack who had a habit of playing tricks on the devil. The devil responded by "forcing him to wander purgatory with only a burning lump of coal from the underworld." The story goes on that Jack took the coal and made a lantern from a turnip, using it to guide his lost soul.
Over the years, however, people started to carve pumpkins instead of turnips and it's been that way ever since.
The early days of the Catholic church were spent trying to convert as many people as humanly possible, and that especially includes the pagans who once celebrated Samhain in late October.
It all originated with Hallowmas, a three-day Catholic celebration of the saints that also involved prayer for the recently deceased. In the 11th Century, the church decided to hold the three-day celebration from October 31 to November 2, which happened to be at the same time as the Wiccan New Year.
It is no surprise that Americans spend billions of dollars each year throughout the holiday season. But an average of $6 billion annually? Well, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and as Americans, we spend well into the billions on candy, decorations, and costumes, according to History.com. The candy business alone brings in an average of $2 billion each Halloween, which according to Business2Community.com, comes out to around 90 million pounds of chocolate.
There is only one holiday that eclipses Halloween's impact on the American economy, and I don't think you'll have to take too many guesses to figure that one out.
The act of kids dressing up in scary costumes and going from door to door in search of candy was introduced to American culture by Irish immigrants in the early 20th Century, but that annual tradition almost went away entirely during the Second World War.
According to History.com, due to sugar rationing during WWII, candy wasn't as easily accessible as it once was, and what's the point of dressing up and going from door to door when there's no candy involved? I mean, what kid wants to collect fruit and veggies in lieu of chocolate and other Halloween staples? It wasn't until war-time rationing ended in 1947 when children's magazines, radio programs, and comic strips reintroduced the pastime to American children. We know the rest of the story.
There's been a longstanding belief that the American candy industry had a hand in the United States government implementing Daylights Savings Time in an attempt to boost candy sales around Halloween. This rumor was addressed during a March 2007 episode of NPR's All Things Considered, where Michael Downing, author of "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time," explained:
"This is no kind of legend. This is the truth. For 25 years, candy-makers have wanted to get trick-or-treat covered by Daylight Saving, figuring that if children have an extra hour of daylight, they'll collect more candy. In fact, they went so far during the 1985 hearings on Daylight Savings as to put candy pumpkins on the seat of every senator, hoping to win a little favor."
You have to feel bad for black cats. They're often tied to witchcraft and other superstitions, which is why some animal shelters across the country refrain from adopting out black cats around the Halloween season. Lynda Garibaldi, director of The Cats' Cradle in Morgantown, North Carolina, told The Huffington Post that she "does not adopt out black cats during the month of October ... because of superstition and the concern that the wrong people (who might harm them) might adopt them."
When we were children, the best part of Halloween was trick-or-treating. You got to dress up in costumes, roam the streets of your neighborhood with a group of friends, and get loads and loads of candy. But the combination of those three activities might have an impact on the psychological makeup of children, as is pointed out in several studies related to the holiday.
According to an article in io9, group settings and masks, when combined, can lead to what is called deindividuation, "wherein people become less likely to evaluate their own behavior and less apprehensive over the possibility that they'll be recognized or observed by others," according to the article.
The article also states: "The same behavior was observed in this study, which showed that children wearing costumes, when put in a group of other children with no clear authority figure, were significantly more likely to steal both candy and money when given the opportunity, than children who were either not anonymous (i.e. not in costume) or not in a group."
So make sure to watch out for those roving mobs of masked children come Halloween.
And now for the scariest fact about Halloween... candy corn used to be called "chicken feed." Although the name isn't scary in itself, the texture, taste, and the propensity of the older population to hand out candy corn every year is a nightmare for children of all ages. I mean, you've had the stuff, right? Gross, gross, gross. According to Business Insider, candy corn was invented in the 1880s by Wunderle Candy Company candy maker George Renninger and was originally named "buttercream candies" and "chicken feed," due to farmers typically feeding their chickens dried corn during that era.