Halloween Horrors: From Stranger Danger to Pot-Laced Candy

Lenore Skenazy, writing in the WSJ, says today is the day when America market-tests parental paranoia:

If a new fear flies on Halloween, it’s probably going to catch on the rest of the year, too.

Take “stranger danger,” the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the “Bewitched” and “Brady Bunch” costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.

That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger’s Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)

A California flavor:

Bizarre as that may sound, the potential for pot-laced Halloween candy was the subject of a police media briefing on Friday. And they want everyone to know, it’s got nothing to do with politics. Their warning, issued this year for the first time ever, comes just days before Californians will vote on Prop. 19, which would legalize cannabis consumption for adults over 21 and allow municipalities to collect taxes on sales.

Something real to worry about, lawsuits:

According to the Haunted House Association, there are more than 2,000 haunted attractions in the U.S. and more than 300 amusement parks offer some sort of Halloween or haunted house event. Charity groups honor Halloween by staging more than 1,000 haunted attractions.

Assumption of risk usually bars liability for injuries suffered by patrons of haunted houses. In Mays v. Gretna Athletic Boosters, 668 So.2d 1207 (1996), the Louisiana Court of Appeal said a woman assumed the risk of running into a brick wall at a haunted house after being frightened when “someone jumped out and hollered” at her.

But in December, Jessica Launderville sued the operator of the Realm of Terror attraction in Round Lake Beach, Ill., alleging her feet got entangled in rubber mats, causing her to slip and fall, as she was being chased by “an employee with a chainsaw as a scare tactic.”

Kristof’s Entertainment Center was negligent in, among other things, “improperly chas[ing] individuals in the haunted house toward the exit,” the complaint said.

Some others here. Happy Halloween…


In The Know: Has Halloween Become Overcommercialized?

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