Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Halloween Week, Day 1: 1974 and 1975

Welcome to Halloween Week!

The blog is revisiting our collection of Halloween related photos and news as we do annually, partly because at least a few new things surface each year and because we have new members of the FB page that haven't seen prior years' coverage. 

I am still seeking Halloween photos from the area, and especially from the first decade when children would have been trick or treating around the earliest neighborhoods from 1964 to 1974. 

1974 was a watershed year for Halloween, particularly in our neck of the woods. The only child to have ever died from poisoned candy was Timmy O'Bryan, from a pixie stik laced with cyanide . . .  by his own father. Ronald Clark O'Bryan was in debt to the tune of $20K. That translates to nearly $100K today. And so, he took out life insurance on Timmy and his sister that would cover the debts, handed them poison on Halloween and, to cover himself, to three of his children's friends. Only his son ingested the candy, with his help later than night, and was dead within the hour. 

He would become known as the man who killed Halloween and for years afterward, a pall was cast over the fun by frightened parents, particularly around the Houston area. 

And over the years, all sorts of scare stories made the rounds, with people swearing it happened to someone they knew -- razor blades in apples and the like. But to this day, there is no documented account of another child being killed by Halloween candy. 

Didn't matter to most. The fear was there now and it changed things. 

The earliest coverage from The NEWS, in 1975, the year after the tragedy:

the caption on the photo: Nancy Chevers of Sagemont [affectionately known as Witchiepoo] and Carolyn Williams, a neighbor, prepare for the party they are helping to plan for families in their area. The idea is to get the neighbors together and keep children from traditional trick or treat activities.

Marie's story reads in part: 

Partly due to the Deer Park tragedy of last year, and also because of an increase of drugs in the area, many residents, civic organization, and school are planning alternatives to "trick or treat" for this Halloween. 

The Kirkwood Civic Club is sponsoring a party at the Kroger Shopping Center on Fuqua at Sabo Road for Halloween night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The party is open to all area residents. Various booths, including fish pond, ring toss, spook house, and other are being planned. . . . Safeway stores are featuring "Pumpkin money" as substitute for candy to be given out. Pumpkin money comes in denominations of 2c and 5c . . . "

This would be the norm for the next decade, with schools, churches, and civic organizations planning parties for children instead of roaming about neighborhoods from door to door. 

There remains a mystery from the Leader files I've not yet solved. Among the thousands of photos is this one, with a needle sticking out of a bar of candy, held by an officer in the Leader offices. I've never found the story in any of the years of stacks I've reviewed. But this was the guiding fear of the day. 

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