Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 18, 2017 22:51:29 GMT -5
Popular Halloween Myths Debunked
Halloween is all about the spooky. From running wild after dark on streets crowded with ghosts, goblins and scary clowns, to curling up for a horror-movie marathon, it’s a holiday that loves to flirt with fear. But there is one dark force so horrifying that even on this haunting holiday we must resist its efforts to confuse and beguile us: the spread of fake stories on social media. To ward off the evil spirits of misinformation, be wary of these five commonly shared Halloween myths:
Myth No. 1: Tainted candy. Razor blades. Poison. Pins. LSD. They’ve all been planted in Halloween candy over the years by sadistic adults intent on harming strangers’ children, we’ve been told. In recent years, images of nails and other foreign objects in Halloween candy have swept social media. But the tales of tainted treats are urban myths. Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, looked at reported incidents of “Halloween sadism” going back to 1958 and declared he was “unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat in the course of trick-or-treating.”
The only proven case of poisoned Halloween candy killing a child occurred in Pasadena, Texas, in 1974. But it was Timothy O’Bryan’s father, not a stranger, who put cyanide in the 8-year-old’s Pixy Stix. Ronald Clark O’Bryan, sometimes dubbed the “Candy Man” and the “Man Who Killed Halloween,” was sentenced to death for his crime and executed by lethal injection in 1984.
Reported incidents are normally hoaxes. “Typically this is done by the kids,” Best said. Today it’s easy to stick something in your candy, whip out your phone, snap a picture and get it out on social media,” he explained.
Of course, there’s no harm in checking the candy. At the very least, it’s a great excuse to sample the goods. And for many Americans, it’s is a lot harder to swallow the idea that strangers aren’t poisoning random children than stories that they are.
Myth No. 2: Open season on black cats. If you believe what you see on social media, Halloween is like The Purge for black cats. The fear that people are adopting black cats to torture or sacrifice around the holiday is so great that some animal shelters won’t allow the adoption of black cats as Halloween approaches. For example, the Animal Welfare League outside Chicago places all black cats and black rabbits in a separate room about a week before Halloween and doesn’t return them until two days after, explained the league’s president and executive director Linda Estrada. She concedes that animals, especially cats, are at risk of abuse all year, but puts away the black cats and rabbits at Halloween “just to be on the safe side. We don't want to see even one animal fall into bad hands,” she added. She claimed that one year, a black cat was brought into the clinic the day after Halloween with initials burned onto its flesh.
Concerns about the ritualistic torture of animals around Halloween were more widespread in the 1980s and 90s when fears of secret Satanic cults were at their zenith. Many shelters have since abandoned the policy of hiding black cats around Halloween, but according to the ASCPA, “There is no reason to believe that these cats are at risk. While it is true that animals too often become the victims of holiday pranks and cruelty, there is no reason to believe that witches are involved, or that shelters are a source.” The group suggests shelters follow normal adoption procedures at Halloween. “Continued publicity on this tends to make adoption counseling procedures look arbitrary and silly,” the ASPCA contends.
Myth No. 3: Satan is the reason for the season. Many Americans believe Halloween is rooted in Satanic worship. For decades, Christian Broadcast Network founder Pat Robertson denounced the holiday as a “demonic ritual” and “a night when the devil rejoices.” Last year, Robertson, borrowing from Willie Nelson, appealed to mothers, saying, “Mother, don’t let your babies grow up to be demon worshipers. Don’t let them do it.”
Robertson and some other pastors may see Satan’s hand in Halloween, tracing the holiday to pagan and Druidic customs, but the devil is in the details. Some scholars trace Halloween’s roots to an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which some say was associated with communing with the dead. Others, like Nicholas Rogers, author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, argue very little is actually known about the feast beyond celebrating the harvest season. According to Rogers, people ceased celebrating Samhain long before “Satanism” was even a thing. “Satanism is essentially a Christian creation,” he insisted, and “incompatible with the polytheism of the ancient Celts.”
Henry Kelly, a professor of English at UCLA and author of Satan: A Biography, said Halloween is best understood as a product of 18th-century folklore traditions of Scotland and Ireland. “Efforts to connect it with anything earlier are bogus,” he asserted. The holiday’s strongest roots sprout from Catholic traditions. The name is derived from All Hallow’s Eve, the evening before All Saints’ Day two nights before All Souls Day. So, instead of worrying about the devil, Kelly advises evangelicals like Robertson to just “relax and have a good time.”
Myth No. 4: It’s all about pumpkins. It’s hard to imagine Halloween without carving pumpkins to make jack-o’-lanterns. But the original jack-o’-lanterns were carved from turnips and carried a candle to represent a soul trapped in purgatory, according to Rogers. People in England would sometimes carry the turnips while “souling,” a ritual that included people going door-to-door to ask for food in exchange for prayers for the dead,” he added. One popular story behind the origin of the jack-o’-lantern stems from an Irish myth about “Stingy Jack” who conned the devil in a bar bet. Having angered both God and Satan with his antics, Jack was not welcomed in heaven or hell and was forced to walk the earth with only a burning lump of coal in a carved-out turnip to guide him.
Myth No. 5: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a Halloween story. Washington Irving’s story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, has been called “one of the best known Halloween tales,” “New York’s ultimate Halloween story” and “America's Halloween carol.”
In 1996, Sleepy Hollow, New York, changed its name from North Tarrytown to rebrand itself as a spooky tourist destination after General Motors closed its Hudson River plant. Halloween is the town’s peak season. According to Fodor’s travel guide, “There’s no better place to celebrate the holiday than Sleepy Hollow.” But there’s a problem: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow had nothing to do with Halloween. According to Kelly, nowhere in the story is Halloween mentioned and in fact, the holiday wasn’t widely known or celebrated in America when Irving penned his tale.
Nonetheless, Brian Jay Jones, author of Washington Irving: An American Original, insists it’s a quintessentially Halloween story, all the same. “If Irving didn’t invent Halloween, then he should have,” Jones said, adding that Irving blended German and Dutch folklore to craft “the first real American horror story.” While Irving may not have explicitly had Halloween in mind when he wrote Sleepy Hollow, the story is set in autumn and “feels like a Halloween story” because it is packed with the sights, sounds and tastes of the season, Jones explained.
Source: William Cummings, USA Today, October 18, 2017.