Halloween is a holiday dedicated to fantasy -- what other time of year can you witness Super Mario making out with a sexy cat? For parents, though, Halloween fantasies are dark and full of terrors, a day when strangers legally pass out candy to children, everyone's in disguise, and general mischief is in the air.
But how realistic were mom's fears that you might ingest rusty nails concealed in mini-chocolate bars, or trip over your costume and fall down a flight of stairs? Creepy clowns and evil ghosts aside, Halloween can be a pretty scary time if you don't use common sense. It's all fun and games until someone pokes his own eye out with a prop Jon Snow sword. Here's everything else she warned you about, and how likely it is to actually happen.
7. Eating poisoned candy
Probability: Not going to happen
Look, eating candy from a stranger that's laced with arsenic is possible in the general sense that anything is possible: A mad man wearing a hockey mask could chase you around with a chainsaw, for example. But there's never been a documented case of it in American Halloween history.
There are some cases of kids eating poisoned candy on Halloween, like Timothy O'Bryan, who died in 1974 after eating contaminated Pixy Stix, but the perpetrator wasn't a lunatic stranger. Turns out, the truth was much darker: Timothy's dad poisoned his own son for the insurance money. Other supposed incidents of candy tampering usually turn out to be hoaxes.
6. Swallowing a hidden razor blade
Probability: Has happened, but not to you, right? Right?!
Finding rusty nails or razor blades in Halloween treats is a common urban legend, but if it were true, shouldn't you be worried about any and all packaged food year-round?
Like poisoned sweets, stuffing candy with pins, blades, or needles is pretty rare. That said, it has happened; there have been 80 reported cases of people finding sharp objects in Halloween candy, but almost all of them were found to be pranks. The only real documented incident was in 2000, when a man passed out candy bars he stuffed with needles. Only one boy was pricked with said needle, and he wasn't seriously injured.
5. Costume catching on fire
Probability: Somewhat likely
Unless you go the DIY route, there's a good chance your costume will be some last-minute purchase from the pop-up Halloween shop down the street, likely some kind of sexy [insert occupation/animal/borderline-offensive stereotype]. The problem with these costumes, aside from their total lack of originality, is that they are usually made with cheap, unbreathable, and therefore flammable (rayon) or meltable (acrylic, nylon, polyester) fabrics.
This highly scientific experiment out of the UK shows children's Halloween costumes bursting into flames within seconds of being exposed to fire. Considering how many candles there usually are around Halloween festivities, and how costumes tend to be flowy, this could be a major problem. The fabrics that melt quickly can also melt into your skin, causing severe burns. Be mindful of nearby open flames, and try to put a little more thought into an age-appropriate costume this year, OK? And don't send your mom that flammable costume video just to give her a panic attack.
4. Cutting your hand carving a pumpkin
Probability: Kind of likely, if you've got weak knife skills
Cutting your hand off might be a stretch, but carving-related incidents are commonplace during the month of October. Every Halloween, The Hand Center of Western Massachusetts (fun center!) alone sees four or five patients with severe hand and finger injuries. Nationally, that number is in the thousands, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
And if you're underage? If you can't control yourself around fun-sized candy bars, you have no chance against a knife.
"All too often we see adolescent patients with injuries because adults feel the kids are responsible enough to be left on their own," writes Dr. Jeffrey Wint, a member of The Hand Center of Western Massachusetts. "Even though the carving may be going great, it only takes a second for an injury to occur." The carving was going great! Until you slipped and severed your thumb. Oops.
3. Poking yourself in the eye with a sword (or other prop)
Probability: Depends on how clumsy you are
Shockingly, there's no data for just how many people actually need their pirate eye patches on Halloween after poking themselves in the peepers with cheap props, but witches brew + a toy sword isn't always the best combination. If you're at all clumsy, and decide to dress as any sort of character that wields a sword, machete, knife, or shish kabob, well, enjoy both of your eyes while you still have them.
2. Tripping over your too-big costume
Probability: Pretty likely, if you're someone who enjoys adult beverages on Halloween
For some reason, many Halloween costumes tend to involve long, draped outfits -- if you're not going for the sexy look -- which makes tripping almost a guarantee, especially considering the general debauchery you'll be getting into.
"The most common Halloween injuries we see are severe hand injuries from pumpkin carving, and leg and extremity injuries due to falls from long costumes and/or costumes that impair vision," Dr. Kevin G. Shea, an orthopedic surgeon and spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, says on the AAOS website.
That's not to say tripping can't be funny. It's usually hilarious... when it happens to other people and no one gets hurt. But if you're walking in the middle of the street, or standing near a flight of stairs, slipping can go from funny to frightening real quick. Bottom line: Make sure your clothes fit!
1. Getting hit by a car
Probability: Way more likely than you'd think
With the sun setting earlier, if you wear a dark costume after sunset you're basically in camouflage. So it's no surprise that October 31st is the deadliest night for child pedestrians, according to a study from State Farm. Add to that the fact that some people aren't exactly responsible behind the wheel after parties, and it's a recipe for disaster.
Even if you're not trick-or-treating -- because you're an adult and aren't trying to creep out the neighborhood, remember? -- walking around at night on Halloween can be dangerous. Make sure you're wearing reflective clothing, or attach some reflective tape to your outfit, no matter how dorky it looks. Carry a flashlight, and always be mindful of your surroundings. Try not to get into a car with fogged-up windows, either; you can never be too careful on Halloween.
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