An Inclusive Litany

10/30/01

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called on parents to cancel their children's Halloween trick-or-treating, despite President Bush's exhortation for Americans to resume their normal lives. "Even in normal years," Jackson said, "it is a holiday of risk. Every year, we read tragic stories of children who are bloodied by sick tricks. They bite on an apple and are cut with a hidden razor blade. They are poisoned by doctored treats." But Jackson is apparently unaware that these stories of tampered Halloween treats are a hoax.

David Murray, director of the Statistical Assessment Service and co-author of It Ain't Necessarily So: How Media Make and Unmake the Scientific Picture of Reality, notes that there have been only 76 reports of any kind of tampering since 1958, almost all of which were fraudulent or mistaken. Of the three reported fatalities, one was from a girl's fatal seizure due to a congenital heart disorder while she was out trick-or-treating. Of the two other children, one's father poisoned the child and blamed tainted candy in an attempt to conceal the crime, and the other child ate the father's heroin stash.

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