The Man Who Ruined Halloween

Chloe Barbosa, Deputy News Editor

Ever wonder where the myth that there’s poison or a razor blade in your Halloween candy came from? It started during the Industrial Revolution. However, there has only been one case of poisoned candy.

In Deer Park, Texas, 1974, a child named Timothy O’Bryan was poisoned by a Pixy Stix and died an hour later on Halloween night. Everyone in the community returned their children’s candy to the police because they feared that all the candy had been poisoned. The police ran tests on all the candy and there was no poison in any of them. That led to the question, who did it?

The police grew suspicious of Ronald Clark O’Bryan, Timothy’s father. None of the houses the children he took trick-or-treating to passed out Pixy Stix. As the investigation went on, police found out that O’Bryan was over $100,000 in debt and took $20,000 insurance policies on both of his children a month before Timothy’s death.

As the story began to come together, it was believed that O’Bryan gave five children, including two of his own, poisoned Pixy Stix after trick-or-treating. It was thought that he gave it to the three other kids to create a cover up, according to The Houston Chronicle. Police later found a lethal dose of potassium cyanide inside the poisoned Pixy Stix. On Nov. 5, 1974, O’Bryan was arrested for one count of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder.

On May 5, 1975, the trial began. O’Bryan pled not guilty. During the trial, multiple people said that O’Bryan had expressed an interest in cyanide. A Chemist, who had known him in 1973, said that O’Bryan had asked how much cyanide would be fatal. Multiple friends and co-workers also said that O’Bryan had an unusual interest in cyanide and had asked some how to purchase it. On June 3, 1975, O’Bryan was found guilty and was sentenced to death.

The execution date was postponed three times. While in prison, the inmates hated him and wanted to organize a demonstration of their hatred on his execution date. During O’Bryan’s execution, a crowd of 300 people gathered outside and cheered while yelling “trick-or-treat!” Ultimately, O’Bryan was executed by lethal injection on March 31, 1984.