The One Man Who Ruined Halloween With Poisoned Candy

“On Halloween night, it’s when people play tricks on each other. It’s all make-believe. I think Richie was just trying to scare you.” —Laurie, Halloween (1978)

In A Nutshell

We’ve all heard the urban legend about the sadist who poisons Halloween candy. It’s a myth that just won’t go away . . . and that’s probably thanks to an incident that took place in 1974 when a young Texas boy died of cyanide-laced candy. Only the villain wasn’t some random stranger—the killer was the boy’s own father.

The Whole Bushel

We’ve all heard the old Halloween story about the psycho wants to murder your kids with arsenic-coated candy. You probably even know some paranoid parents who won’t let their kids go trick-or-treating for fear they’ll end up with a mouthful of razor blades. Of course, poisoned Halloween candy is just an urban legend the media brings up every so often to scare their viewers. In reality, the big bad boogeyman who laces chocolate with cocaine and hides needles inside goodie bags is as real as Mike Myers and Freddy Krueger. He just doesn’t exist.

Well, not anymore.

On Halloween 1974, Ronald Clark O’Bryan and Jim Bates were taking their children trick-or-treating through a quiet neighborhood in Pasadena, Texas. As the kids collected candy, O’Bryan left the group and approached a seemingly empty house. When he came back a few minutes later, he had five Pixy Stix tubes, and he passed them out to the four kids.

When the group was finished for the night, O’Bryan gave the extra stick to a young trick-or-treater he knew from church. It seemed like a pretty pleasant evening . . . until the O’Bryans returned to their Houston home.

That night, O’Bryan’s eight-year-old son Tim started vomiting violently. As he foamed at the mouth, the boy was rushed to the hospital, but Tim was dead on arrival. What was the cause of death? Cyanide. O’Bryan told investigators that Tim had eaten some of the powdered Pixy Stix before bedtime, and suddenly it seemed like every parent’s worst nightmare had come true. Someone was poisoning Halloween candy.

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Authorities rounded up the remaining Pixy Stix candy, and fortunately, none of the other kids had eaten the cyanide-laced sweets. Next, the police took O’Bryan around the neighborhood he’d visited that fateful night, asking him to identify the home of the murderer. After looking around for a bit, O’Bryan eventually remembered the house where he’d gotten the candy, and the cops picked up the homeowner. Only this guy had a solid alibi. Suddenly, all eyes were focused on Tim’s dad.

The cops started investigating O’Bryan’s story, and that’s when detectives learned some pretty disturbing details. A local chemist remembered O’Bryan asking where he could buy cyanide, and even worse, the detectives discovered the man had taken out life insurance policies on both of his kids for $20,000 apiece.

Things were started to make sense now. O’Bryan was a man in debt, but despite his financial situation, he’d been bragging about how he’d soon have enough money to buy a new house. Basically, he’d poisoned his own kid (and nearly killed three others to make the crime look random) because he wanted to change neighborhoods.

The final blow came when investigators found O’Bryan’s pocketknife was covered in candy and cyanide. Not only was the man a horrifying monster, he was an idiot. When the case went to trial, it only took 70 minutes for jurors to sentence O’Bryan to death, and the so-called “Candy Man” was executed on March 31, 1984.

Show Me The Proof

University of Maryland: The Hoax Project
Snopes: Halloween Poisonings
Houston Chronicle: ‘Man Who Killed Halloween’ still haunts holiday