When I was a little girl, I was always told to unwrap and check my Halloween candy before eating it. My mother and nanny told me that some people put needles and such in the candy bars.
The first memory I have hearing this urban legend was when I was about seven or eight years old. It was just after I moved into our new house in Hong Kong and I was getting ready to go trick-or-treating. My mom and my nanny told me to not eat any candy when I got it because they had to check it first. I believe they may have heard something on the news warning us about it but I really dont know if there was any truth behind the claims. It may or may not have happened to someone first hand, but nonetheless I always checked my candy before I ate any of it.
I grew up in Hong Kong but had an American father and attended an international school where we were taught primarily in English. This is probably why I was able to hear this urban legend, because some cultures including the Chinese, do not celebrate Halloween. It is a much more Western tradition thus normally reflected in those areas or areas in close contact with them. In later years I learned to look out for more than just needles. There were apparent incidences where razor blades, pins, and possibly even poison had turned up in the candy.
Although documented incidents of this happening are rare, this urban legend was heard throughout society. The message it sends out is actually quite familiar– Do not take candy from strangers! Parents are always telling their children this, warning them of the dangers that could happen by talking to strangers. Halloween is sending out quite the opposite message though. It is the one time of year when it is okay to go door to door, accepting candy from random people. I think this urban legend, whether true or not, was spread to remind us all of the potential risk of being so trusting during Halloween.
This urban legend can be found in the book Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary Folk Literature in Grades 7-12.
De Vos, Gail. Tales, Rumors, and Gossip: Exploring Contemporary folk Literature in Grades 7-12. Libraries Unlimited, 1996. Page 69