The Texas Pixy Stix Murder That Almost Ended Halloween
You were probably warned at least once in your life to be careful about your Halloween candy. From razor blades to poison, there have been millions of parents in US history to have shown concern over their kids Halloween treats.
But why? Just parental panic, or is there really a reason to be concerned? Well, parents were given a reason because of what happened in Texas on Halloween in 1974.
On the night of October 31st, 1974, a young boy named Timothy O'Bryan died after consuming poisoned Pixy Stix. The 8-year-old boy had returned home from trick-or-treating in Pasadena, Texas, and had eaten the candy right before going to bed. But the terrifying details of the story were about to get even more upsetting.
The boy had gone out on Halloween with his father, Ronald Clark O'Bryan, along with his sibling Elizabeth. They were accompanied by their neighbor and his two children. At one point, the kids went up to a home where no one answered the door, as they were walking away from the home, the O'Bryan father revealed five 21-inch Pixy Stix. The father tells the group that he waited at the door of the mysterious house until someone answered, and they gave him the Pixy Stix. He then split the candy between the 4 kids, and ended up giving the 5th to another child later.
Before bed that night, the young O'Bryan boy asked to eat some of the candy collected. According to his father, he chose Pixy Stix. The boy complained about a bitter taste, so the father gave him Kool-Aid to clear the taste. Almost immediately, the boy complained about stomach pains, and began vomiting. The child died on this way to the hospital, less than an hour after eating the Halloween candy.
The police tested the boy's candy, and found the Pixy Stix with a lethal dose of potassium cyanide. They went on to test the other four Pixy Stix that O'Bryan had given to the other kids, and found they were all laced with cyanide as well.
Police had O'Bryan show them the house he claimed to get the candy from, but the home he picked out was owned by a man who worked for an airport. That resident had been at work Halloween night until late, and had multiple alibis that cleared him. That's when investigators began to wonder about the O'Bryan father.
It turns out, Ronald Clark O'Bryan had repeatedly taken out life insurance policies on his children in the weeks leading up to Halloween. O'Bryan was in financial distress, with his home foreclosed and his car about to be repossessed. Authorities say the morning after the boy's death, O'Bryan contacted the insurance company to find out how to claim the money from his son's death.
After it was discovered that the father had gone to a chemical store in Houston to inquire about purchasing cyanide, police arrested him. He was taken into custody on November 5th, 1974, less than a week after his son had died.
During the trial, multiple witnesses shared stories for O'Bryan asking multiple questions about cyanide, and how much it would take to kill a person. Family members testified that O'Bryan had been talking about what he's planning to do with the insurance money from his son's death. Even his own wife testified that on Halloween night, the boy had not asked to eat the Pixy Stix, but rather that the father forced his son to choose the Pixy Stix.
After nearly a decade of delays on Death Row, O'Bryan was eventually killed by lethal injection in March of 1984.
Though the rumors of poisoned candy had been around for decades, there had been no documented cases where someone had actually poisoned someone with Halloween candy until O'Bryan killed his son. In fact, there has been no confirmed case of a stranger poisoning someone by Halloween candy since.
But in the aftermath of O'Bryan's killing, some communities looked to ban trick-or-treating. There have been numerous examples of demonstrations against Halloween that were born out of this panic, and alternative Halloween events created because of it. Events like "harvest festivals" and trunk-or-treat events grew because of the worries created by the idea of poisoned candy.
Still, there are no documented cases of strangers giving children lethal candy on Halloween. However, the urban legend of poisoned candy continues to this day.