The Candy Man is an Urban legend that combines the fear, revenge and murder all in one. Originally, he was the ghost of a slave who returned for revenge, or an African American man that lived in the projects. If you say his name 5 times, and stand in front of a mirror, he would come back and kill you with his “hook”. His ghost apparition is a vicious killer with a hook for a hand. How was that mixed with Halloween?
Every Halloween I remember was laced with some sort of tale about someone putting razor blades in apples (like who wanted apples for Halloween anyway), or poison in candy. My mother told me only to go to houses where I knew the people. Now they call that STRANGER DANGER! When you finished filling that pillow case with candy, you went home and mom rifled through the haul. She checked for all those things and took the good stuff for herself.
Really the problem started in 1964 when housewife Hele Pfeil got fed up with children she thought were too old to be Trick or Treating. So, to teach them a lesson she gave out dog biscuits, steel wool and the worst, ant pellets laced with arsenic.
“It was Oct. 31, 1964, when Elise Drucker, her sister Irene and a school pal set out along Salem Ridge Road in Greenlawn to fill their sacks with goodies.
“We were hobos,” said Elise Gray, 60, then a teen enjoying one of her last Halloweens.
When they arrived at Helen Pfeil’s house, it started as a typical interaction between candy seeker and candy giver.
“Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?” Pfeil, then 47, softly teased.
The housewife — a mother of teenage children herself — dropped what appeared to be a load of sugary loot into each of the three bags.
The youngsters had no way of knowing that arsenic pellets had been mixed in with the candy, wrapped in napkins.
It wasn’t until the girls returned home that the sinister truth was revealed. (1)
The real culprit behind the Halloween legend was Ronald Clark O’Bryan. He is The Candy Man, and he is also called, “The man that ruined Halloween”. Mr. O’Bryan lived in a Deer Park, Texas, a suburb of Houston, Texas. He lived there with his wife, Daynene, son Timothy 8, and daughter Elizabeth, 6. In 1974 O’Bryan and his neighbor took their 4 children Trick or Treating in nearby Pasadena, Texas. (2)
The story goes the children ran ahead to other homes, and O’Bryan then showed up with giant Pixie Sticks for all of them. When they got home, Timothy ate his with help from his father, and within hours was vomiting and convulsing uncontrollably. The O’Bryan’s took their son to hospital. One of the significant or moving parts of O’Bryan’s story is that he held Timothy as he went limp and died in his arms.
The police were suspicious as they drove him around to where the children had Trick or Treated. O’Bryan couldn’t remember who gave them giant Pixie Sticks even though the rain prevented them from going on more than two streets. All the Pixie Sticks were retrieved and thank God no one else consumed one. All the candy had Cyanide in them, more than enough to kill the children, even the neighbor’s children. None of the homes they went to handed out giant Pixie Sticks. (3)
As they buried Timothy, his father Ronald O’Bryan got up and sang a hymn at the funeral and all were moved. He shared the story of holding his son as he died. Everyone sympathized with the parents of the poisoned boy. O’Bryan was photographed looking thoughtfully at a giant Pixie Stick.
Many believed Satanists were responsible for Timothy’s death. It was far worse than that. It turned out that Ronald O’Bryan was about $100,000 in debt. He had taken out insurance policies on his wife and children. The children held about $60,000 each. Daynene said she was unaware of the insurance policies. O’Bryan had lost his home, and was about to lose his car. He worked for 21 companies in the last 10 years. Ronald Clark O’Bryan had killed his own son for insurance money. He used the fear of Halloween to carry out his dastardly deed. (4)
O’Bryan was arrested and charged with Capital Murder in the death of his son. He was later sentenced to death and sent to Huntsville Prison on death row. He was put to death by lethal injection at Huntsville, Texas in March 31, 1984. There were those who celebrated the death of the Candy Man, by holding Halloween in March. (5) Ronald Clark O’Bryan was a monster, who else would kill their own child? The Candy Man. He is accused of ruining Halloween. He has left a legacy of parents who search through their children’s candy for poison or razor blades, anything that could harm them. Children are still afraid of the boogeyman. For Timothy O’Bryan, the boogeyman was his own father….
- Halloween Legend: The Lady Who Gave Trick-O-Treater Arsenic, Gothamist, http://gothamist.com/2011/10/30/in_1964_long_island_lady_gave_trick.php
- Nicholson, Heather L. (November 1, 2010). “‘Candy Man’s legacy still haunting today”. yourhouston.com. Retrieved July 30, 2014
- Dexheimer, Eric (November 3, 2009). “35 years later, memories of notorious Halloween ‘Candyman’ murder remain vivid”. com
- Examples of Insurance Abuse: Father Poison’s son with Halloween Candy, http://www.contingentfeeblog.com/2008/10/articles/life-insurance-1/examples-of-insurance-abuse-father-poisons-son-with-halloween-candy/
- “Judge Rejects Bid To Halt Execution”. The Victoria Advocate. October 30, 1982. p. 5B. Retrieved April 14, 2014.