Every year as Halloween approaches, the media is full of warnings of Stranger Danger – the fear that some evil, unknown person is after our children. Overall, this fear is not propagated by actual incidences but rather by a proliferation of Stranger Danger legends such as stories of children being abducted from malls or public restrooms. In a report on missing children released by the U.S. Department of Justice, it was shown that only half of one percent of all missing children cases are actually “stereotypic kidnappings” by strangers. The rest are either runaways, missing, or family abductions (Conrad).
Common Myths: Stranger Danger and Candy Contamination
The article The Dangers of Halloween for Children is a prime example of the Stranger Danger phenomenon and the negative light the media tries to cast on Halloween because it shows how the media is manipulating reality instead of accurately depicting it. This article is not based purely on speculation; it recounts two occasions of children who died from candy poisoned by family members. However, the very title of the article focuses on the supposed negativity of Halloween, and is followed by the line “how to protect loved ones on October 31,” which suggests that there is some evil or danger lurking that needs to be guarded against (Trejo). The author uses these factual incidences to establish credibility, and then goes on to mention some “suspected” and “supposed” cases of candy contamination (Trejo). While she does say that many of these cases turned out to be hoaxes, she wraps up with the statement that “there were some legitimate worries” (Trejo). Rather than accurately reflecting reality, Trejo is using a mixture of truth and fiction to manipulate the views of readers and to propagate popular fears regarding Halloween.
Tips for a Safe Halloween That Feed Parents’ Fears
This article appeals to readers’ sense of security, with tips for how to have a safe Halloween, though these tips simply end up feeding the hysteria and reinforcing preconceived ideas. For instance, a tip such as making sure to check all candy before letting children eat it just supports parents’ fears of contaminated candy. In the same way, a reminder to trick or treat in a familiar neighbourhood reinforces the universal fear of a stranger harming innocent children. The tip goes on to say that knowing what treats people are giving out will help keep children safe, “hopefully” (Trejo). This final word raises the ominous suggestion that even with all the precautions that might be taken, children can still get hurt on Halloween.
The Media’s Focus on Dangers of Halloween
The media tends to focus on the supposed dangers of Halloween instead of working to debunk common misconceptions about it, and this affects how the public perceives Halloween. This article centers on a topic that is current and hits close to home for many people – their children. It also has continuity in that candy scare stories always flood the media around Halloween, even though there have been very few documented cases of candy contamination actually happening. The public expects this kind of story and so that is what the media gives them. The article concentrates on dangers of Halloween, past and present, real and imagined, which causes people to lend more credence to these rumours than they should.
Conrad, JoAnn.”Stranger Danger: Defending Innocence, Denying Responsibility.” Contemporary Legendns 1 (1998): 55-96. Print.
Trejo, Barbara. “The Dangers of Halloween for Children: How to Protect Loved Ones on October 31”