Take your pick: poisonous lollipops or murder by a Captain Hook impersonator. Each year, Halloween brings with it a few very elaborate urban legends that keep many trick-or-treaters on their toes. Care to separate fact from fiction? Be careful trick or treaters, a few of these spooky Halloween tales are rooted in fact.
1. Bloody Mary
Mirrors are quite essential during All Hallows’ Eve. How else do you perfect your freaky clown makeup? But according to one popular Halloween urban legend, you should be careful what you say while gazing into the looking glass. If you repeat the words “Bloody Mary” a set number of times while staring into your reflection (most claim three, though the number changes), an evil woman from the other side may appear and try to drag you through the mirror. And no, she doesn’t arrive with brunch cocktails.
Related: 9 Bone-Chilling Bloody Mary Stories
2. Corrupted Candy
The common saying “don’t take candy from strangers” dates back to the abduction of Charley Ross in 1874, who was lured into a horse-drawn carriage with a treat and never seen again. So while there is an ounce of truth to the saying, not all candy is out to do evil. Still, the annual rumors persist and run the gamut—from razor blades hidden inside candy apples to candy corn laced with arsenic. While poisoned candy remains in the realm of urban legend, instances of sharp objects concealed inside foodstuffs and handed out during Halloween have occurred. Moral of the story? Be cautious with your sweets.
Related: The Disappearance of Charley Ross
3. Halloween Massacre
Ready, set, say cheese! Or stare devilishly into the camera while wearing a black mask. One particular photo from 1962 continues to spread a legendary story about a Halloween massacre. The plot goes that the man in the black mask in the photo above was at a costume party and decided to lock all the doors in order to attempt murdering each and every guest. Seven partygoers met their end and the man was never caught. It wasn’t until 1969 that his mask was found by the FBI. Is it true? Obviously not. But the possibility of such a slaying still sends shivers down the spines of costumed revelers everywhere.
4. Acid Tattoos and Ecstasy Masquerading as Candy
You’re getting very sleepy, and very … trippy. This myth, a variation of the poisoned candy claims outlined above, purports that a different kind of foreign substance may be lurking in your kiddo's candy haul: Specifically, temporary tattoos laced with LSD and ecstasy pills masquerading as candy. Parents should watch out for houses handing out looseleaf gummies or brightly colored sweets or anything meant to be applied directly onto the skin—because surely the intent is to send your child down the rabbit hole permanently. These myths are nothing new, and while they usually crop up every Halloween, there is virtually no evidence to suggest they're based in fact.
Related: The Origins Behind 9 Terrifying American Urban Legends
5. The Madman with a Hook for a Hand
You’re a blossoming adolescent and your hormones are raging, so naturally you’d welcome the chance to make out with someone in a car after a Halloween party. But according to this tale, it may be best to keep one hand on the ignition. The story goes that while two young lovers are swapping spit, a news story comes on over the radio detailing the story of a woman who was murdered nearby. The culprit? A madman, escaped from a nearby insane asylum, with a hook for a hand. Then the teens hear a scratching along the car's exterior. Scriiitch ... Scriiitch. Against all reason, they get out to investigate and—well I'm sure you know how this will end.
The hookman tale is a classic urban legend, dating back to at least the early-1950s. In some instances, the teens escape before the killer sinks his hook into them; in other tellings, they're not so lucky. While it's nothing more than a ghost story that doubles as a cautionary tale about teen sexuality, the hookman legend may have some connection to fact—real-life lovers' lane slayings likely contribute to its longevity, while the Texarkana Murders are said to have inspired the hookman legend.
Related: 16 Scary Books to Read in October
6. Spider Wig
The myth of the spider wig is definitely an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare. In this story, a young woman is putting together her own costume with treasures from her grandmother’s attic. She sets her eyes on a witch hat and wig, dresses up, and heads to a party. Her scalp is a bit itchy, but she thinks nothing of it—until fellow partiers start freaking out. Out of her headgear, and crawling all over her face, are thousands of tiny little eight-legged arachnids. This creepy-crawly legend likely dates back to the 1950s, when rumors spread of women unwittingly carrying around bug infestations in their bouffant hairdos. While this specific Halloween tale is mere legend, it's easy to see why it sticks around: How many news stories have you read about poor souls with a stuffy nose or itchy ear discovering something is living inside them?