One of the biggest rules of Halloween is to always check your candy. Every year, parents would warn their children about the possibilities of receiving poisoned candy from a maniac with a vendetta. As a kid, one couldn’t help but imagine razorblades piercing into your gums and filling your mouth up with blood. You were convinced one of your neighbors carefully placed needles into goody bags to prick your delicate fingertips as you excitedly reached inside for your favorite treat.
There were rogue candy-givers out there—and they wanted to ruin Halloween.
So where did the candy-paranoia come from? Why were parents so cautious about what was hiding in their kid’s plastic jack-o-lanterns?
One person is responsible for changing Halloween forever: Ronald Clark O’Bryan. He is the man who killed Halloween.
It was raining that Halloween in 1974. Eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan’s face was roasting behind a plastic mask—he was dressed as a character from THE PLANET OF THE APES. He and his friends were enjoying themselves as their fathers ushered them from house to house, waiting at the end of each walkway as the wind howled against their bodies.
The kids got no response from one particular house, so they scurried down to the next one like they were on an assembly line. Timothy’s father, Ronald, stayed behind. When he caught up with the group he was holding five Pixy Stix powdered candy.
By the time everyone returned home, Timothy was dead.
The Pixy Stix candies were handed out to all of the children, and Timothy wanted to eat his right away. Ronald opened the paper tube for his son, tilted his head back and helped him eat the sugary powder. When Timothy complained that it tasted weird, his father gave him some Kool-Aid to wash it down.
Immediately, Timothy complained of stomach pains. He began violently vomiting and then convulsing. His father held him in his arms as he cried and his body viciously shook back and forth like he were a fish suffocating out of water.
Timothy died on the way to the hospital, and an autopsy showed that he died from cyanide poisoning. When police asked about the boy’s candy, Ronald explained he had eaten the Pixy Stix.
Panic rushed over the local police department. Was a killer on the loose? Had the entire neighborhood been poisoned with cyanide? They went door-to-door collecting people’s candy. One of the kids who was given a Pixy Stix was found lying in bed with the Pixy Stix in his hands—unopened. Fortunately, he tired out while attempting to open the package.
Other than the Pixy Stix candy O’Bryan provided them with, authorities found no other poisoned candy in the neighborhood. And, when O’Bryan gave them the address where he received the Pixy Stix, the police found no poisoned candy. The homeowner also had an alibi that night—he was at work, miles away.
O’Bryan was seemingly distraught over the loss of his son. He sang a moving song at his funeral, and insisted his son was in heaven. But, as things began to add up surrounding the horrendous crime the sympathy for O’Bryan began to wane.
Police learned the father visited a chemical supply store looking for potassium cyanide before the murder. He also took out hefty life insurance policies on his children, and he was in substantial debt. The authorities eventually concluded the crime wasn’t random. Timothy was murdered by his own father.
It was determined that O’Bryan poisoned his son for the insurance money. He handed out the tainted Pixy Stix to the other children in an attempt to cover up his crime. O’Bryan’s wife had no idea of his sadistic plan.
He was convicted of his son’s murder and sentenced to death. He was executed on March 31, 1984, in front of an audience. Protesters cackled outside the jail like witches on Halloween night, shouting “Trick or treat” as poison was injected into O’Bryan’s veins.
Before he died he prayed for forgiveness—but never admitted to killing his son.
In his final moments he said, “We as human beings do make mistakes and errors…this execution is one of those wrongs. But it doesn’t mean the whole system of justice is wrong. Therefore, I forgive all – I do mean all – those who have been involved in my death.”
As the poison coursed through his veins and his body convulsed—as Timothy’s tiny body did on the day he killed him—O’Bryan said, ”God bless you all and may God’s best blessings be always yours.”
O’Bryan’s ex-wife, Daynene, did not forgive him for what he did to their son. Before he was executed she told The Houston Chronicle, “He made his bed, and now he is having to lie in it. I have no pity for him.”
The remorseless killer did lie in the bed he made that Halloween night, and his actions would forever leave a haunting effect on the holiday. The senseless killing made parents realize that monsters do indeed exist, and it opened their eyes to the dangers of a tradition where kids are allowed to take candy from strangers.
This article was originally published on Blumhouse.com.