Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #85: Halloween Edition the Second

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

I was going to say that I was shocked to find, when I went back and dug around in my old blog posts, that I didn’t even do a Halloween-themed Fun Friday Facts last year, but that would be a lie. Last year was the presidential election, and that was the scariest thing imaginable. It always is because goddamn if this country isn’t overrun with stupid lunatics.

But I digress.

The year before last, I blogged about the origins of Halloween, trick-or-treating, Halloween costumes, and jack-o-lanterns. Feel free to go ahead and read that blog post if you’re new here, I’ll wait.
For the rest of you:

According to at least one dubious source, bats became associated with Halloween because of the ancient Celtic tradition of building a bonfire at Samhain. Bonfires attract bats. That I can at least verify based on personal experience, because when I was a kid my mother used to drag me out camping all the time and there were always bats trying to crash the party. My mother hates bats, for the record. I don’t know what she thought she was doing.

Contrary to what popular belief, no one has ever tried to harm a random child by poisoning Halloween candy. A single child, 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan, died in 1974 from eating Halloween candy poisoned with cyanide. It doesn’t really count as a random act of violence, however, because poor little Timothy’s own shitty father gave him the candy, after taking out a life insurance policy on him and his little sister, 5-year-old Elizabeth. To cover his tracks, the father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, gave the candy to a few other kids as well, hoping to pass his children’s deaths off as the work of one of those mad Halloween poisoners we keep hearing about. None of the other children ate the poison. Ronald Clark “The Candyman” O’Bryan was executed in 1984.

He looks the type.

Candy corn is one of those things you either really love or really hate, apparently. I, for one, really love it, but then again I’ll shove anything sugary into my fat face unless it’s black licorice, fuck that. Anyway, lots of other people apparently also love candy corn, because candy companies make 9 billion pieces of it a year. That’s enough candy corn for everyone on Earth to eat a single kernel each year, and still leave enough for me.

A candy maker called George Renninger invented candy corn all the way back in the 1880s, when “butter crème” candies were popular. Renninger’s sole innovation was to shape the candy like a kernel of corn and layer it in three colors, which made it difficult and time-consuming to produce by hand in the days before factory automation, but I guess the novelty of the thing made up for it. Back then, there was no such thing as sweet corn and only the poorest of the poor ate corn at all, so the candy was marketed and widely known as “chicken feed.”

Mmmm chicken feed.

As I’ve mentioned before, trick-or-treating didn’t really take off in the U.S. until the 1930s, but in the post-World War I period, American candy makers attempted to give us another reason to buy candy in October – “Candy Day,” a manufactured holiday allegedly meant to spread “good will, appreciation and good fellowship” and to educate the public about the – get this – “real food value of candy.” Granted, it was 1916; they were probably still bleeding people and feeding them mercury back then.

A few years later, “Candy Day” was renamed “Sweetest Day” by Herbert Birch Kingston, an advertiser who realized Americans aren’t as stupid as they look, and repackaged as a reason to appreciate widows, orphans, shut-ins and the disenfranchised. The holiday caught on after that, because we all like an excuse to feel good about ourselves without actually doing anything to deserve it, and remained popular all the way up until the 1960s, until it was eventually swallowed by the even-more-popular Halloween, which will eventually be swallowed by Christmas.

There is no Thanksgiving, only Zuul.