It’s October again, which means black cats, slicing up pumpkins, and getting your horror-movie-marathon on! I’ve always harboured a bit of a macabre fascination with horror and so this Halloween I wanted to give you a bit of a grab-bag (trick-or-treat pun intended) of some dark histories associated with food.
However, allow me to be the stereotypical farmer at the end of the creepy road… if you’re squeamish don’t go down this road. I’ll be talking about some bloody topics below including serial killing, child murder, and brutal dictatorships.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason why there’s a common cautionary tale not to get into a stranger’s car, even if he offers you candy. Candy has long been a method of serial killers and child abusers to prey on victims. We all know that killer cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer worked at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. Fred West, who killed 13 people in the UK, infamously drove an ice cream truck and used it to run over a four-year-old. However, the scariest might have been the sadistic torturer and serial killer known as the Candy Man, Dean Corll, who ran the Corll Candy Company.
We All Scream
Speaking of ice cream and the UK, the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars is a wild story. Apparently, two rival gangs began selling drugs and stolen goods around Scotland’s largest city, using ice cream trucks as fronts. However, the ice cream trucks from each gang began straying into the other’s territories. Rival van operators stole each other’s goods (including ice cream), vandalized and damaged each other’s property, and even ended up murdering an entire family. An ice cream driver who resisted doing drug deliveries from his truck was targeted, with gang members burning his house to the ground, killing the six people inside.
While many now blow off Fanta’s origins in Nazi Germany as an urban legend… it’s actually totally true. After the Coca-Cola company (which has a weird, dark history all on its own as a cocaine-based cure for morphine addition) was banned from trading with Nazi Germany due to a US embargo in 1940, German beverage makers scrambled to fill the gap in the market. Fanta soon became the unofficial drink of the Nazi party, and when Coca-Cola came back to Germany after the war, the American executives made sure to pocket all the profits made from their Nazi counterparts!
Each year – almost without fail – the news runs some story about Halloween candy being poisoned, drugged, or booby-trapped to kill or maim the children who eat it. However, these have almost all proven to be urban legends… except one. After eating a Pixy Stick on Halloween, 1974, eight-year-old Timothy O’Brien died of acute cyanide poisoning, leading many to believe that he had been given a poisoned candy while out Trick-or-Treating. However, the candy had actually come from the boy’s father, Ronald, who had dosed the Pixy Stick with cyanide after taking out huge life insurance policies on his son and daughter, fulfilling the unfortunately morose stereotype of murders often being committed by family members rather than some nefarious child-hating neighbour.
There’s a lot of grim gastronomy out there, whether it be entire cuisines that were started out of desperation by enslaved people or other foods being invented specifically to treat mental patients in insane asylums. I’m sure I’ve missed some other stories of macabre meat pies or spooky spaghetti, so please let me know your favourite dark food history tale below!