Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Terrorists purchased large amounts of candy from Costco stores in New Jersey just before Halloween 2001.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2001]
Origins: If Halloween hadn't already been ruined in 2001 by rumors of terrorist attacks at shopping malls, this incident further worked to kill it.
Even in calmer times, Halloween is subject to perennial tales of evildoers who put razor blades
It is true that the FBI investigated the cash purchase of "large quantities" of candy from Costco stores in Hackensack and Wayne, New Jersey, on Wednesday,
[I]t would be premature to draw conclusions about the purchaser's intent for the candy, which agents had not found by Friday night. She declined to describe the candy.Moreover, customers' purchasing large amounts of candy that time of year was not necessarily so unusual by itself as to be cause for alarm:
"We have no evidence or information for us to suspect there is any reason to cancel scheduled events," Carroll said when asked if the FBI had concerns about the safety of Halloween. "However, the public is encouraged to remain alert but calm."
[A] Costco official, who declined to be identified, said such large purchases from the chain of wholesale grocery and household goods stores are not uncommon.Of course, the legendary form of this incident (i.e., the assumption that the purchaser was an "Arab" out to poison thousands of children with tainted Halloween candy) posits that a terrorist, knowing full well that nearly everyone in the U.S. was on the lookout for unusual activity in the aftermath of 9/11, not only clumsily purchased a huge amount of candy in open fashion, but foolishly brought even more suspicion down upon himself by using phony Costco cards instead of spending a few dollars more elsewhere.
Sure enough, the FBI reported a few days later that:
A man who used cash to buy large amounts of candy from Costco stores in Hackensack and Wayne last week is not suspected of any terrorist activity, the FBI said.We may never hear a complete resolution of this matter due to Immigration and Naturalization Service confidentiality rules, but most likely this was simply a case of someone with marginal immigration status operating a business which involved buying candy in large quantities at low prices and
"We do not have any evidence that suggests that the purchases of these items was not for legitimate purposes," said Sandra Carroll, an FBI spokesperson in Newark.
The candy, meanwhile, has been found, Carroll said.
Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa said since the purchase was legitimate, the man was allowed to keep the candy. It wasn't known if he had sold it to retailers.
Scare stories prompted by similar incidents proved equally baseless:
Earlier this month, shoppers at a Sam's Club store in Delran called police after they saw a man buy and return $9,199 worth of candy in the same day. Police and county health officials examined the candy after the return and determined it was OK. The candy was returned to store shelves.Sam's Club routinely destroys all edible products returned to it, so candy that had been brought back for a refund would not have been returned to the shelves.
Last updated: 11 February 2009
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