The chilling tale of the ‘Candyman’ is not just another urban legend spun to spook children during Halloween. In a horrifying twist of reality and folklore, the ‘Candyman’ urban legend finds its roots in a real-life incident from 1974, a story that continues to haunt our Halloween celebrations to this day. This ghostly figure, who was once a loving father named Ronald Clark O’Bryan, committed an unfathomable act that forever etched his name into the annals of true crime.
Step into the chilling narrative of a Halloween night that unleashed a real life monster, forever known as the ‘Candyman’.
The Story of the Candyman Urban Legend
Timothy and his sister Elizabeth anxiously waited for their dad to get home from work. It was October 31st—Halloween—and they were so excited to go Trick-or-Treating. As soon as they heard the doorknob turn, they rushed him at the door as he walked through, still clad in white optician’s coat.
Ronald rounded up his young children and he went out trick-or-treating, remembering the times when he went trick-or-treating, now wondering: “How did I get so old?” as he was walking his kids down the street.
He accompanied his children to their first stop of the night: 4112 Donerail Drive. He rang the doorbell…
The owner—taking much too long to answer the door—caused the children to impatiently run to the next house, leaving their dad in the dust.
When Ronald finally caught up with the kids, he was sporting five giant Pixy Stix. The children all greedily grabbed for the neon sticks of sugar, but Ronald promised he would distribute the candy among the children when they got back to the house. After all, he was the one who waited.
It was late when they got home and Ronald had to get the kids ready for bed, but before he fell asleep, Timothy requested a treat from his delicious haul.
He chose the crown jewel: a 22-inch giant Pixy Stick. The sugar had stiffened some in the tube so Ronald helpfully rolled the candy between his hands to loosen the contents for Timothy.
The child hurriedly poured the confection into his mouth.
Timothy recoiled. It didn’t taste like it was supposed to.
In fact, it tasted awful.
Dad jumped up. Ronald dutifully ran to get some Kool-Aid for his son to wash out the bad taste, but the Kool-Aid didn’t make it very far.
Timothy immediately started vomiting and convulsing. When the ambulance finally arrived, they found Ronald holding Timothy as he foamed from the mouth.
Less than an hour later, Timothy was pronounced dead at the hospital.
An autopsy revealed that the eight-year-old had died from a fatal dose of cyanide. The top two inches of the giant Pixy Stik Timothy had prized so much contained a dosage of cyanide that was enough to kill two adults.
Thankfully, the other poisoned Pixy Stix remained untouched.
Ronald sobbed as he hypothesized at what some unidentified monster was handing out to children. He told the police officers he vaguely remembered getting the candy from 4112 Donerail Drive. He didn’t get a look at the owner and he only saw a hairy arm.
When police arrived, they questioned the Melvins, but they were confounded when they learned Mr. Melvin didn’t return home from work until 10:30 that night of Halloween and Mrs. Melvin had stopped answering the door when she ran out of candy at 6:45.
That’s before Ronald said he was there, not to mention that none of the candy Mrs. Melvin gave out that night were Pixy Stix.
Police interrogated the entire neighborhood but still couldn’t find the source of the deadly candy.
The dad who had watched his children rush to his legs to say “Please, dad! Let’s go! It’s Halloween!” was beside himself. He was already having a terrible year and his son’s death appeared to push him over the edge with grief.
He was $100,000 in debt, 8 months behind in car payments and was being threatened with repossession. He held twenty-one jobs in the last ten years and he was struggling hard to keep his latest optician gig.
Police discovered that Ronald had taken out life insurance policies on his children in the months preceding Timothy’s death. In January, he had taken out $10,000 life insurance policies on both of his children. One month before Timothy’s death, Ronald took out additional $20,000 policies on both children, despite the objections of his life insurance agency.
In the days preceding Timothy’s death, Ronald had taken out yet another $20,000 policy on each child. The various policies totaled approximately $60,000.
Ronald’s wife told the police multiple times that she didn’t know about the insurance policies on the children’s lives, but she must have been horrified to discover that Ronald had called the insurance agency in the morning—mere hours after his son’s death—to ask about collecting on his son’s policies.
Ronald was a man who had never had a parking ticket in his life. By all accounts, he was a dedicated father and a devout member of the Second Baptist Church, but it only took a jury 46 minutes to find Ronald guilty of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder.
Ronald didn’t just kill his own son: he is the man responsible for killing Halloween for generations of children yet to be born. He’s the reason we had to go to the hospital to x-ray our candy and treats. He’s the reason we could no longer have popcorn balls or candied apples.
Ronald Clark O’Bryan, also known as “the candy-man” by his fellow death-row inmates, successfully perpetuated the decades-old myth that some despicable, vile people violate Snickers and Milky Way bars with the intent on mercilessly killing innocent children.
How Trick-or-Treating Changed Forever
The “candyman” news story became an urban legend a decade later, and created a sense of fear and had a lasting impact on the way children participate in trick-or-treating. Parents became increasingly cautious, carefully inspecting their children’s candy before giving them permission to indulge. This caution arose from the haunting urban legends surrounding Halloween candies laced with poison, which originated from the very case that shook the United States.
The truth is—and you should know this Halloween—police have never documented an actual case of anyone randomly distributing poisoned goodies to children on Halloween. There is no madman giving out apples with razors or arsenic-laced Twix, but in 1974, there was one monster who deliberately put cyanide in a Pixy Stik.
But his victim wasn’t random.
His victim was his own child.
So, this Halloween, know that life insurance—while a wonderful asset to your family when the worst happens—is also a terrible motive for murder. You should also know that it’s most likely safe to let your kids eat their candy. While I would tell you to definitely be as safe as possible, it might be a little unfair to scare them with urban legends that just aren’t true…
…but I wouldn’t tell them about Timothy either.