Halloween is a festivity observed in several nations. For many, it is a time of carving pumpkins into creepy jack-o’-lanterns, attending spooky costume parties or lighting bizarre bonfires. However, October 31 is not just known for the celebrations. Halloween is also recognized for the two infamous trick-or-treat murders.
In 1974, Halloween night, in Deer Park, Texas, Timothy O’Bryan awakes with a sharp pain in his stomach. Seconds later, the eight-year-old is standing over a toilet, vomiting persistently. Before bedtime, he complained of a stomach ache. This pain was not because he consumed some stale bread or a bad hamburger, but a piece of Halloween candy laced with poison.
The Pixy Stix Halloween Killing
Hours before, his father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, dressed his son in in a scary Halloween costume and took him and his three siblings trick or treating in a Pasadena, Texas. Moments, earlier, the family attended a Halloween dinner. O’Bryan complained it was getting late and he wanted his kids to enjoy their Halloween before the night was over.
The children pounded on a door persistently, yelling “Trick or Treat! Trick or Treat!”. Their shouts fell on deaf ears. The occupant, apparently present, and for whatever reasons, refused to answer the door. The four O’Bryan children grew annoyed and darted off to the next home.
Their dad stays behind. Once the coast is clear, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a potassium cyanide-laced Pixy Stix. On the eve of Halloween, he tried to obtain the poisonous substance at the Curtin Matheson Scientific Company in Houston. They denied his request. The company did not sell lethal substances in astronomic quantities. However, that did not stop him. Still a mystery, O’Bryan found a way to purchase it, right before Halloween.
The Pixy Stix is a sour colored and sweet powdered candy naturally wrapped in covering that looks like a drinking straw. In the lunchroom scene of the 1985 motion picture “The Breakfast Club,” the Pixy Stix is one of the items utilized by Allison Reynolds, played by actress Ally Sheedy to create her sandwich.
However, in the case of Mr. O’Bryan, the Pixy Stix would be used as a murder weapon on that Halloween night. Killing was clearly on the mind of this father of four, and the target; the O’Bryan kids.
Lights Out, Goodbye To Halloween Forever
The lights go out that Halloween night in the O’Bryan home, but the cries of a child turn them back on. Mr. O’Bryan tried to console his vomiting son, whose yells are never-ending. “My stomach hurts.”
Earlier that Halloween evening, O’Bryan gave two of the Pixy Stix to two children of his neighbors. Then, he gave one to his son and daughter, Elizabeth. After giving the candy a try, his son complained that it tasted unpleasant. O’Bryan handed him some Kool-Aid to wash away the bitter taste.
It was too late. Potassium cyanide cannot wash away. It is a highly toxic substance. Known as the “suicide drug.” many famous persons were killed or committed suicide consuming it. These deaths include prominent public figures in the Third Reich, such as Joseph Goebbels, Erwin Rommel, and Hitler’s longtime companion Eva Braun.
Expert entomologists utilized it as a killing agent. This powerful drug accumulates vessels, as insects capitulate within seconds to the HCN vapors it releases. Thus, lessening damage to even highly delicate cases.
O’Bryan’s son starts to convulse, and the child went limp in his father’s arms. He died on the way to the hospital less than an hour after eating the Pixy Stix. O’Bryan was not a suspect at first. However, after his son’s autopsy was revealed that someone laced the candy with a deadly dose of potassium cyanide, they arrested him for the Halloween death.
Fortunately, his daughter never ate the candy, nor the children that he gave it out to earlier. As stated by a pathologist who tested the candy, the Pixy Stix ingested by the child had enough cyanide to kill two grown-ups.
Execution of The Halloween Candy Killer
Police find out that on the morning after his son’s Halloween death, O’Bryan called his insurance company. He asked about gathering the policies he had taken out on his kids. Further investigation, exposed that O’Bryan owed $100,000 in debt. Months before the murder, police found out that he had taken out life insurance policies on all his kids. He chose Halloween to execute his plan. That plan would involve the murder of the O’Bryan children.
It took his son less than an hour to die but on June 3, 1975, it only took a jury 46 minutes to find him guilty of capital murder. Within 71 minutes, O’Bryan got the death penalty.
On March 31, 1984, as they strapped him into his seat, he maintained his innocence. Immediately, after midnight, O’Bryan was put to death by lethal injection at the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas.
In his last statement, O’Bryan upheld that the judicial system was wrong. He added, these final words:
I forgive all – and I do mean all – those who have been involved in my death. God, bless you all and may God’s best blessings be always yours.
All through the death sentence, a horde of angry demonstrators, some dressed in Halloween attire, shouted outside the Huntsville prison yelling “Trick or treat!.”
By Jomo Merritt
Edited by Cathy Milne
Park City Daily News: Halloween Death Planned for Convicted Candy Killer
UPI: The neighbor who accompanied condemned killer Ronald Clark O’Bryan
Chron: Man Who Killed Halloween’ still haunts holiday
Image Courtesy of Flood Wayne’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Image Courtesy of Ken Piorkowski’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Image Courtesy of JD Webandi’s Pixabay Page – Public Domain License