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Top 10 Candy Urban Legends

10. The Exploding Jawbreaker in the Microwave

exploding jawbreaker

This one is true, true, true and was proven so by the MythBusters. Nobody can explain exactly why, but microwaving a giant jawbreaker will turn it into a very dangerous molten sugar grenade. Also, nobody can explain why someone would microwave a jawbreaker in the first place.

9. Chocolate is Caffeinated

Caffeinated Wonka

OK, I used to have a German roommate who will freak out is she reads this, because she used to swear eating chocolate kept her up late. Turns out, this is only very mildly true, (10 mg of caffeine per ounce of chocolate, tops) but there is so little caffeine in the amount of chocolate people eat in one sitting, it would be akin to claiming to feel a buzz off the alcohol in the vanilla extract in chocolate. (That is, if it’s cheap chocolate that doesn’t use real vanilla. But I digress.)

8. The Gruesome Origins of LifeSavers’ Name

Lifesavers Danger

Has anyone ever tried to freak you out with this little bedtime story: The inventor of LifeSavers originally designed the candies to be disks without holes, but when his poor little daughter tragically choked on one and died, he vowed to end the senseless killings, so he put holes in the middle and re-dubbed them LifeSavers? I’ve heard this one from quite a few sources, and, well, let’s think about this, people. Would that little hole prevent a kid from choking? It’d have to be lodged just right.

Naw, the real story is a lot less dramatic. In 1912, Clarence Crane began production of a peppermint candy. The machine worked best if the candies had holes in them, and he couldn’t help but compare these these donut-shaped mints with the newfangled life preservers that were becoming fashionable after the recent Titanic disaster.

7. Van Halen, Supertasters

Van Halen

No matter how many blindfolded taste-tests I ace, I just can’t seem to convince people that I can taste brown M&M’s. They just taste… brown. When I first heard about Van Halen’s backstage rider, I thought at last I’d found some simpatico supertasters. Their tour rider used to require that there be a bowl of M&M’s, but that all of the brown ones be removed. If they found a single offending brown M&M, they supposedly trashed the place and/or refused to play. There are even newspaper articles detailing riotous tantrums resulting from improper candy screenings.

What’s interesting about this urban legend is not whether it’s true (it is) but why. Turns out, it had nothing to do with flavor, or aesthetics, or even rock-star-ego demands. No, it’s actually just a test to make sure the promoters had read the contract.

In a nutshell, Van Halen had a lot of heavy equipment that required strong cables, a stage that could withstand so much weight, and so on. They feared for the safetyof their fragile little bodies if the very specific contract went unread, so in the middle of a lot of technical instructions, the little devils threw in a clause forbidding brown M&M’s backstage. If they found the bowl they’d requested to be unsorted, they’d know the contract hadn’t been scrutinized, and hence the following hissy fit. It’s all perfectly reasonable. (By the way, for your convenience, I’m just paraphrasing a beautifully reported story from Snopes.com. For the full story with quotes, you should totally check out this wonderful site).

Oh, and in this litigious age in which we now live, Van Halen no longer finds it necessary to mess with the minds of concert promoters– they just straightforwardly ask for a dozen Reese’s cups.

6. The Indian Chief is Worth a Free Tootsie Pop

No free tootsie pop

Who started this crazy rumor? Nobody knows, but it’s definitely not true. The real heartbreak of growing up comes when you realize that, contrary to what your best friend swore, finding the Indian Chief (shooting a star with his bow and arrow) is NOT going to get you a free sucker once you mail the wrapper to the Tootsie Roll company. We had many commenters say they did manage to get a free Tootsie Pop though, when we wrote about this in 2006, so even if it wasn’t company-sanctioned, it looks like it did work sometimes.

According to numerous sources (thanks again, Snopes), Tootsie Roll Industries has received thousands upon thousands of letters since the 1940′s. They never do send any free candy, but, and this is almost better, they do send a pamphlet with a really weird story about the origins of the Indian Chief. It’s a trippy tale about how the inventor of Tootsie Pops originally wanted them to be star-shaped, but couldn’t work out how to get the Tootsie Roll filling inside, but one day he hallucinated an Indian Chief who showed him the pops should be round by shooting an arrow at the moon.

5. Bubble Yum Contains Spider Eggs

Bubble Yum Spider Eggs

The time: 1975. The place: America, a land whose chewing gum is hard, brittle, unyielding, and decidedly un-chewy. Suddenly, Bubble Yum hits the markets, delighting children with its unique flavor, color, and texture, all of which are unique departures from anything anyone has ever experienced (not to mention wholly unlike anything occurring in nature).

Two years later, some haters have started various rumors about the gum containing various spider-parts, not just eggs, but legs, webs, whatever. This story becomes so widespread, and somehow, accepted, that the LifeSavers company (Bubble Yum’s parent) eventually has to fight the rumor with full-page ads in dozens of national newspapers. Apparently, enough kids read the newspaper to become convinced, and Bubble Yum lives on.

4. Candy Canes Started as Christian Symbols

Candy Cane legend

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for edible religious symbols: Wine, challah, chocolate coins, cheese sandwiches, it is alllll good. But sorry, boys and girls, the stripes on candy canes were NOT painted on to represent blood, and it’s NOT shaped like “J” for you-know-who.

For what it’s worth, the Christian interpretation is a lot more interesting that the real story, which is something like this: once upon a time, in the late 1600′s, there was a kindly candy-making monk, who bent his boiled-sugar candy sticks into a shape more amusing to children, and zzzzz-zzz-zzz z z z

3. Green M&Ms’ Randifying Properties

Green MMs

At this point in my countdown, I’m getting a little frustrated with candy companies’ senses of humor, or rather, their lack thereof. I find it a little sad that the Tootsie Pops website has nothing to say about the Indian Chief, ditto for the spider eggs in Bubble Yum. Both companies seem to take a great deal of pride in the nostalgic value of their product, both have detailed (and BORING) historical timelines that chronicle this family formulating that product and selling blah blah company to yadda yadda conglomerate, but make no mention of the folklore surrounding their respective candies. Bubble Yum was willing to spend, probably, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince American children that their gum is arachnid-free, but now the most important information they want me to know about is that Bubble Yum now comes in chocolate flavor.

So I thought, hey, the M&M’s people know what’s up. They’ve alluded to the whole green-aphrodisiac thing in their commercials. The Green M&M has sexy boots, so that means they know about the rumor. THEY will give me some of the straight-from-the source facts I crave. And guess what I found? A timeline. Big whoop.

So, OK, are you ready? Here goes: guess what. Green M&M’s are not really an aphrodisiac.

2. Pop Rocks Killed a Cereal Spokesboy

Mikey and Pop Rocks

Waitwaitwaitwaitwait, guess I spoke too soon! Guess which candy company has the courage to publicly acknowledge that they’ve never made someone’s head explode? Pop Rocks, I love you. By the way, they were invented by a guy who was trying to carbonate Kool-Aid. Who knew?

1. Deadly Halloween

Halloween Candy is OK

Prepare to question everything you think you know. Although, if you Google for “Candy Urban Legend”, this is by far the most popular subject that comes up, I had never never heard that this story was anything but gospel.

After all, my mom, and the moms of all my friends, local news stations, school bulletins, free candy x-ray programs at the local hospitals, EVERYONE warned me as a child not to eat ANYTHING that wasn’t factory-wrapped, lest I ingest rat poison, razor blades, LSD, arsenic, or crazy-lady fingernail clippings. Even as a kid, the logistics of this seemed slightly screwed up. I remember thinking, disappointed, as some freshly baked butterscotch cookies were being confiscated and destroyed, that nothing was to stop some psychopath from unwrapping a Dum-Dum, dipping it in poison, then carefully re-wrapping it.

I never forgot those butterscotch cookies, and now I feel really, really, super-sorry for whoever it was in my neighborhood who baked them, because it turns out that THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A DOCUMENTED CASE OF HALLOWEEN CANDY DEATH OR INJURY. Some dad poisoned his kid’s Pixy Stix for the insurance money, and another kid died after got into his uncle’s heroin right after trick-or-treating, but that’s about it.

This makes me question every cautionary tale I’ve ever heard. What’s next – there isn’t a evil goblin who’ll chew off my ears if I don’t finish my broccoli? But seriously, I have to wonder if this doesn’t have something to do with modern children’s reluctance to eat anything that doesn’t come in a package with a brand name and cartoon mascot, hmmmmm?


Agree, disagree? Just want to give your opinion? Leave a comment!

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