5 Weirdly Common Ways People Get Injured On Halloween
You know you've grown up when you stop fearing monsters in your closet and start fearing, say, an unexpected envelope from a personal injury attorney. It turns out that Halloween is a gold mine for both of those things, as these real-life horror stories can attest.
You Don't Always Carve The Pumpkin; Sometimes It Carves You
In 2017 alone, more than 3,000 people in the U.S. visited emergency rooms after injuring themselves while carving pumpkins. That means pumpkin carving rivals amusement park rides when it comes to injuring people, even though everybody knows the Tilt-A-Whirl is a roto-mauling machine (and it smells like corn dog puke). So friends, if you've got a knife in your hand right now, put it down and move away from the pumpkin.
A spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons advises that parents should "Consider having children decorate pre-carved pumpkins with stickers and paint to avoid using sharp objects. This will allow children to join in the fun while eliminating the use of sharp objects and their risk of injury." Most parents, who grew up carving just fine and lost no limbs as far as they can remember, think that's just stupid. God, what's next? Lowering the safety bar on the Tilt-A-Whirl?
But you don't want to end up like, say, Brad Gruner. The quarterback from New Mexico was carving a pumpkin when he sliced the pinkie on his throwing hand so hard that it required season-ending surgery. Come to think of it, maybe it's not so surprising that inexperienced people wielding boning knives end up chopping themselves open. But sometimes it gets weirder. Take what happened to the Garcia family. Mom Melanie's boyfriend had the honor of lowering a lighter into the hollowed-out pumpkin they were about to carve. But the fumes had trouble escaping, or maybe the lighter was leaking, and their pumpkin exploded in a ball of flame, sending four-year-old Chloe to the hospital for 12 operations.
These incidents are so common that lawyers have turned it into an industry. To quote one firm's website, "If your child was injured when carving a pumpkin at school without adequate supervision, or if you were hurt by another person who was carving a pumpkin and wielded the knife foolishly, then contact a lawyer to seek compensation from your offender." The "offender" in this case would be whoever wielded the blade or gave your kid the pumpkin in the first place, which might actually be you. So yeah, maybe do try just painting a face on there.
Costumes Send People To Emergency Rooms For All Kinds Of Ridiculous Reasons
Costumes can't match pumpkins in injury numbers, but they still rack up some impressive stats for an activity not inherently tied to sharp objects and fire. Between 2005 and 2010 (the last time anyone bothered to check, presumably), there were 226 injuries and at least five actual deaths in the U.S. related to costumes. These accidents were reported year-round, but of course the bulk of them occurred on Halloween, the night when we apply things to our skin that may not have been safety-tested, and wear things that are not meant to be clothes.
Like Anna Tew from Mobile, Alabama, who put on fangs to dress like a zombie. She later discovered that zombies don't generally have fangs, and worse, she couldn't get her fake fangs off her real teeth. She needed an emergency dentist to pry them off, and he couldn't numb her mouth during this intervention because, she says, he needed her pain to warn him in case her real teeth were getting ripped out in the process. Or consider all of the people who burn the shit out of their faces when they find out for the first time that their skin and/or eyes don't react well to face paint.
And then there are the fire hazards that come with combining costumes with open flames. One poor New Jersey seven-year-old suffered second-degree burns on his chest and neck after his costume brushed against a spooky candle outside. Or take the daughter of British media figure Claudia Winkleman. Eight-year-old Matilda was dressed as a witch, and her supermarket costume came with a cape, the most dangerous of all costume doodads. She wound up in the hospital for surgery after her cape caught fire, lit by a spark from a jack-o-lantern -- more proof that all pumpkins are out to kill you.
While nearly all clothes are flammable to some degree, normal outfits aren't constantly yearning to be aflame. Things get more risky with costumes, especially ones made out of found objects. One guy in Maine thought it would be a smart idea to construct a sheep costume out of cotton balls. All he did was brush up against somebody smoking a cigarette, and the costume predictably ignited. If these all sound like rare freak accidents, I should note that personal injury attorneys also advertise specifically for this kind of thing. Those damned candles at your Halloween party are a bankruptcy waiting to happen!
What Happens At Haunted Houses Is Often Far Scarier Than The Planned Scares
Haunted houses come mainly in two varieties. The first are put on by charities and nonprofits and are mostly made of toilet paper. Then there are "professional" haunted houses, which smell a lot like where they keep the for-rent shoes in bowling alleys, mixed with a whiff of laser tag. Neither type really frightens you so much as startles you. A couple jump scares get your heart rate going to Five Hour Energy levels, but leave you with no lasting psychological trauma. When something really scary does happen, it's going to be by complete accident.
Take the horrifying case of 40-year-old Kimberley Kitrinos, who was struck by a drunk driver outside a Connecticut haunted house. The driver rode off, thinking the thunk was just a brick thrown by a Halloween prankster. Then everyone visiting the house ignored her, thinking she was part of the show, even as she reached up and tried to move -- she died before help arrived.
Just in general, alcohol can be dangerous for everyone in haunted houses, as Louisville performers discovered one year when a drunk customer started battering them all, and then fought policemen when they were called in. Yeah, the crew at haunted houses are often sketchy at best, but nobody deserves to be punched in the face where they work.
And no Halloween roundup is complete without a creepy clown story, so sit down and listen to what some sick fucks did outside a Chicago haunted house. A mother was arriving with her four children, and while they were still in the parking lot, having yet to buy a ticket, the clowns (who didn't even work there) attacked the family with vibrating sex toys. As one clown prodded the teen daughter with the toys, the other thrust at her a teddy bear with a vibrator attached, simulating sex acts on the bear. I'm pretty sure that last part isn't even a haunted house routine, just a sex crime -- though given that these were clowns, that might go without saying.
But, you ask, do such incidents happen enough that law firms specifically remind people they can sue for this? You bet they do! "When negligence is involved, injury may be unavoidable," they helpfully warn. "If this is the case, then you should hire a personal injury attorney." Halloween is Christmas for lawyers.
Hayrides Are Surprisingly Lethal
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with hayrides, it's pretty much exactly what the name suggests. People ride in a wagon filled with bales of hay as a way to celebrate the season. The bales function as places to sit, share a first kiss, sip a glass of hot cider, or have a snake slither across your lap. The activity is almost entirely unregulated, and why not? What can possibly go wrong with a leisurely ride in the countryside? Atop a quaint wagon filled with quaint hay? Driven by the quaint elderly farmer who'd probably be played in the quaint movie by the always-quaint Robert Duvall?
Well, you've got to realize that these wagons probably aren't going to be slow horse-drawn carriages most of the time, but rather the bed of a truck. There may be a couple dozen people squeezed in there, all without seat belts, which isn't exactly legal under most circumstances, but is specifically allowed in the case of a hayride. It's all fun right until someone falls off or until the whole vehicle flips over. Like in Maine, when a Jeep's brakes failed, sending it off a hill. The tractor-trailer it was towing as part of a hayride toppled, 22 people were injured, and one kid died. The hayride was part of a local attraction called Pumpkin Land.
In Mississippi, a pickup truck plowed into a trailer packed with riders. Three people died -- a mother and her two children, aged eight and two. To ferry all the survivors to the hospital for treatment, it took three helicopters, and while everyone involved had signed up to ride unusual vehicles that night, at no point during any hayride should it be necessary to fly in a helicopter. And then there was the ride in Illinois that ended with one hay rack falling over, sending a dad, a three-year-old, and of course a grandma to the hospital. This happened at Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm, because pumpkin patches are where Satan lays his eggs.
This kind of mishap is apparently such a thriving area of litigation that there is a personal injury lawyer who believes he was put on this planet to be the Clarence Darrow of hayride accidents. An attorney with the improbable name of Prosper Shaked bills himself as "The Miami-Dade Hayride + Tractor Ride Accident Lawyer." Everyone needs to find their niche, and I wish Prosper Shaked, Esq. all the best.
Way Too Many People Accidentally Hang Themselves On Halloween
One thing you won't find on Halloween is Pierce Brosnan going as Timothy Dalton. And that's too bad, but another thing you won't find much of is nuance. Halloween's mostly about going over the top, and some people think that means it'd be a good idea to incorporate hanging into their costume or display -- which is more going over the cliff than over the top, and is just a bad, bad idea. It can be racist, and it can be offensive, and oh yeah, it can be fatal.
Too many people have attempted to hang themselves as part of a Halloween display or prank and had it go wrong in exactly the way you'd think it would. A 17-year-old girl was working at a St Louis haunted house that featured a noose hanging over a bathtub, and as we've established, nothing that's in a haunted house by design is really scary. So she kicked it up a notch and stuck her head in the noose. Then she slipped off the tub and lost consciousness. She was lucky a co-worker making the rounds spotted her before it was too late.
And in case you're wondering, this certainly isn't a phenomenon confined to the U.S. A 25-year-old man in the UK went to a club one Saturday night right before Halloween and saw a prop noose hanging low near the ground. It was positioned so people could take photos with it, claimed the club owner, and they'd done this several years running without anything going wrong. But then this guy went and stuck his head through, and then before he knew it, he was hanging himself. He wound up in the hospital in critical condition.
The danger isn't so much the nooses; it's that where you find a noose, you will find some young reveler who just can't resist sticking their head in there. In the end, nothing is scarier than human nature.
The novel Chris co-wrote, Deck Z: The Titanic is an absolute ray of sunshine he hopes you'll check out.
For more, check out 5 Bizarre Ways The World Can Kill You Without Warning - Spit Take Theater:
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