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Smell the Candle Robbery Warning

by Brett M. Christensen

Email forward claims that would-be robbers are trying to gain access to victim’s houses by tricking them into smelling a candle that contains a substance that will render them unconscious (Full commentary below).


Subject: Worthwhile Reading , please take a moment to read

Please take a moment to read. This is very important and scary at the same time!

Awhile ago an e-mail was sent around warning of men showing up at your house with a candle and a request to have you fill out a survey. The e-mail stated the candle had something in it to make you unconscious and these men would then rob you. In December I was at home when an old beat up blue mini van pulled up in my drive two young men got out one was Caucasian and one African American. They held a candle and offered to have me smell it and did request a moment of my time. I held the candle to my face, did not smell it and told them I was too busy this day. My son was also visible in the driveway, so they left. After telling Diane about the incident she told me the same thing happened to her. We compared details with her the vehicle was an old beat up silver 2 door hatch back. This time there was a woman with them. She could not see if the second man was African American. They used the same approach. She also sent them away. Tuesday January 23rd between 5:30 and 6:00 [Name Removed] had the same mini van and gentlemen show up at her house. They mentioned this was college credit and they needed to just demonstrate something. She too had her son present and also sent them on their way. Today the bus drivers told me a family in the district had the same event happen just last evening. With this family it was once again the beat up van and the two men. The family sent them on their way as well.

We also know one of our fellow employees was robbed and cleaned out. This vehicle was light aqua old beat up two-door this event happened in broad daylight and was witnessed by some kids on one of our buses.

Keep your eyes open and tell your friends maybe we can call police and catch them.

Detailed Analysis:
This warning message claims that thieves are trying to gain access to houses by coercing householders into smelling a candle that contains a debilitating substance. The message suggests that smelling the candle will render the victim unconscious, thereby allowing the robbers unrestricted access to the victim’s premises.

The message details several robbery attempts that used the “candle” method and includes descriptions of the alleged perpetrators and their vehicles. Some details in the message (omitted in this example) suggest that the events described happened in and around Armada, a town in Macomb County, Michigan.

However, I can find no mention of such robberies on Michigan police websites or news sources. In fact, I could not locate any information about robbers using candles to knock out victims in Michigan or anywhere else in the world.

Although I do not as yet have enough evidence to conclusively declare this rumour a hoax, the method of robbery described seems quite far-fetched. The message suggests the candles contain a substance so powerful that it can render a victim unconscious just by casually sniffing it. However, this seems quite improbable. Substances such as Chloroform and Ether can cause unconsciousness if enough is inhaled in concentrated form. However, even if such a substance could be successfully combined with candle wax, it seems very doubtful that it would retain enough potency to instantly render unconscious a person who did no more than sniff the aroma from the candle in the open air. Presumably, the robbers would need to actually light the candle to activate the knockout ingredient. How then would they avoid the effects of the substance themselves without donning protective masks before lighting up? Putting on masks or actively avoiding candle fumes would surely seem suspect to even the most trusting householder.

Moreover, the “robbers” seem unusually timid in the incidents described in the message. If a potential victim declines their request to sniff the candle and asks them to leave, they do so without further action. This hardly seems like the behaviour of criminals callous enough to knock out innocent victims with an apparently toxic chemical. In fact, one wonders why the robbers need toxic candles at all. Given that they have already persuaded their potential victim to open the door, the “two young men” described in the message could quite easily use brute force or a more conventional weapon like a gun or knife to gain entry.

This message seems strongly reminiscent of an email “warning” that claims robbers are using Ether disguised as perfume to debilitate and rob shoppers. Although completely bogus, the perfume hoax warning has circulated for a number of years and has seen many versions.

Of course, it is plausible that thieves are posing as candle sellers or survey takers in order to get householders to open their doors. Naturally, we should be cautious of strangers who come to our door, as they may not be who they say they are. And, in some circumstances, criminals might find it expedient to use drugs or chemical agents to debilitate victims.

That said, in the absence of any evidence to support it, I would take this warning about toxic-candle wielding robbers with a grain of salt. It is possible that the creator of the warning message, having heard earlier rumours regarding toxic candle robberies, has simply misinterpreted the comparatively innocent behaviour of door-to-door marketers or college students.

Last updated: 6th February 2006
First published: 6th February 2006
By Brett M. Christensen
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