Have you ever heard the expression “an apple a day keeps the Doctor away?” Most assume, with no reason to think otherwise, that it is simply an easy-to-remember rhyme that stresses the importance of eating healthily to young children. But the saying did not originate as a harmless reminder. It was born in a frontier town in the early years of the gold rush, where food was scarce and money even scarcer. One August, when a bad drought had struck the region, a series of bloody killings swept through the town. Every night, a single house would be broken into, and anyone who saw the invader would be swiftly, brutally slain. Nothing was ever stolen, save for a few scraps of food.
After two weeks of this, the local grocer set out a few apples and a glass of milk in the town square overnight. He then hid in the tower of the church, hoping to catch a glimpse of anyone who came by. Fighting fatigue, the grocer waited for any sign of life below. Just after midnight, he was rewarded by a chilling sight; a man, carrying a black bag stuffed with dully shining metal tools and covered from head to foot in cloth bandages, staggered into view. He paused at the sight of the apples and milk, then whipped his head around, as if looking for the one who dared to patronize him. Seized with fear, the grocer ducked out of sight, staying hidden ‘til sunrise.
The strange man had only taken one of the apples, and didn’t even touch the glass of milk. No houses were broken into, and no one was killed. For decades, the town continued to place out an apple or two every night, even long after a single apple stopped disappearing.