Unfortunately, folktales link many of our backyard wildlife neighbors such as owls, toads, snakes, and bats to Halloween. That being the case, with Halloween only a few weeks away, there is no better time to dispel one of the tall tales regarding one of these unfortunate animals — the toad.
The animals associated with Halloween have a number of things in common. For example, many are creatures of the night. This is a time when folktales tell us these animals consort with witches and goblins. Such associations are enough to malign any animal. As such, it is not surprising that people fear the toad. Although we are not afraid toads will bite us, many people honestly believe that, if you touch a toad, you will get warts. Apparently, toads also infect witches with warts as they are often depicted with warts on their noses. Let’s do a fact check and see if this bit of folklore is actually true.
The origin of this belief was long ago lost in the mists of history. However, it is widely believed this notion originated from the fact that the skins of toads are covered with lots of oddly shaped warts. Since medical knowledge was rudimentary at that time in history, this conclusion was not disputed and took on a life of its own. Who among us has not heard our father or mother tell us not to pick up that toad, because will give your warts?
The truth of the matter is warts are caused by something called a human papillion virus. There are 150 or so viruses of this type. They most often infect humans through a cut or scratch. It has been suggested that one of the reasons children seem to develop warts more than adults is their roughhousing make them more prone to get scratches and cuts. In addition, the fact that their immune systems have not yet fully developed makes them more susceptible to many infections like warts.
I can personally attest to the fact that toads do not cause warts. When my granddaughter was a youngster, I often accompanied her on forays into the dark to see how many toads she could capture in a single night. On a good night, she might catch a dozen or more of the “warty” critters. After examining and photographing them, she released them where they were captured. During these unforgettable adventures, she never developed any warts. However, I was left with a wealth of priceless memories.
I hope that I have dispelled this folktale. Unfortunately, I suspect that the belief that toads can infect us with warts will be around for many Halloweens to come.