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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 29, 1982

Welcome to the last Tuesday Timeline for September 2015.  And, I only wish that I had a happier topic to talk about in this edition, but I'm afraid that this one is a rather scary tale.  It certainly made one think twice about reaching into a medicine cabinet, that's for sure.

Ah, but I've said too much.  I'll get into more detail about what I mean after we get through the other necessary steps, such as historical events and September 29 birthdays.

I'm curious to know what sort of events were going on in the world this day in history.  Let's find out!

1717 - Antigua Guatemala is struck by an earthquake, destroying most of the buildings there

1789 - The United States Department of War establishes its first regular army

1829 - The Metropolitan Police of London is founded

1864 - The Battle of Chaffin's Farm is fought during the American Civil War

1885 - The first practical public electric tramway is opened in Blackpool, England

1904 - Actress Greer Garson (d. 1996) is born in the United Kingdom

1907 - Country singer Gene Autry (d. 1998) is born in Tioga, Texas

1911 - Italy declares war on the Ottoman Empire

1923 - Author and Berenstain Bears creator Stan Berenstain (d. 2005) is born in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1942 - Actress Madeline Kahn (d. 1999) is born in Boston, Massachusetts

1951 - NBC broadcasts a college football game between the University of Pittsburgh and Duke - the first sporting event to be seen coast-to-coast on live television

1962 - The first Canadian satellite - Alouette 1 - is launched

1966 - The Chevrolet Camaro is first introduced

1975 - The television station WGPR Detroit becomes the first to be black-owned-and-operated

1979 - Pope John Paul II visits Ireland - the first Pope to ever do so

1988 - Addams Family creator Charles Addams passes away at the age of 76

2004 - Asteroid 4179 Toutatis passes within four lunar distances of Earth

2007 - Lois Maxwell - the original Miss Moneypenny in the Bond franchise - passes away at the age of 80

2008 - The Dow Jones loses almost 778 points due to the bankruptcies of Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers - the largest single-day point loss in its history

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following famous faces turning one year older today; James Cronin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ian McShane, Mike Post, Patricia Hodge, Martin Ferrero, Mark Farner, Bryant Gumbel, Gabor Csupo, Drake Hogestyn, Mark Mitchell, Mari Wilson, Andrew Dice Clay, Stephanie Miller, Roger Bart, Jill Whelan, Erika Eleniak, DeVante Swing, Emily LloydRussell PetersNatasha Gregson Wagner, Brian Ash, Alexis Cruz, Debelah Morgan, Zachary Levi, Lisa Gormley, Lisa Foiles, David Del Rio, and Doug Brochu.

Now that we have that out of the way, it's time to reveal today's date.

September 29, 1982.  I'd like to say that I remember that date vividly, but I can't recall it.  I was only a little over a year old at that time and my biggest decisions back then was deciding on whether I wanted to have a nap or play with blocks.

But this date is one that is etched in the minds of people who lived in the Chicago area at that time.  It was on this date thirty-three years ago that had people living in fear.  It was a time in which people were not sure if the medicine that they had in their homes was safe to take.

The story begins in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.  That morning, a twelve-year-old girl died under mysterious circumstances.  It was discovered that before she passed away, she had not been feeling well and she took some Extra Strength Tylenol in hopes that it would make her feel better.  At first it was considered an isolated incident.  But as the days passed, police would soon discover that this definitely was not the case.

Later on that day, a man was brought to the hospital and died there.  He too had taken a capsule of Extra Strength Tylenol prior to his death.  The man's brother and sister-in-law would be the next to die after they had taken Tylenol from the same bottle after his memorial service.

By the end of the week, a total of seven people would lose their lives...and all seven people had one thing in common.  They had all taken Tylenol before they passed away.

And even more disturbing?  All of the bottles of Tylenol that the victims had in their possession had traces of cyanide inside of them.

This meant that someone in the Chicago area was poisoning bottles of Tylenol at random, and that a potential serial killer was on the loose.

Police investigations immediately ruled out Tylenol as the perpetrator.  All the bottles that had been poisoned came from different factories that were located all over the United States.  It made it very unlikely that the poisoned Tylenol came from the same shipment.  Therefore, police concluded that the perpetrator was instead going inside of random supermarkets and pharmacies and poisoning random bottles that way.

Either way, police urged people to cease using Tylenol until the investigation was concluded, and stores willingly took all Tylenol products off of the shelves until the killer was caught.  It was definitely a very scary time for the people in Chicago, and I can only imagine the panic and terror that was going on at that time.  Despite this though, police only managed to find eight bottles that were tampered with.  The five bottles used in the killings, as well as three others that had been found sitting on store shelves.

For what it was worth, the manufacturers of Tylenol - Johnson & Johnson - were extremely co-operative with the investigation, and despite what had happened, Tylenol rebounded within a year.  Of course, when Tylenol was reintroduced into Chicago stores, Johnson & Johnson made a few changes.  First, they changed the format of their pain relievers, choosing to make them caplets instead of capsules.  That way, it made it harder for people to tamper with.  As well, the packaging was later revamped so that all bottles were triple sealed.  This would eventually lead to the creation of childproof bottles that would make it harder to tamper with.

But perhaps the most positive change of all?  After the Tylenol murders, the law was changed so that anybody who was caught tampering with any medication of any kind would face still penalties ranging from hefty fines to jail time.  Considering the pain that this person brought so many people and the fear that they brought forth through Chicago, this was definitely a requirement.

Now, here's the scariest footnote in all of this.  As of today, the case essentially remains unsolved thirty-three years later.  The only arrest that was made in relation to the crime was in 1982, when James William Lewis was arrested for extortion and served thirteen years in prison when he sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson from New York City demanding that they send him one million dollars or else more people would be hurt.  Many people still believe that Lewis was the sole perpetrator of the Chicago Tylenol Murders, but not enough evidence has ever been presented to make any accusations stick.  Several other people were briefly considered as suspects, but they were eventually cleared.

There was even a theory going around that a former Johnson & Johnson employee had made the claim that the bottles of Tylenol were actually poisoned before the product actually reached stores, indicating that a disgruntled employee might have done the deed.

At this point in time, it's hard to say.  It has been thirty-three years since the first victim died, and in all likelihood, the person who committed the crime has since passed on as well.  Regardless, September 29, 1982 was a day that had many Chicago residents on edge, and made you think twice before reaching for headache medicine for quite some time after.

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