Thursday, February 5, 2009

The grinch who stole Halloween

I'm old enough to remember 1982 quite vividly. Halloween was still a big deal for me, and I remember that the cyanide poisoning deaths of seven people in the Chicago area who had unknowingly taken adulterated Tylenol caused a panic that year (the FDA reported 270 cases of possible product tampering right afterward). 

This meant that Halloween was all but dead. It never fully recovered, I think, as people switched from traditional trick-or-treating to events in controlled environments, like parties and such. 

The Tylenol scare was real: they never caught the person responsible and they had no idea if that person would attack again. In response, tamper-resistant safety seals became the norm. The Tylenol terrorist (I heard few call him/her a terrorist, but he/she was a terrorist in the classic sense of spreading terror) simply bought some Tylenol containers, laced some of the pills with cyanide, and then put the containers with the adulterated pills right back on the shelves. Without tamper-resistant packaging, the victims had no idea what they were buying.

Why am I talking about this? Well, ABC News is reporting that the FBI has new leads in the twenty-six-year-old case (hat tip to SomeGuyinKorea, a frequent commenter at the Marmot's Hole): 
On Wednesday, officials raided the Cambridge, MA home of James Lewis, 62, who spent 12 years in prison for sending $1 extortion letters to Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol, as well as a nearby storage facility. Agents left late in the evening with boxes of evidence and a large Apple desktop monitor.
Well, it would be nice if this is over and done with, although it might be too late to save Halloween.

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