1982 Tylenol murders

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Tylenol murders
Year 1982
Date 09/29
Place Chicago, Illinois
Story Perp James Lewis
Fakeologist [ab 1]
Cluesforum [CF 1]

In September 1982,[1] seven people in Illinois died after taking potassium cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. Johnson & Johnson’s CCO Larry Foster and advisor Harold Burson counseled CEO James Burke through the crisis. Working with the police, FDA and media, they issued a nationwide recall, delivered warnings and created new tamper-proof packaging. Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the tragedy set a standard and remains a model for effective crisis response and corporate responsibility[2].


  • The story shows a cooperation between state and market institutions which is in these dimensions new.
  • The story runs in the media as medical mystery[3].
  • The reporting does not show much interest for the alleged victims of the poisoning.
  • The reporting shows much more interest in the crisis management that the Coorporation Johnson & Johnson performed together with police, Federal Drug Administration and media.
  • The story went down in PR curricula as model for crisis communication and is till today presented as that.[4]
  • The fakeological hypothesis is, that this event was designed to test the cooperation between market and state institutions, in order to expand the field for psyops, which was officialy under the control of the military apparatus.
  • The event leads to a change in the legal frame for medics sales.
  • The event is reused in later psyops.[5]
  • Tylenol-maker Johnson & Johnson will be best known for his strong, decisive leadership and what has widely been recognized as a model of exceptional corporate crisis management. Fortune magazine named him one of history’s 10 greatest CEOs because of his handling of the Tylenol scare.[6]

Analysis on Fakeology Forum[ab 2]

July 21, 2014 at 2:04 am jimbo

The Tylenol terrorist. These Tylenol poisonings have the suspicious look of a fake event. Magic numbers are used throughout the narrative.

Death in a Bottle

On September 29, 1982, 12-year-old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, woke up at dawn and went into her parents’ bedroom. She did not feel well and complained of having a sore throat and a runny nose. To ease her discomfort, her parents gave her one Extra-Strength Tylenol capsule. At 7 a.m. they found Mary on the bathroom floor. She was immediately taken to the hospital where she was later pronounced dead. Doctors initially suspected that Mary died from a stroke, but evidence later pointed to a more sinister diagnosis.

That same day, paramedics were called to the Arlington Heights home of 27-year-old postal worker Adam Janus. When they arrived, they found him lying on the floor. His breathing was labored, his blood pressure was dangerously low and his pupils were fixed and dilated. The paramedics rushed Adam Janus to the emergency room at Northwest Community Hospital, where they attempted to resuscitate him, but it was too late. Adam died shortly after he was brought to the hospital. His death was believed to be the result of a massive heart attack. However, doctors would later learn that his death was anything but natural.

Janus’ family funeral The Janus family victims’ funerals

On the eve of Adam’s death, his aggrieved family gathered at his house to mourn his sudden passing and discuss funeral arrangements. Adam’s 25-year old brother Stanley and his 19-year-old bride, Theresa, both suffered from headaches attributed to the stress of losing a family member. To his relief, Stanley found on Adam’s kitchen counter a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. He took a capsule from the bottle and then gave one to his wife.

Shortly after taking the capsules, both Stanley and his wife collapsed onto the floor. The shocked family members immediately called an ambulance. Once again paramedics rushed to the home of Adam Janus and attempted to resuscitate the young couple. However, Stanley died that day, and his wife died two days later.

According to an article by Tamara Kaplan, Dr. Thomas Kim at the Northwest Community Hospital became suspicious following the deaths of the three family members. It was suspected that poisonous gas could have caused the untimely deaths of Adam, Stanley and Theresa. However, after consulting with John B. Sullivan at the Rocky Mountain Poison Center, it was determined that cyanide might be the culprit. Blood samples were taken from the victims and sent to a lab for testing.

While the blood samples were being tested for cyanide, two firefighters in another location of the Chicago suburbs discussed the four bizarre deaths that had recently taken place in the neighboring area. Arlington Heights firefighter Philip Cappitelli talked with his friend Richard Keyworth from the Elk Grove firehouse about Mary Kellerman and the fact that she had taken Tylenol before she died. Keyworth suggested that all the deaths could have been related to the medicine.

Following his friend’s suggestion, Cappitelli called the paramedics who worked on the Janus family and asked if they too had taken Tylenol. To both the men’s surprise, they discovered all three Janus family members had ingested the popular pain reliever. The police were immediately sent to the Kellerman and Janus homes to retrieve the suspicious bottles.

The following day, Keyworth, Sullivan and Kim’s hunches were confirmed. Cook County’s chief toxicologist, Michael Shaffer, examined the capsules and discovered that they were filled with approximately 65 milligrams of deadly cyanide, 10,000 times more than the amount needed to kill the average person. Moreover, the blood samples of all the victims further confirmed the belief that they were all poisoned.

McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson and the maker of Extra Strength Tylenol, was immediately alerted to the deaths. An October 1982 Newsweek article reported that the company began a massive recall of their product and warned doctors, hospitals and wholesalers of the potential dangers. However, by then it was too late for three more victims of the deadly poison-laced Tylenol capsules.

Twenty-seven-year-old Mary Reiner of Winfield, Illinois, was recovering after the birth of her son when she unsuspectingly ingested the Tylenol laced with cyanide. She died a short time later. That same day, 35-year-old Paula Prince, a United Airlines stewardess, was found dead in her suburban Chicago apartment. Cyanide-filled Tylenol capsules were also found in her home. The seventh known victim of the Tylenol poisonings was 35-year-old Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Illinois.

Soon after the national news stories on the tragic deaths from the tainted Tylenol, widespread fear swept throughout the country, especially in Chicago and its suburbs. The police drove through the city using loudspeakers to warn citizens about the potential dangers of Tylenol, which further compounded the people’s fears. Citizens across the country literally ran home to dispose of their bottles of Tylenol.

According to a Time article by Susan Tifft, hospitals in the Chicago area were flooded with telephone calls concerning Tylenol and fears of poisoning. Jason Manning’s article titled The Tylenol Murders stated that the growing nationwide panic prompted the head of Seattle’s Poison Control Center to inform citizens that if they had indeed been poisoned with cyanide, they would be dead before they were even able to make a telephone call to a hospital or the police.

Nevertheless, hospitals around the country admitted many patients under the suspicion of cyanide poisoning from Tylenol. The rapid influx of patients was mostly due to mixed signals from the health authorities concerning the threat and symptoms and the ensuing panic of people who really believed that they might have fallen victim to poisoning from the tainted capsules. However, although there were no new cases of poisoning related to Tylenol except for the seven known deaths, many states and retailers took drastic measures to assure that it remained that way.

Newsweek’s October 1982 issue stated that some state health departments actually banned all forms of Tylenol products. Moreover, many retailers completely removed Tylenol products from their shelves. Many other states and retailers decided to follow the FDA’s warning and remove only the products with particular serial numbers linked with the deaths that posed the greatest threats. Regardless, Tylenol’s reputation was virtually ruined by the scare because no one wanted to buy the products any longer for fears of being poisoned.

At stake were the reputations of McNeil Consumer Products, who manufactured the over-the-counter Tylenol capsules, and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The future of both companies greatly depended on how they were able to handle the alarming situation. The main problem they faced was that the drug, once trusted by millions worldwide, was now equated with death. Their first steps were to inform the public, find the source of the poisoning and determine if the cyanide had been impregnated into the capsules at the factory where they were manufactured or elsewhere.

In response to the deaths, Johnson and Johnson immediately issued a nationwide alert to the public, doctors and distributors of the drug. According to an article by Jeremy Cooke, they also issued a massive recall of 31 million Tylenol bottles, costing approximately $125 million. J&J also established a crisis hotline, so that consumers could obtain the latest information about the poisonings, safety measures and any other information concerning the drug. Around the same time, the company inspected the factories where the tainted bottles were produced to see if the cyanide was somehow put into the capsules during production.

Following inspections, the company determined that the cyanide was not introduced into the bottles at the factory, which left only one other possibility. The FBI, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and law enforcement agencies realized that someone had methodically taken the Tylenol bottles off the shelves at the stores where they were sold, filled the capsules with cyanide and returned them back to the shelves at a later period. Investigators had no evidence as to who might have committed the heinous crime and there was continuing fear that more deaths might occur unless they caught the Tylenol terrorist.

On November 11, 1982, J&J held a news conference stating that they were going to reintroduce the Tylenol products that were temporarily pulled off the market. However, this time the bottles were wrapped in new safety packaging. In an effort to restore consumer confidence, the new Tylenol bottles contained a triple-seal tamper resistant package.

Johnson and Johnson spent heavily to advertise the new packaging and offered consumers a $2.50 coupon towards the purchase of any Tylenol product. It took less than two months before consumer confidence was restored. According to Steven Fink’s book, Crisis Management, J&J was able to “regain more than 98 percent of the market share it had before the crisis.”


It is all around you. Even in the very room you are sitting in reading this. You can see it when you look out of the window, or when you turn on the TV. You can feel it when you go to work. When you go to church. When you pay your taxes. It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

July 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm JohnnyClues

Good Find jimbo….I’ll add this video about this “story”.

20 Most Shocking “Alleged” Unsolved “Alleged” Crimes – The Tylenol Poisoning Start Video @5:00.

@5:00 -“…Coming up! a series of senseless and random murders!…or are they?”

@8:18 – “…Some people do it for the kicks, to see if they can read their names in the news and know they got away with it…” (I think what she meant to say was “some people, like the PTB, do it for kicks, to see if they can read their numbers in the news and know they got away with it)

July 21, 2014 at 11:16 pm jimbo

Interesting use of words at the start of that Tylenol segment.

@5:13 Before the World Trade Center.Before Oklahoma City. A single act of domestic terrorism ushered in an era of consumer panic.

@5:28 The Tylenol murders was the first time in american history that terrorism reached into american homes and showed us how vulnerable we really were.

I think it showed us or ‘them’ how vulnerable we really were to psyops maybe?

It is all around you. Even in the very room you are sitting in reading this. You can see it when you look out of the window, or when you turn on the TV. You can feel it when you go to work. When you go to church. When you pay your taxes. It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

July 22, 2014 at 3:05 am dinska

In 1982, I was a little kid growing up in the NWest Chicago Suburbs and I can attest to this absolutely TERRIFYING people. BUT we had none of that “friend of a friend” or “cousin” nonsense, where everyone knew a victim/had some sort of relationship to a victim.

I think something that’s really important to note is that this was before people hated or were really aware of Big Pharma. It would seem very simple to sucker people who had no idea what kind of conglomerate these companies really were. It offers the possibility for complicity without much notice.

Also considering that at the time it seemed that the brand/company would never be heard from again, and now it’s as if it never happened, even here in Chicagoland.

Here’s a 30 year retrospect: http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/October-2012/Chicago-Tylenol-Murders-An-Oral-History/

Take a small look at the high profile cases the medical examiner had worked in during his career: CHICAGO — Pathologist Robert Stein has been a doctor of death for Cook County for 36 years. He was on the job when Richard Speck killed eight student nurses in 1966; he was there when 29 bodies were found at John Wayne Gacy’s home in 1978, and when a jetliner crashed in Chicago in 1979, killing 273 people. It was Stein who alerted the world in 1982 that a killer was lacing Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules with cyanide. After Mayor Harold Washington collapsed and died in 1987, Stein’s autopsy squelched rumors that the city’s first black mayor had been poisoned. “The poor human being ate himself to death,” scoffed Stein, whose report found that the overweight mayor had suffered a heart attack. “People still don’t believe it.” And his career ended with another spectacular crime: the slayings of seven people in January at a fast food restaurant in suburban Palatine. His prediction on that one? “They’ll never find the killers.” He plans some volunteer work with the elderly and said he hopes to continue one of his favorite pastimes: downhill skiing. After that, he said, “If there’s something up above or down below, depending on where I’m going when I die, I’ll see many familiar faces. Not too soon, I hope.”


He died the next year:


July 23, 2014 at 12:21 am jimbo

Here’s a thought on lacing Tylenol capsules with poison. If this was a real incident, would the media broadcast it to the masses as a poisoning and scare everyone, or would they just say a recall of Tylenol is in effect for some quality control? Then just have all bottles removed from shelves and then tamper proofed. Nice and quietly.

It is all around you. Even in the very room you are sitting in reading this. You can see it when you look out of the window, or when you turn on the TV. You can feel it when you go to work. When you go to church. When you pay your taxes. It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

July 23, 2014 at 4:39 am dinska

I have to think about that one, in the setting of 1982. It is very yelling fire in a crowded theatre-esque. Not to mention, wouldn’t police psychologists have known it would create copycats?

So, with that little question mark, I web-searched and just look what I found in Time Magazine: Psychologists called the killer so strange that their normal guidelines “just don’t work.” How… convenient. And then: The tampering inspired hundreds of copycat incidents across the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration tallied more than 270 different incidents of product tampering in the month following the Tylenol deaths.


And the same, in the NY Times:


So did they just create an incident that placed more standards and bureaucracy that wasn’t necessary the morning of Sept. 21, 1982? That’s a side point, but it is in the same family as paranoia and distrust.

Looking at the event again, I’m noticing that at the time it was presented with the true crime model, in a county that was very used to mass-murder stories, just four years after Gacy. In 2012, the retrospect was presented with the terror model.

People in 1982 probably wouldn’t have grasped the story presented to them with that other template. I think this is worth analyzing further. I had forgotten about this, but we had surveillance camera photos appearing in this drama: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19821019&id=QoURAAAAIBAJ&sjid=KOIDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5246,4317885 Possibility for fakery there, images making the story more real. I had also completely forgotten about Ted Kaczynski recently being forced into this case with a shoehorn. Looking for the surveillance camera photos I found this:

UPDATE — On April 27, 2011, officials of the federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, approached Ted Kaczynski on behalf of the FBI and requested a voluntary sample of DNA in reference to the 1982 Tylenol Murders. This information was revealed by Kaczynski himself, in a petition to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in which he sought to halt the auction of his personal effects on the grounds that those effects might constitute evidence in the Tylenol Murder case. That court declined Kaczynski’s request on the grounds that he had not been accused of complicity in the crimes. In 2007, on the 35th anniversary of the Tylenol Murders, site owner Douglas Oswell forwarded the following letter to several Chicago-area media outlets and the Chicago Police Department.

That is true, but the website seems a little insane.


So now (Tylenol and terror) the two are officially married.

People (Not the FBI) are claiming that’s Ted in the still.


Hairline is wrong, among other things.

Local news coverage of sleuthing:


Whatever’s going on, no one is talking about James Lewis anymore.

July 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm Jan Erik


In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (Latin: Ianus, pronounced [?ja?.nus]) is the god of beginnings and transitions,[1] and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January (Ianuarius) in his honor.

Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The doors of his temple were open in time of war, and closed to mark the peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and in his association with Portunus, a similar harbor and gateway god, he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.

Janus had no flamen or specialized priest (sacerdos) assigned to him, but the King of the Sacred Rites (rex sacrorum) himself carried out his ceremonies. Janus had a ubiquitous presence in religious ceremonies throughout the year, and was ritually invoked at the beginning of each one, regardless of the main deity honored on any particular occasion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/66538480.jpg

July 29, 2014 at 7:13 pm Blue Moon

I recall this event and the hard sell of tamper proofing- Later the meme switched to child proofing drug bottles and whatnot- Then child proofing your house so a toddler wouldn’t drown in the toilet or lock himself in the fridge- They took the fear right into the home and saddled the kids with it- Another negative associated with having a family- (PS- The first time I ever heard this might be a hoax was through the Church of the Sub-Genius- http://books.google.com/books?id=QnUesfjL5dQC&pg=PT275&lpg=PT275&dq=sub+genius+tylenol+hoax&source=bl&ots=4EW5MItoIg&sig=lAjMxfWuXFEXW2nPcZiDeWOAESU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JSrYU4uYLoqqigLym4CYDA&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=sub%20genius%20tylenol%20hoax&f=false)

See also




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