History Book: The Chicago Tylenol deaths, and the final Beatles’ recordings

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, September 23rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Today, the Chicago Tylenol deaths lead to new tamper-proof standards for medication. Plus, 50 years ago this week, the Beatles release their final recordings as a band.

EICHER: But first, the anniversary of a new law in this country to protect historical sites and natural wonders. 

Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: During the summer of 1906, Congress passed the “Antiquities Act.” It granted the president authority to set aside “national monuments” without needing congressional approval.

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt first used that power on September 24th that same year:

EDUCATIONAL FILM CLIP: One of the most interesting of Wyoming’s many natural formations is Devils Tower—the earth’s most majestic obelisk. This gigantic monolith of volcanic rock proclaimed by Theodore Roosevelt as our first national monument, rises 12,080 feet above the level of the Bel Thush River… 

Roosevelt goes on to designate 17 additional sites as National Monuments: including the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, Arizona’s Montezuma Castle, and the last old growth redwoods of California. 


In the 113 years since the Antiquities Act passed, all but three presidents have invoked the power to set aside land for federal protection.  

Today there are 129 national monuments. 

Next, 50 years ago this week.

MACARTHUR: Every time the Beatles release an LP or a single, the pop-music business usually changes direction . In this show, John exclusively discusses the new Beatles collection track by track… 

On September 26th, 1969, the Beatles release their 11th studio album: Abbey Road…

MACARTHUR: It seems John that there is a very strong melodic turn, I think there always has been with your music, but it’s probably not as powerful electronically as say your last LP.

LENNON: Maybe, I don’t know…

Audio from a radio interview with John Lennon and Australian DJ Tony McArthur.

Abbey Road features many songs that become fan favorites. The first single to hit America is George Harrison’s cut: “Something.” John Lennon calls it the best song on the album. 


Something’s B-side is “Come Together” — it spends 16 weeks on the top 100 Billboard in the U.S., eventually hitting number 1. 


Other popular songs from the project include: “Because,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Here Comes the Sun.”


Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the album however is its cover. It features the band members in suits on a crosswalk near the studio. 


Earlier this summer, thousands of Beatle fans clogged the intersection for snap shots, reenactments, and memorabilia—on the photo’s 50th anniversary.  

Abbey Road is the last album recorded by The Beatles. Tensions between band members had been brewing for months. Previous recording sessions erupted into fighting. However, accounts of the Abbey Road sessions seemed to put most of that behind them. But just days before its release, John Lennon privately tells the members of the band he is leaving. The breakup was not publicly announced until the following year, when Paul McCartney said he was leaving too. 


And finally, September 29th, 1982. 12 year old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, Illinois dies after taking an Extra-Strength Tylenol capsule laced with  cyanide. She is the first victim of seven in what becomes known as the Chicago Tylenol murders. 

Six days later, Johnson & Johnson initiates a nationwide product recall. 

NEWSCLIP: The Tylenol manufacturer has recalled 93-thousand bottles of the product… 

No suspect is ever formally charged. But New Yorker James William Lewis writes to Johnson & Johnson claiming responsibility. He demands $1,000,000 and threatens he’ll strike again if they don’t pay. 

But the claim is fraudulent and police find no evidence to link him to the crime. However, they do eventually arrest him for attempted extortion.

NEWSCLIP: Medical authorities in Chicago are recommending that no one take the Tylenol capsules…

The Chicago Tylenol murders lead to reforms in over-the-counter packaging. The federal government also passes anti-tampering laws—mandating new safety standards. 

The case was reopened 10 years ago, but the perpetrator has yet to be discovered. 

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Getty Images) Tylenol capsules, like those used in the Tylenol murders.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.