In a few weeks the Chicago Area will no doubt revisit one of the most infamous events in it's history, from 36 years ago. Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. No better example exists then how we define those who shock the world with what's considered Diabolical,Fiendish and Demonic behavior. A serial killer is neither a mass murderer or spree killer. Over the centuries up until the 1970s serial killers were generally called mass murderers by the Criminal Justice system and the media alike. There have been 100s of documented cases of serial murder around the world but the term serial killer is relatively new. A serial killer is typically a person who murders 3 or more people, usually in service of abnormal Psychological gratification with the killings taking place over more than a month and with a significant period of time between them.
America has had so many incidents of mass murder in recent years most of us have a difficult time remembering the specifics of where, how many killed, and wounded, and the names of the killers. However there is a significant difference between a serial killer and a mass murder. John Wayne Gacy the "Killer Clown"who sexually assaulted and killed at least 33 teen age boys between 1972 and 1978 was a serial killer. Richard Speck he of the infamous left arm Tattoo (born to raise hell) who on July 13- 14 1966 shocked all of the City of Chicago and the nation when he raped, tortured and murdered 8 student nurses on Chicago's south side, was a mass murderer. Charles Whitman the Ex Marine sharpshooter on August Ist 1966 murdered 17 people, 11 from a sniper's nest in the University Tower, on the Campus of the University of Texas was a mass murderer. Jack "the Ripper"who seems to be the grandaddy of them all, in 1888 in Londons Whitechapel section over a period 3 months between August and September, murdered at least 5 women, the actual number is still unknown because he was never caught, was a serial killer. Gacy was executed by the State of Illinois, Speck was sentenced to death but his execution was overturned and he died in prison of a heart attack after 25 years. Whitman was killed by a Police officer who gained entrance to the tower and stopped the slaughter.
When Shakespeare tittillated us in "Romeo and Juliet" with his whats in a name question, the Etymologists of the world thought they made their bones, a name for everything. That is until the events in the Chicago area on September 29-30 1982. On those two days an evil, diabolical, fiendish, demonic ,monster who will forever be known as the "TYLENOL KILLER. In September of 1982 an unknown person had tampered with over the counter Tylenol Extra Strength, lacing the pills with deadly Cyanide. In the end 7 people were dead and an entire metropolitan area was in a panic. Across the country copycats were responsible for several more deaths. The authorities were clueless, believe it, because I lived it as a Cop in Chicago, both during the Speck case which I worked on, and the Tylenol freight. Tylenol effected not only Chicago but the entire country. Although Johnson and Johnson the maker of Tylenol was a hapless victim, to this day they stand as a model for control, and strategy and courage in regaining the public trust it had lost because of the massive publicity and alerts around the world.
Johnson and Johnson immediately recalled 31 million bottles with a value of over 100 million dollars, in todays money the figure would be over $267 million dollars. Anybody in recent years, and certainly we have all been there, who have tussled with opening our over the counter medications can thank an unselfish and courageous company in a world where the words "Corporate Greed" are so commonly used. According to the N/Y Times, the makers of Tylenol made the biggest comeback since LAZARUS rose from the dead.
History does not have a name for the Tylenol killer, a faceless monster who baffled thousands by seemingly not to care who his victims were, a random act of diabolical proportions that nobody has answers for. One man did get Charged in the case but he was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison for extortion. He sent a letter saying "for a million dollars he could stop the killer." Law Enforcement was never able to prove one way or another whether he indeed was the killer. I have a love hate relationship with the amount of cameras we have in America, I know they do so much good on one hand, but on the other, Orwells, "1984" keeps getting in my face. One thing is for sure if those stores back in 1982 had the ubiquitous video we have now in America our Monster would have had a name. However, he or she takes their place with Jack, another faceless monster we will never have a real name for.
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