When Prohibition Became Deadly

On Christmas Eve 1926, a terrified man ran into Bellevue Hospital’s emergency room in New York City. He was obviously disturbed, flushed and sweating with fear. He didn’t give his name, but he insisted to the nurses on duty that Santa Claus was running after him, trying to kill him with a baseball bat.

The medical staff assumed the man was mentally ill, so they did not recognize the fact that his hallucinations were caused by alcohol. So, the man died before anything could be done to help him.

static.snopes.com

One incident like this would have been strange enough, but over the course of the next three days over 80 people were treated for alcohol poisoning. At least 31 people more people died from it.

By this time, Prohibition (the ban on the sale and purchase of all alcoholic beverages in the United States) was in full swing. Medical personnel were used to treating people made sick from alcohol, as people during that era would sometimes make their own accidentally deadly liquor in bathtubs and hidden stills. To make matters worse, people usually binge drank this tainted alcohol in order to get rid of the evidence.

This stream of liquor-related deaths wasn’t caused by somebody’s bathtub gin, though. It was the result of U.S. government policy.

After Prohibition became law, federal authorities were able to put a significant dent in alcohol smuggling from outside the country. But what they couldn’t stop were organized crime syndicates redistilling industrial alcohol (found in paints and fuel) so that people could drink it.

The government of Calvin Coolidge decided to do something to eradicate this practice at the end of 1926. The federal government began requiring manufacturers of industrial alcohol to make their products even more dangerous, so that could not be redistilled and made drinkable.

Among the chemicals now added to industrial alcohol were kerosene, formaldehyde, acetone, and methyl alcohol. Unfortunately, those Christmas partygoers were not aware that their holiday booze was now nothing more than deadly poison. They assumed it had been made safe by redistilling to remove any toxic chemicals.

The New York City medical examiner, Charles Norris, spoke out against the government’s poisoning of citizens. He put out warnings stating that all the liquor in New York was toxic. He also made sure every death from alcohol poisoning was publicized.

Despite Norris’ efforts, people continued to die, especially poor people who could not afford real smuggled whiskey from Canada. In 1926 alone, 400 people died in New York City. In 1927, the death toll from toxic liquor reached 700. Even more were sickened or permanently disabled from the poison.

Even with the outcry from medical personnel and the general public, the government did not end its purposeful poisoning of alcohol until Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Once it was possible to drink liquor legally again, the government’s deadly actions were quickly forgotten. Sadly, roughly 10,000 Americans were killed by drinking the toxic alcohol during government’s seven-year crusade to make alcohol more dangerous.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • One Lake In Tanzania Turns Animals Into Statues

    When you turn up on the shoreline of Lake Natron in Tanzania, you may be forgiven for believing to be in a nightmare. All along the shoreline you can find eerie corpses of animals, stiffened corpses all standing like statues. They have been calcified by the water, a group of bats or birds, meeting a...

    Read More
  • The Time Ecuador Voted In A Foot Powder As Mayor

    Over the history of time, there have been some very strange candidates representing political positions all over the world. From mad emperors to strange kings, from animals to insects there have been all sorts representing societies at different times. Though nothing compares to the 1967 mayoral campaign in Ecuador, where a foot powder received enough...

    Read More
  • Before 1935 Toilet Paper Had Splinters

    Yes, your nightmare, toilet paper with splinters, was actually a sold commodity before the 1930s. Imagine going to the toilet, only to have to face a dangerous roll of toilet paper that was planning to stab you the moment you let your guard down. Those splinters would have been extremely painful, that is for sure....

    Read More
  • Melanism Nature’s Incredible Opposite Of Albinism

    Most people have heard of Albinism which is the congenital disorder that is known by the complete or partial absence of any skin pigments. The pigments are often lacking in the skin, hair, and eyes. Normally this results in white hair and pink eyes when it comes to mammals. When it comes to animals it...

    Read More
  • Wolverine Horror Frog Breaks It Own Bones For A Claw

    The hairy frog or the horror frog as eloquently known is not only a strange looking creature in the animal kingdom. It also possesses a trait which as far as everyone knows is completely unique. When under aggression or needing to defend itself from a predator, the hairy frog will break its own toe to...

    Read More
  • So Many People Were Buried Alive A Safety Coffin Was Patented

    During the 17th and 18th century one of the great fears that played in the back of everyone’s mind was the possibility of being buried alive. With sicknesses and diseases often ravaging whole communities, sometimes mistakes were made. It could only take someone falling into a deep fever, with their breathing extremely lowered for them...

    Read More