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80 Year Old Botulism Horror Story Still Haunts North Dakota

August 17
06:02 2011

I’ve always had an insane fear of botulism. The Fear took hold in my early years. It still hasn’t let up.

Before eating anything canned (not that I do much of that anymore since I’ve left the farm in North Dakota), I would sniff the food and visually inspect it for any signs of botulism. Fear will make us do foolish things. Just take a look at the far out, widespread War on Terror.

My childhood fear of botulism was not all in vain, because like some society’s celebrate the fear of the Boogieman (or Bogeyman [or Dick Cheney]), there was always the famous botulism story told in the isolated, cozy North Dakotan dining rooms while eating home canned green beans or corn. The story is filled with horror, and it’s far worse than anything purportedly done by the Boogieman (but not nearly as nefarious as Dick Cheney [that bastard]).

Dave Olson writes:

As another canning season approaches, it might be worth taking a moment to remember the story of Edward and Delphine Hein. The couple threw a dinner party 80 years ago at their farmstead two miles northeast of Grafton, N.D.

Delphine served a salad sprinkled with peas she had canned herself.Within days, 12 people and later a 13th would fall ill and die, including the Heins and three of their six children.

Authorities determined the peas were to blame. They were contaminated by toxins produced by the clostridium botulinum bacteria, which causes botulism poisoning.

Three Hein children, Richard (Dick), Marvin (Bud) and Wilfred (Bill), were too young to attend the party and spent the evening in their rooms.

“That was a lucky break for us,” said Dick Hein, who is now 94 and lives in Detroit Lakes.
His brother, Bud, is 84 and lives in Grand Forks.

Bill Hein, who was 12 years old when the three brothers missed the party that fateful night, died about five years ago, Bud Hein said.

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