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Eben Byers, Pittsburgh’s Radioactive Man

Eben Byers 01Back at the start of the 20th century, we went through a period known as “Radioactive Quackery”. This was a time when people stopped selling the oil of snakes to the unassuming masses, and instead began selling them radiation.

Radiation was everywhere back then. Watches with glow in the dark faces, glowed thanks to radium (and the girl who made it probably died from cancer). Radioactive toothpaste was said to make your teeth whiter. There were spas set up with the specific purpose of exposing its visitors to the healing powers of radiation. This brings us to Eben Byers, a Pittsburgh native, professional golfer, heir to a steel empire, and (currently) radioactive corpse.

In the year 1927, Eben was riding a train to the annual Harvard-Yale football game, when he fell out of his bed, injuring his arm. To help him with the pain, he was given the suggestion of Radithor. Eben Byers highly endorsed Radithor, averaging three bottles of the stuff a day, for the next three years.

Radithor itself was water with radium salts dissolved in it.  It was invented by, William J. A. Bailey, a Harvard drop out and scam artist.

Radithor itself was water with radium salts dissolved in it. It was invented by, William J. A. Bailey, a Harvard drop out and scam artist.

Eben Byers drank roughly 1400 bottles of radioactive water during this time period. He loved the stuff and told everybody how it cured all of his aches and pains…

Right up until his jaw fell off.

You read that right. The headline in The Wall Street Journal after his death actually read “The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off”. You see, this was the early days of radiation, and they only had very primitive types back then. They didn’t have the fancy stuff we use now that can give you super powers. No, the only powers that Eben Byers received, were several abscesses in his brain, holes forming in his skull, and what I can only imagine to be a painful death. He died in 1932, two years after he stopped taking the Radithor.

*Editors note, modern radiation doesn't give you super powers either*

*Editors note, modern radiation doesn’t give you super powers either*

Eben Byers currently rests in Allegheny Cemetery, in a lead-lined coffin.