Typhoid Mary

(unaware that she was a carrier of a deadly disease)

Typhoid Mary, an Innocent Killer?

  • Not long after Mary Mallon was hired as a summer cook by a wealthy New York family in 1906, six people in the household came down with typhoid fever.
  • George A. Soper, a sanitary engineer with the New York City Department of Health, was called in to find the reasons.
  • When he learned that Mary left the family three weeks after the onset of the illness, Soper, who knew of the new German theory of disease “carriers”, traced her working history: she had taken off after typhoid outbreaks in at least five other households.
  • When the medical detective finally found her, she attacked him with a serving fork.
  • It took five policemen to subdue her.
  • She insisted she was innocent of any crime, but her body was found to be continually breeding and discharging the deadly bacteria Salmonella typhosa.
  • She was confined for two years in an isolated hospital in New York’s East River.
  • Legal battles were waged on her behalf, and she was finally released with the condition that she stay away from food services.
  • Instead of following the orders of the court, Mary immediately went back to cooking and eluded detectives for five years.
  • When apprehended again, she was confined to the hospital for the rest of her life.
  • She had a cottage to herself and worked in the laboratory, but she always ate alone.
  • Mary died as the result of a stroke in 1938 at the age of 70.
  • During her exposure periods, she had infected at least 57 people and caused three known deaths as a carrier of the typhoid germs.
—Based on an article in
Strange Stories, Amazing Facts of America’s Past,
published by the Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1989, page 184.

Pointing to a page about a kleptomaniac You may return to the typho list of words from here.