There are many instances of people drinking Sterno to become intoxicated. Since the alcohol it contains is denatured, Sterno is poisonous. Bluesman Tommy Johnson alludes to the practice in his song Canned Heat Blues recorded in 1928.
The practice is said to have become popular during Prohibition and during the Great Depression in hobo camps, or "jungles", when the Sterno would be squeezed through cheesecloth or a sock and the resulting liquid mixed with fruit juice to make "jungle juice," "sock wine," or "squeeze".
The 1956 American documentary On the Bowery includes footage of three homeless men straining Sterno cooking fuel to make "squeeze" and then drinking the alcohol.
In an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1961, Capt. James H. Shinaberger, MC, writes about a study of three people who had suffered methanol poisoning as a result of drinking Sterno. One of the patients "had been drinking Sterno for about a week and had been in the city prison for 48 hours when severe abdominal pain and vomiting occurred".
In December 1963, a rash of 31 deaths in Philadelphia's homeless population was traced to a local store that knowingly sold Sterno to people for them to consume and get drunk.
In the 1982 film Rocky III, supporting character Paulie admonishes some homeless men making noise outside his transient hotel in Los Angeles's Skid Row by calling them "Sterno bums."
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