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October 20, 2009


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Edward C. Stengel (Ed from the northside)

I wonder where old Howie Unruh is about now. On
September 6, 1949, he walked down the streets of
Camden, New Jersey and shot 16 people, 13 of whom
died. It was considered the 1st of the long-gunman mass murders in America. It happened in
the 40's, in an era that is often called the age
of innocence. It was right after World War 11,
when America had that attitiude of "mom, pop, and
apple pie." It was back in the days when kids
respected their teachers and the police, and it
was long before the 50's gave us the "juvenile
delinquent" or the 60's gave us the hippies, the
demonstrations, and the protests. Yes, back in
the 40's is when America really started to go
mad. I think much of it was the result of World
War 11. It kind of put us on the map and ended
America's isolation. It also brought out the
worst in us. Howard Barton Unruh was born in
1921, served in the army in combat in World War 11, came home with PTSD, and became somewhat of
a social dropout. He stopped working after a
while, just hung around the house, where he lived
with his mother, would often walk down the street
with his trusty bible in his hand and the pants
of his suit tucked into his combat boots. He was
not exactly your all-American boy. He had always
been a loner and it is believed he had been stricken eary on in life with paranoid schizophrenia. His solitary existence and his
mental illnesses, combined with his neighbors
mocking his behavior (or so he perceived it), was
what triggered his mass murder on the early morning of September 6, 1949. He had a .38 luger
pistol, which he had taken from a dead German
soldier in World War 11, and he took it with lots
of extra bullets with him on that fateful morning. He had prepared a hit list of those that most annoyed him, and he got most of them,
as well as some bystanders, who were both in the
way and available. He went home, was surrounded
by the police, and finally surrenedered. He never went to trial, but rather was judged insane
and immediately incarcerated in the New Jersy
psychiatric system, in the maximum security wing,
where he slept in a cell. Miraculously, he spent
the next 60 years there, being unheard of by
most Americans. I often call him the best kept
secret in America. They say he just watched TV,
listened to the radio, played cards, read, ate,
and slept away those 60 years. Hardly anything
of substance is said about those years in the
mental hospitals, and I can't help but wonder why. He is said to have had a World War 11 visitor who came and saw him over a 16 year period, and the the visitor said he said he was
sorry about what he had done and he remembered the anniversary of the shooting every year. Anyway, old Howe died just recently - Ocbtober 19, 2009, and with Howie's passing went the "best
kept secret in America." You have to wonder what
really lurked in the mind of Howar Unruh over his
60 years in the nut house. Only old Howie knows
and he took that secret to the grave with him.
Oh, Howie, you're such a little rascal!!!!!!!!!!!

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