Howard Unruh was a born loser. At 28 he lived with his mother in a shabby 3-room apartment in Jersey. He had no job, no prospects, no friends and no lovers. Howard didn’t get out much. Well except for the nights he traveled to Philadelphia for anonymous sex with homosexual men, much like himself. There was very little “coming out” post World War II. Homophobia was rampant and cruel. Other than his anonymous pickups, Howard spent his time playing with his toy trains or firing a pistol in his mother’s basement. Watch Howard Unruh: Father of Mass Murder. Actually Unruh was not a mass murderer. He would have needed to kill far more than 13 people. Unruh was a spree killer. Hitler is an example of a mass murderer whereas a spree killer ventures out to kill as many people as possible during one incident.
Three years before while serving in the army he felt important. Alas now that the war had ended (much to Howard’s disappointment), he was a nobody again. He enrolled at a college for pharmacology but dropped out after 3 whole months. Not only was Howard a loser, he was a paranoid loser. He came to believe that the neighbours whispered about him, criticizing him for living off his aging, frail mother. As a result he drew up a list of names of neighbours who were doomed for an untimely demise. Each name had odd initials beside it: DNDR (Do not delay retalitation) and retaliate WTS (retaliate when time suitable). Um, okay. On Tuesday September 6, 1949, retaliation day arrived. Howard rose at 8 a.m., dressed in his best (cheap) suit and ate a breakfast of Post Toasties and fried eggs his mother dutifully prepared for him each morning. After he ate he went downstairs and retrieved a solid lead pipe that he held up over his mother’s head as if he meant to bludgeon her. She fled and went to a neighbour for help.
Howard seemed to change his mind about his choice of weapon. He ventured back downstairs and retrieved his 9mm Luger pistol and ventured out to John Picharik’s shoe shop. Strolling up to John, Howard shot him once in the face and once in the head. Howard strolled out of the shop and into Clark Hoover’s barbershop. Clark was cutting a 6-year-old boy’s hair when Howard shot Clark and the child in the head, killing them both. He left the barbershop and walked down the street, shooting anyone who crossed his path, as well as intended victims. Afterward he returned home and flopped down onto his bed, waiting calmly for the police who arrived only moments later. One of the policemen asked Howard if he was a psycho to which Howard indignantly replied “I’m no psycho. I have a good mind.”
Howard and his good mind were sentenced to a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane for the remainder of his life. Perhaps he wasn’t such a loser in the end; now he was surrounded by his own ilk and might even have made a friend or two. Howard fit neatly into the profile of a spree killer: a person whose professional and personal life were a miserable failure, and venting his rage in a murderous vendetta against the world (left: Howard in 1989).