Episode 90: “Walk of Death” – America’s First Mass Shooter

WARNING: This episode discusses a mass shooting from 1949.  If that subject matter is a trigger, or something that may make you uncomfortable, please consider skipping this episode.  Additional warnings are contained within the episode.

According to a 2015 article in  Smithsonian.com, although the united states only represents about 5% of the population on the planet, we are home to almost 33% of the worlds mass shooters.

On the morning of September 6, 1949, 28 year old East Camden resident Howard Unruh shot 16 people in about 15 minutes, killing 13 and severely injuring 3 others. The police in Camden were ill equipped to deal with a mass murder of this scale because this was one of the first crimes of this nature in America.

Howard was a WWII veteran, a quiet young man who studied pharmacology at Temple University.  He split his time between Philadelphia and Camden, where he believed he was harassed by his neighbors.  One day his paranoid perceptions took over, pushing Howard to commit wage war on his own neighborhood.  In this episode we talk about  Howard, his victims, the survivors, especially one man in particular who was only 12 years old when he lived through Howard’s killing spree.

Primary research  sources for this episode include:

  • Camden Courier Post/Evening Courier Archives
  • Philadelphia Inquirer Archives
  • Philadelphia Daily News Archives
  • Delaware County Daily Times Archives
  • Smithsonian.com
  • Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers by Katherine Ramsland

TwistedPhilly is created, researched, produced and recorded by Deana Marie.

Special thanks to Emmy Cerra for the music you heard in this and almost every episode of TwistedPhilly. You can find out more about Emmy on her website at www.emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes.

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