The shooting was an uncommon type of attack at the time, and has been called the precursor of modern mass shootings.
The Bath school disaster, 1927
Andrew Kehoe, a school board treasurer in Bath Township, Mich., planted explosives under the local school months in advance before killing his wife, bombing his farm and setting off explosions at the school that killed 38 children, five adults and himself.
Kehoe, a farmer who had struggled to pay his mortgage, was angry about taxes that had been raised to pay for the school. “It is believed Kehoe’s mad act was caused by desire for revenge on the School Board,” The Times reported.
It continued: “Recounting the man’s characteristics tonight, neighbors recalled that he had appeared intelligent, but with a tendency toward being pugnacious.”
After the bombing, “a moan from a mother or a stifled cry here and there from a father as a blanket was lifted testified that another search was ended,” the article said. “Many of the mothers and fathers clasped in their arms the bodies of their children and carried them to their homes, refusing the services of ambulances and hearses that came from surrounding towns.”
At Kehoe’s farm, the police found a sign that offered insight into the killer’s psychology. It read, “Criminals are made, not born.”
A ‘rampage’ in New Jersey, 1949
On a fall morning in 1949, Howard Unruh, who would later be found criminally insane, went for a walk through his Camden, N.J., neighborhood with a Luger pistol.
Along the way he killed 13 people, three of them children, in what the front page of the next day’s Times would call a “mad rampage.” The article by Meyer Berger, which would win a Pulitzer Prize, described the gunman as a “slender, hollow-cheeked six-footer paradoxically devoted to scripture reading and practice with firearms.”
Unruh eventually fled to his apartment, where, according to his Times obituary in 2009, about 50 police officers converged and “blazed away with machine guns, shotguns and pistols.”
The police also used tear gas, and eventually he came outside with his hands up.
Unruh was later found to have paranoid schizophrenia, and a psychiatric report found that he had believed his neighbors were belittling him and “thinking of him as a homosexual.”
The report described him as “a master of suppressed rage” who harbored a “smoldering anger.”
But he had been calm when, as the police lay siege to his apartment, he answered a phone call from Philip W. Buxton, an editor for The Camden Courier-Post.
Buxton asked Unruh how many people he had killed.
“I don’t know, I haven’t counted,” he said. “Looks like a pretty good score.”
“Why are you killing people?” Buxton asked.
Unruh replied, “I don’t know.”