Aside from the short-lived flurry attending the quiet arrest of Karl Lange, Harvard so far in this war has produced no excitement like that caused by former German instructor Eric Muenter, who tried to stop World War 1 single-handed. The sensational career of this misguided patriot included poisoning his wife, shooting J.P. Morgan, trying to blow up the Capitol, and plotting to destroy giant munitions transports at sea.
Muenten, in 1906, was living the quiet life of a German instructor here. In best murder fiction tradition, he was harmless on the surface. He affected a scholarly stoop and a Van Dyke, and wore dingy, patched suits.
Poisoned His Wife
But this timid soul slowly killed his wife with arsenic, for reasons unknown, and skipped town when the police started to investigate the death. With his beard shaved, he looked very much like Goebbels, and very little like Muenter. He settled in Texas, took a college degree and the name "Frank Holt" and worked his way up the academic ladder till he was a professor of German at Cornell.
Then the war in Europe came, Muenter hated the slaughter, and developed a fixation that it would all end if our munitions manufacturers, like J.P. Morgan, would stop exporting to all Allies. Letters and arguments did not good, so Muenter decided on July 3, 1915 that action was necessary.
Sets Bomb In Senate
Buying a large amount of high explosives, he fashioned on ingenious time bomb whose action depended on acid eating through a cork, and took a train to Washington. His story was that he wanted only to wake the American people up to the damage which explosives like these were doing abroad. At any rate, after wandering unmolested through the empty Senate chambers with the
bomb in his arms, he set it down in the reception room where it would hurt no body. Then he went outside, waited for the explosion, and hopped a train out of town as soon as he heard the blast.
The explosion ripped the room apart and blew a watchman off his seat in a far end of the building. The story rated a tiny box on the front page of the New York Times, which attributed it vaguely to "gasses".
Meanwhile, Muenter was on his way to Glen Cove, L.I. where Morgan lived. His plan was to hold Mrs. Morgan and her children captive till Morgan agreed to stop shipping munitions abroad. He forced his way in, but J.P. rushed at him, and Muenter shot him down. Servants subdued Muenter.
The first three pages of the next morning's Times were given over to the sensational bombing and shooting story. Morgan's wounds were not serious and he soon recovered, while all New York churches sent up prayers for him.
But while Muenter was Captured, he was not through. The whole nation was on edge when police uncovered his plot, to blow up several munitions ships then at sea. But while no bombs were found on these vessels, the "Minnehaha" caught fire on the day designated by "Holt" and had to race madly for the nearest port to keep its cargo of cordite and high explosives from going sky-high.
Holt is Muenter
Back in the United States, meanwhile, colleagues had identified "Holt" as Muenter, the former Harvard professor. The newspapers had a field day with Morgan, the Capital, Harvard and Murder all in one story.
Muenter, exposed, tried to kill himself by cutting an artery with a metal strip ripped from an eraser cap. When this failed, he climbed a latticework of prison bars and dived head first to the concrete floor, dashing his skull to pieces