Strange Ones

If someone walked into your office, or home, and asked for all of your money and told you that if you refused you’d be blown up immediately, what would you do?

On December 4, 1894, a man walked into the office of the famous financier, Russel Sage, and demanded that Mr. Sage give him one million, two hundred thousand dollars in cash! He told Sage that if he refused to give him the money, he would drop his satchel, which he claimed contained dynamite, and blow up the whole area.

Russel Sage, who hadn’t become rich by giving money away, told the man to leave the office or he’d call the police. Whereupon the man dropped the bag he was carrying. The contents went off in a great explosion killing or injuring several clerks, and, of course, the man with the satchel. All they found were his head and a metal button with which they were finally able to trace his identify.

The trouble in dealing with individuals who are mentally unbalanced is that while we can’t imagine anyone blowing himself up to carry out a threat, the individual himself might think it’s a good idea. Whenever your life is threatened, don’t try to imagine what the person will do if you refuse to do as he says – you might be wrong.

Along this same line is the story of one of New York’s greatest unsolved crimes. It was the great Wall Street explosion which took place at noon on September 16, 1920. Somebody drove a horse and wagon up to the Assay Office, parked it there and then left the scene. Five minutes later a bomb, which had been concealed in the wagon, went off – killing thirty people and injuring two hundred. The only clue found was one horseshoe. The driver of the wagon was never found, nor was anyone who had any connection with the crime.

You can still see evidence of the tragedy, I understand, in the J.P. Morgan Building, whose Wall Street side still contained the pockmarks that were made by the flying fragments of metal.

These mad bombers, extortionists, kidnappers and criminals of various kinds often believe themselves (because of their warped minds) to be perfectly justified in their acts, and there’s no way of telling what they’ll do. The woman cashier who poked her ballpoint pen into the muzzle of a would-be robber’s leveled revolver and managed to frighten him off was the company hero not long ago. But she just as well could have been killed with her own pen being pushed along at a good clip by a bullet.

You just never know what they’re going to do. There was the case of the suicide of John Warde, and as Freeling Foster points out, no suicide ever had more drama and suspense, was witnessed by more persons or created more commotion and inconvenience. Before he leaped from the seventeenth story ledge of a Fifth Avenue hotel in New York on the night of July 26, 1938, he stood on the ledge for eleven hours. Relatives and others tried to entice the demented man back into his room, firemen tried to trap him with nets, extra squads of police held back the vast crowd of spectators, while scores of press photographers, newsreel men and radio commentators covered the one man show. All of which cost the city and these news services about $100,000.

The human mind is a strange and wonderful thing. When it gets out of balance you can look for the tragic, the bizarre, and to you, incomprehensible behavior that only a human being seems to be capable of.

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