Thousands of flower children crowded
's Belmont Plateau
for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The cast of Hair sang about love,
welfare and pollution. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg lamented the end of the planet.
U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie of Fairmount
waited in the wings to give a speech, while a television crew for Walter
Cronkite caught the action for the evening news. And Ira Einhorn - big, brash
and boisterous - commanded the microphone. Maine
|Ira Einhorn, Earth Day's Dirty Secret Click Here|
On April 22, 1970, tens of thousands of people came together in
Philadelphia’s to celebrate the first Earth Day: an
event organized to raise awareness regarding pollution and other threats to
our planet’s ecological health. Fairmount Park
The master of ceremonies for the event was Ira Einhorn, a man known as "the Unicorn" after the English translation of his German surname, "one horn." Many years later, he would become better known as "the Unicorn Killer."
Einhorn was something of a
celebrity, and rising star among the
era’s activists, intellectuals, artists, and gurus. According to the writer Gary Lachman, author
of The Dedalus Book of the 1960s: Turn Off
Your Mind, the Unicorn counted among his friends the mystic Baba Ram Dass,
author Philip K. Dick, "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry,
astronaut Edgar Mitchell , Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Frank Herbert, author
of Dune. Ginsberg and Herbert agreed
to speak at Philadelphia that day, joining an already
impressive slate that included consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader, Senator Edward
Muskie, and Zen philosopher Alan Watts. Fairmount Park
Earth Day was a massive success, with a special report on the CBS news describing it "as much like a rock festival as a teach-in on the environment."
With his powerful connections and counterculture bona fides, Einhorn’s involvement was undoubtedly a boon at the time. How ironic then that over a few short years it became one of Earth Day’s biggest black eyes.
While most people knew Einhorn to be a gentle, kind soul, there was a darkness lurking behind the peace-and-love facade he carefully constructed. According to the late science writer Martin Gardner's book On the Wild Side, Einhorn had a well-established history of narcissism and predatory sexual violence. He was controlling and insanely jealous of his girlfriends, expecting them to remain solely committed to him even as he openly pursued dalliances with others. A self-styled poet, Einhorn wrote a verse about the "freedom" he found in 1966 when he nearly killed a young woman by smashing her head with a glass soda bottle. He also wrote journal entries detailing his passing thoughts of strangling another woman with whom he was involved.
Einhorn also indulged in the paranormal, cultivating friendships with parapsychology researcher Andrija Puharich and his protege Uri Geller, UFO researcher Jacques Vallee, and others in that world. In the early seventies, he worked his connections at publishing houses big and small to see their work and his own published and distributed.
In an introduction to Puharich’s book Uri, Einhorn wrote that he believed the purported psychic was a medium for an ancient extraterrestrial civilization. He also wrote a book of his own: 78-187880, an occult work named for its Library of Congress catalog number. Einhorn also developed a fascination with the "free energy" theories of Yugoslavian inventor Nikola Tesla, and wrote that the Soviets were using his inventions to develop mind control technologies.
Despite his eccentricities, Einhorn somehow continued to collect powerful friends like baseball cards, among them leaders at Fortune 500 companies who looked to the Unicorn for insight in navigating the future and engaging the youth movement. A combination of Einhorn’s dubious qualifications and glib charm also earned him invitations to lecture on these and other topics at prestigious universities.
In 1972, Einhorn met and fell in love with Helen "Holly" Maddux, a 25-year-old recent college graduate. Their relationship was clearly a stormy one, as Maddux made many attempts to break away from Einhorn, only to reconcile each time. In 1977, she left Einhorn for good, moved to
and began dating another man. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared. New York
Einhorn, still living in
denied any knowledge of Holly’s whereabouts after her family came to him with
questions. They didn't find his claims particularly convincing, and neither did
the private detective they hired to investigate the case. Tips from neighbors
about a strong smell that emanated from Einhorn’s back porch enabled the local
police to secure a search warrant, which they executed on March 28, 1979. A
search of a storage room adjacent to Einhorn’s porch revealed a steamer trunk
which contained a mummified body later identified as Maddux’s. It had been
drained of blood and sealed in plastic prior to being placed in the trunk. When
asked about the body, Einhorn responded, "You found what you found." Philadelphia
Einhorn was arrested, but managed to get a $40,000 bail thanks to the efforts of his attorney, future United States Senator Arlen Specter. Einhorn was freed after his parents put their home up for collateral, and fled to
days before his trial was to begin. Once he was safely out of the United States, he stole a
supporter’s identity, remarried, and spent the next sixteen years moving
Incredibly, there were still those sympathetic to his claims, among them Barbara Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram beverage company fortune. A 1997 article by the Philadelphia Inquirer claimed that Bronfman kept Einhorn comfortable by wiring him money through an account based in the
Cayman Islands. She was one of several people
who funded his life on the lam.
Einhorn was located and arrested in 1997 while living under an assumed name in
Following a four-year legal battle over his extradition,
Einhorn was transported to the France to face justice. His claim that he was
framed by the Central Intelligence Agency fell on deaf ears, and he was
promptly transferred to a United States prison to begin a life sentence
without parole. Pennsylvania
Einhorn’s sense of self-importance has not been diminished by his incarceration. He continues to claim that he was framed, and identifies himself as "the most famous inmate in Pennsylvania."
Kelly Kreth, a
writer who has corresponded by mail
with several high-profile murderers as part of a project she has titled
"Letters from the Inside," corresponded with Einhorn from 2010 to
2011. In an interview for this piece, Kreth described Einhorn as
"extremely bright" and "charming" and quotes an
article in the Philadelphia Daily
Times in which the writer refers to Einhorn as "sociopathic." New York
While Einhorn did not discuss Earth Day with Kreth, he has claimed many times that it was his idea. In spite of Einhorn’s powerful connections and former influence, there are very few people who will champion that cause. Most trace the origin of Earth Day to Senator Gaylord Nelson, who in 1969 called for a series of public "teach-ins" on the environment.
Unofficially, he’s everywhere, particularly in the conservative blogosphere where connecting an environmental cause with a notorious murderer might be seen as politically advantageous.
Officially, at least, Einhorn seems to have been scrubbed from existence. His name doesn't appear anywhere at the Environmental Protection Agency's Earth Day web page, or a website run by Philadelphia's Earth Week committee. The latter has a public photo gallery of the event online, but Einhorn isn't in any of the photos, a slight that -- for the Unicorn -- is probably more unbearable than life behind bars.