History

"Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend": Meet Ira Einhorn, a.k.a. "The Unicorn"

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The NBC News story headlined above lights up a dark corner of the 1960s' and '70s' countercultural carnival, one involving Philadelphia's highest-profile hippie guru: Ira Einhorn, also known as "the Unicorn," a preacher of love and flower power who was convicted of killing his girlfriend in 1977 and stuffing her remains in a trunk that he kept in his apartment.

Einhorn claimed to have helped create the first Earth Day celebration in 1970 and emceed part of the day's proceedings in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Others involved with the event say that Einhorn in fact played little to no role in setting things up but commandeered the mic during the celebration.

Einhorn skipped the country before his trial began and was found guilty in absentia in 1983. He surfaced again in the late 1990s, living in France, which refused to extradite him for years because officials there worried that he might be given the death penalty. In 2001, he was finally extradited and started serving a life sentence without possiblity of parole.

However spurious his Earth Day connection, his case is a must-read for anyone interested in the excesses of and bizarreness of the broadly construed hippie movement and the sorts of radical-chic enablers who help obvious sociopaths and psychopaths avoid the law. I first read about Einhorn in a Philadelphia Magazine excerpt from Steven Levy's excellent 1989 book, The Unicorn's Secret, which was published when Einhorn's whereabouts were still unknown. Along with Hugh Pearson's Shadow of the Panther, a brilliant biography of former Black Panther leader Huey Newton, and Ed Sanders' 1971 book on the Manson murders, The Family, Levy's book is a fanastic, evocative, and deeply disturbing examination of the horrible excesses that were unleashed along with positive lifestyle liberation during the Age of Aquarius.

HT: Twitter feed of Hot Air's Erika Johnsen.

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  1. “Killed, composted girlfriend”

    You can’t fool me; Sugarfree made that up.

    1. No, I totally believe that an environmentalist murderer would compost the bodies.

  2. Any mention of 70s hippie evil should include Catherine Boudin, one of Bill Ayers groupies. After going underground in the aftermath of the bulk of the Weather Underground blowing themselves up in a Greenwich Village apartment, she surfaced in 1981 as the getaway driver in an armored car robbery. She walked out with her hands up asking for peace only to have her counter parts come out guns blazing after the cops put their guns down. The robbery resulted in the death of one cop. And now she teaches at Columbia.

    Talk about racism. There are Islamic terrorists who were not half as bad as that bitch and whose plots never resulted in anyone’s death. But they will never see the light of day again. Meanwhile, the nice, confused little white girl gets a short stint in federal prison followed by a tenure. Sickening.

  3. If he wasn’t doing a life sentence, some Ivy League school would make him a professor.

    1. With online classes, surely Penn can find a way for him to do both.

      Technically that’s Ivy League.

  4. And don’t forget Jim Jones, you know the guy who helped start Diane Feinstein’s political career before leading one of the largest mass suicides in history.

    1. Jesus, I didn’t know that. Checked it out, that’s fucked up…california really is that weird

      1. San Fransisco was especially fucked up. That is where Charlie Manson started. I have read numerous accounts of the infamous Altamont concert. And the general consensus is that neither the promoters nor the Rolling Stones has any idea how deeply strange and violent the scene in Northern California actually was. People had been giving free concerts all over the place. Woodstock was essentially a free concert. The Stones had given a free show in Hyde Park that summer. There had never been a problem. That is until someone decided to do a free show in San Fransisco.

        1. My favorite thing about Altamont is the legacy — peaceful event ruined by Hell’s Angels cro-mags. Yes, the Angels were out of control that day,* but the whole notion that a concert-goer minding his own business was subject to an unprovoked stabbing is bogus. Dude was pointing a gun at the stage.

          *Although I think the roughing up of Jefferson Airplane was just a bit of nontraditional rock criticism.

          1. I gotta to agree with you about the Airplane. Watch Give Me Shelter sometime. It is one scene after another of some guy being way to out there on drugs and doing something incredibly insane. There is just naked fat woman who wonders around through the entire movie. You see her wandering dazed and naked in the morning, then you see her still naked trying to force her way onto the stage during the Stones show that night. In many ways the Angels seem to be the most sane and reasonable ones there. They just beat the shit out of anyone who touched their motorcycles. Not good but at least you knew how to keep them from fucking with you. That had to be one of the most terrifying public events ever held.

            1. Not good but at least you knew how to keep them from fucking with you.

              Hunter S. Thompson thought that too. Whoops.

              Though there was quite a bit of willful blindness towards the Hell’s Angels at that time, as HST’s book and Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test showed. I think Hell’s Angels is a much better book than Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and can’t figure out why the latter achieved so much more acclaim.

              Didn’t a lot of the flower children in S.F. end up being forced into crime/prostitution?

              1. Yes they did. I saw an interview with Phil Lesh talking about that. He said by 1967 Height Ashbury had attracted thousands of teenagers who had runaway from their parents and were primed to be victimized. He said even by 1967 the place had become very dark and out of control. Totally different than what it was just a few years earlier when it started.

                And yeah, the Angels were dangerous as hell. But on that day at least, if you stayed away from them you were probably okay. There seemed to be a lot of people running around Altamont that were very difficult to avoid however.

      2. Jim Jones pretty much owned every San Fran politician for several years.

  5. I understand not wanting to extradite a criminal to a country where a punishment you regard as cruel and unusual awaits. But if the alternative is letting a sociopath with a history of murdering women live in your country, it seems a bit negligent on the part of French officials (whose job theoretically involves protecting French people from crime) to let him roam free in your country.

    A cruel (in their eyes…I imagine I would be hesitant to send a condemned criminal to be stoned in Saudi Arabia, for example) fate awaited Einhorn, a murderer, but the French chose a potential for an equally cruel fate for some innocent French woman.

    1. But sending a message that they turn their noses up at executions is more important than the safety of their frechwomen. Though the guillotine wasn’t retired until 1981.

    2. And don’t forget that France’s prisons are some of the worst in the world, much worse than US prisons.

    3. He was only convicted in a racist, bigoted American court. Not like France, where everything is fair from arrest to a glorious death in a people’s prison.

  6. You gotta break some eggs.

  7. You can’t fool me; Sugarfree made that up.

    Surely he made up this, too: also known as “the Unicorn,” a preacher of love.

    1. “Hey baby, want to see my horn? It curves to the left.”

  8. I still love it that Jezzebelle or Feministing, I forget which one, up until a few weeks ago employed a male writer writer once convicted of trying to kill his girlfriend.

    One of the defining characteristics of the Left is that the worst and really only sin worth worrying about is betraying the cause. All other personal sins can and will be forgiven, provided you don’t betray the cause. For this reason, the Left attracts a lot of narcissistic sociopaths. If you are some sick fuck like Einhorn who enjoys beating the shit out of your girlfriends, embracing an ideology that will forgive that as long as you stay true to the cause makes a lot of sense.

    1. Employed? Those Jezzebelle and Feministing writers actually get paid?

      1. Sadly yes I think they do. They need a little bit of supplement to their parents monthly checks. Those apartments in Brooklyn and lattes and laptops don’t pay for themselves.

    2. John, as long as politics your are sufficiently fashionable, the progressives don’t give a fuck how loathsome you are or how many laws you break.

      *raises a toast to Ted Kennedy*

      1. Absolutely. And given that, it is hardly surprising that the Left has attracted any number of horrible human beings to the leadership of its ranks. If you have a lot of sins, you want to find an ideology that will best justify them and ignore them.

    3. “For this reason, the Left attracts a lot of narcissistic sociopaths.”

      Who tend to quickly rise to prominence.

      I often think that the defining characteristic of most of the left is gullibility rather than communism. They are the type of people who fall for pushy marketers and swindlers in business, which they attribute to capitalism rather than their complete lack of critical thinking. That leaves them vulnerable to swindlers with anti-caplitalism rhetoric who tend to be much worse than the “capitalist” swindlers, because collectivist thinking paves the way to lots of power and excuses so much evil. I think that’s part of why smart people get less liberal as they grow older. You get sick of being conned.

      1. That is a good point. They are gullible because they believe the personal is political. If you believe personal worth is defined by political beliefs, you are much easier to be conned because you are going to likely refuse to believe someone within the cause means you harm no matter the evidence to the contrary.

  9. Is Unicorn the one who picked Lenin’s birthday, or was that some other independent thinker running in the unicorn herd?

  10. Einhorn skipped the country before his trial began and was found guilty in absentia in 1983.

    If there was a hell, Arlen Specter would surely be burning in it.

  11. Let me see if I get this straight – you can’t discredit the Sixties ideology by citing people like Einhorn, Ayers, Dohrn, Boudin, Manson, etc., and you can’t discredit the jihadist movement by citing people like the Tsarnaevs, and you can’t discredit the SPLC because a would-be murderer used their map to single out his victims, but you *can* discredit the Tea Party movement based on an electoral map by Sarah Palin, and you can identify the entire prolife movement with some crazed vigilante in Kansas.

    1. Who/Whom is an axiom of the new logic.

    2. America loves a home grown, well meaning leftist murderer.

      1. You forget that every guilty leftist was framed, from the Chicago bombers in the 19th century to Sacco and Vanzetti, to the Rosenbergs, to Ayers – wait, he admitted it – anyway, you get the point.

    3. Intentions?
      I don’t know, man. That’s all I got.

      1. Oh! I know!

        MKULTRA PEOPLE!

    4. What’s your point?

      1. That sometimes you can profile and entire movement and sometimes you can’t.

    5. You can’t do any of those things. But it won’t stop people trying.

  12. Don’t forget that the Top Men at the CIA were funding Einhorn to study how to monitor the Soviet nuclear arsenal with magical powers.

    1. You know who else had a sinister german last name?

        1. Heidi Klum?

      1. A california governor?

        1. he was Austrian, you know “Dingo ate your Baby” and “put another shrimp on the barbie”

          1. You know who else was Austrian?

            1. That guy Obama was talking about who speaks Austrian?

      2. Me?

      3. Doctor Krieger?

  13. Is “The Family” better than “Helter Skelter?”

    I’ve read the latter, and it’s awesome.

  14. (spoiler alert)

    Einhorn was also the villain in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.

    1. Well, thanks. Now I can pull it off the Netflix queue since you’ve RUINED it for me.

      My life will be richer for it, I assume, so I should probably thank you.

      1. nah, still watch it.

    2. You know the scene at the end of the movie where Ace reveals Einhorn’s true nature to the world and all the assembled cops start cringing and barfing?. Ever notice that the female cops are cringing and barfing too? Was that supposed to be a subtle statement about the type of woman who would become a Miami PD officer?

  15. However spurious his Earth Day connection[…]

    Why spurious? His story paints the picture of the exact person that would come up with something as hokey and cheese as the neo-pagan “Earth Day”, in the mind of a reasonable person.

    1. Or Luddite-Communist Wet Dream Day as I like to call it.

  16. Einhorn treats objects like women, man.

    (I know, it’s Treehorn, but close enough)

    1. Einhorn and Finkle…. Finkle and Einhorrn …

  17. …the horrible excesses that were unleashed along with positive lifestyle liberation during the Age of Aquarius.

    This is one reason I remain a “conservative” leaning libertarian rather than a progressive leaning one. The past is not anathema. Traditions are there for a reason. We should not destroy our mores and culture just because we can. Yes there are time we have to destroy the bad in our culture, but we must beware of destroying the good along with it. The problem with the sixties counterculture was that they assumed EVERYTHING about their parent’s generation was bad.

    1. You can be as socially conservative as you like and still be a libertarian as long as you’re ok with allowing everyone else to be degenerates.

    2. whats a mores? Was it supposed to be moors? or smores?

  18. “Einhorn is Finkel! Finkel is Einhorn! Einhorn is a man!”

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