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Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing

Winner of 2010 Michigan Notable Book honors from State Library of Michigan

On May 18, 1927, in a horrific conflagration of dynamite and blood, a madman forever changed the small town of Bath, Michigan. Bath Massacre takes readers back more than eighty years to that fateful day, when Andrew Kehoe set off a cache of explosives concealed in the basement of the local school, killing thirty-eight children and six adults. Among the dead was Kehoe, who literally blew himself to bits by setting off a concealed dynamite charge in his car. The next day, on Kehoe's farm, his wife’s remains—burned beyond recognition after Kehoe set his property and buildings ablaze—were found tied to a hand cart, the skull crushed and objects placed with macabre ritualism next to her body.

With the horror of Oklahoma City and 9/11 still fresh in Americans' minds, the seemingly endless stories of school violence epitomized by the Columbine shooting, and suicide bombers around the globe, Bath Massacre resonates powerfully for modern readers and reminds us that terrorism and murder on a large scale are sadly not just a product of our times.

Some illustrations in the book have not been seen in over 80 years. Bolstered by cooperation with survivors and their descendants, the book includes exclusive interviews with the people who lived through that terrible day in 1927.  (University of Michigan Press, 2009)

Reviews & Praise

 

"With the meticulous attention to detail of a historian and a storyteller's eye for human drama, Bernstein shines a beam of truth on a forgotten American tragedy. Heartbreaking and riveting."

Gregg Olsen

New York Times Bestselling Author of Starvation Heights


"A chilling and historic character study of the unfathomable suffering that desperation and fury, once unleashed inside a twisted mind, can wreak on a small town. Contemporary mass murderers Timothy McVeigh, Columbine's Dylan Klebold, and Virginia Tech's Seung-Hui Cho can each trace their horrific genealogy of terror to one man: Bath school bomber Andrew Kehoe."

Mardi Link

Author of When Evil Came to Good Hart

 

"Chicago author Arnie Bernstein has turned a tragic piece of Michigan history into a searing and painfully compelling story … Ultimately, Bath Massacre serves as a reminder that, whatever the armchair psychologists might say about the effect of violent video games and television on today's society, our modern culture has no monopoly on murderous psychopaths."
Kristina Riggle

The Grand Rapids Press


"...A must read for anyone who likes true crime stories - or who thinks senseless mass killings are a modern phenomenon." 
Jack Lessenberry

Traverse City Record-Eagle


"This affecting and thoroughly researched book is at its heart a local history gathered around a single tragic incident. Bernstein is fond of the minor details of small town life...in troubling contrast to these quotidian details are the meticulous descriptions of the human suffering Kehoe caused." 
Seth Kotch

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

 

"Bernstein has a historian's eye for small and significant period details of fascinating interest to anyone who thinks about what the 1920s were like in Michigan, which makes it easy to pick up anywhere and read some small detail that gives you a sense for the times."

Edward Vielmetti

Community organizer in Ann Arbor, MI


"Arnie Bernstein, combines the research of a good writer with a crime reporter's insights."

Scott Duncan
Former police sergeant