Suddenly the stove exploded, covering the woman in oil and flame. Her screams of animal terror shook the walls, and she flailed about in a useless attempt to extinguish the fire. Through the inferno and the thickening smoke, she caught sight of her stepson. "Andrew!" she half-screamed, half-gurgled for help. "Andrewwwwwww!"
The 14 year-old watched the fire dance on the body of his collapsing stepmother, but remained motionless, transfixed by the heat and glow of the explosion. For several minutes he gazed at the kitchen scene: the destroyed stove, the lake of burning oil, the charring face of his father's wife . To him it seemed quite unreal. The fire was so sudden, and so quickly consuming of its prey.
Andrew shook his head and fetched a bucket of water. As he poured it over his dying stepmother, he tried to ignore the stenches of burnt flesh and burnt oil. As the flames subsided, he saw that it was too late. The year was 1886.
Just outside Bath, Michigan, May 17, 1927.
Andrew hated dirt. Dirt was a sign of laziness, carelessness, and lack of intelligence. There were two ways to do things, the right way and the wrong way. Why choose the wrong way? It was not a great trouble to always change shirts at noon. Nor was it a great trouble to wash his hands whenever dirt appeared on them. This was the right way. The best way to stay clean.
The wrong way was that cesspool they had the nerve to call a school. It was completely wasteful. The schools that Bath used to have worked perfectly, at a fraction of the cost. The increase in taxes to support the Bath Consolidated School was killing the local farmers. It was killing him -- he couldn't afford a building for children! He didn't even have any children!
Andrew had a good reputation. With this reputation, he was able to get elected to the Bath School Board. Andrew told them about the illegal taxes. He told them it was killing his sick wife, who needed medical attention. He told them about the financial and personal strain the school was causing. He told them he was going to lose his farm. But they didn't listen to him.
They made him a maintenance man at the school. They knew he was the best at optimizing and cleaning things. He knew more about electricity than anyone in the town. So when the school needed Andrew Kehoe, guess who the school came to for help? Andrew was very pleased to work at the school, because the school was killing him, and he could make it clean again. The superintendent probably hadn't thought about that.
Bastards made a fucking mistake. Andrew looked down into the hog cart at the broken body of his wife. Hopefully she had not felt many of the blows. He wheeled her back behind the shed and set to work on his sign.
Once the sign was finished (and it's a very fine sign, indeed, he thought), Andrew moved his pickup truck so that it was right in front of the barn. Inside his back seat he threw a whole assortment of dirty things: rusty equipment, shovels, nuts, bolts, scrap metal, useless old tools. He was surprised that there was so much dirt in his barn. Luckily, there would be a spring cleaning. Andrew loaded the dynamite right behind the front seat. Then, he finished wiring the rest of his property. In each building sat a homemade firebomb. It was all wired together very cleanly. The trees were chopped until there was just enough left to keep them standing up. The plan was one burst, then not a trace. Nellie's relatives would get none of Andrew Kehoe's property. And the wasteful bank would never see a dime of Andrew Kehoe's money. "Fucking bastards," he muttered, as he thought of the bank.
He walked toward the road and looked back at his property. It was calm, quiet, normal. There were no visible wires or bodies. The only dirty object was his pickup. Hmmm. He walked back toward the house.
Just outside Bath, Michigan, May 18, 1927. 8:45 AM.
It was as if the world was transformed to fire. Andrew Kehoe's property ceased to exist in an instant, pieces of barn and house and horse launching into the sky, some landing on the farms of neighbors. Andrew's neighbors ran toward this vision of Hell, only to see Andrew speeding out of his driveway in his pickup. The land behind him was in flames, and they breathed a sigh of relief as they learned of his safety. Andrew called out to them, "Boys, you are my friends! You better get out of here. You better go down to the school."
A crowd was gathering around the Kehoe property. What had God wrought? Nothing was visible but flame and smoke. And all they could do is watch and ask why. The immense roar of the explosion had been heard for miles. And suddenly, to everyone's horror and astonishment, there was a second blast, this one coming from two miles away, and dwarfing the first. It was like the Apocalypse. Bath had been cleaned.
[Andrew had been a very good maintenance man. And he had been a very good explosive farmer. Andrew often bought explosives to destroy tree stumps and excavate his property. The neighbors were used to the small rumbles coming from the Kehoe land. Perhaps Andrew's friends would have been more suspicious if they had taken notice that their neighbor was not removing stumps, and not planting crops in excavated areas. However, Andrew was well-aware that no one was suspicious of him. He was the town's handyman, and he was clean. He was even on the School Board. And though he had bought more than a ton of Pyrotol and dynamite, it had been in small amounts from various sources.
It was not difficult to move the Pyrotol to the Bath Consolidated School. As maintenance man, he had access to the entire building, and he could sneak a certain amount of explosive into the school each day. Andrew was a methodical man. At night, he would plan the next day's work. By early May, there was 1,000 pounds of Pyrotol in the school, resting silently in the walls of the classrooms, under the feet of the children, tied to the pipes in the bowels of the building. Andrew was proudest of the way it was all tied together. Electrical wire snaked through the rafters, under the floorboards, and through the walls. Once the charge was set, all of the Pyrotol would be ready to go off at once. And he had set the charge, his face expressionless and betraying no feeling of remorse.]
The dust which was once the Bath Consolidated School fell into the lungs of the townspeople frantically scrounging through the rubble. There was a great hum hanging in the air -- the moaning of dying children. M.J. Ellsworth, next-door neighbor, had heard the screams two miles away. The northwest wing of the building had been obliterated, the walls had been flattened, and the roof had collapsed onto a sea of dead children. Small, bloody faces lay still on broken remains of windows and walls. Mothers screamed and picked through the rubble, tears streaming from their faces. Every parent in Bath had been blown to bits on the inside.
Men dug through the rubble, fighting off the heavy smoke and rampaging mothers. Some children and teachers were saved from the debris; for many others it was too late. As the rescue operation swang into full gear, a pickup truck arrived on the scene. The man in the truck jumped out and called for School Superintendent Emory Huyck, the man responsible for creating Bath Consolidated School. As Huyck ran over to the truck, Andrew pulled a rifle out of his pickup and fired it into the back seat. Bath's third explosion sent monstrous columns of flame soaring into the sky. Emory Huyck and Postmaster Glen Smith were destroyed. With his last words, Smith called on his friends to leave the area, before more bombs went off. One hundred yards away, 8 year-old Cleo Clayton, still in a state of shock from the immense school blast, was pierced in the stomach by a large bolt. Meanwhile, Andrew exploded into many different directions. It was almost as if he had never existed at all.
Fire and smoke everywhere. Pieces of bodies hanging from telephone wires. Wounded children covered in dust. Small explosions continuing to rock the town. Oh, Andrew. Was this your idea of clean? They scraped some of you off the front of your truck, Andrew. They found your torso and your identification in a garden. 504 pounds of explosive never went off, Andrew. The police found it and dismantled it just in time. Parts of the school were left standing. It was a sloppy job, Andrew. That goes down in history.
City Hall was used as a morgue, and parents were brought in to identify what was left of their offspring. Poor Mrs. Eugene Hart was there, holding and rocking her three dead children. And I don't feel like writing too much more about that.
38 children and 7 teachers were killed by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927. 61 were severely injured. But when something of this magnitude occurs, the numbers don't really matter anymore. Except to people like Andrew Kehoe.
Some in the town had thought that they were under military attack. Others said it was the end of the world. In time answers came. Andrew was found responsible for all of the destruction, and was buried in an unmarked grave far, far away. An expensive new school was built, with the help of neighboring communities. But to think that a small town like Bath could ever forget something like this is a grave misjudgment of human character. A park containing a plaque with the name of every victim sits on the old site of the Bath Consolidated School. And for years, surreal images of pain and fire were etched in the hearts of all who were cursed enough to witness the destruction.
Pieces of Nellie Kehoe were found among the rubble of Andrew's property. So was the mass murderer's pathetic final message. Tied to the fence in front of his leveled property was Andrew's wooden sign:
"C R I M I N A L S A R E M A D E, N O T B O R N."