Here’s one thing you should know about Earth Day: its co-founder Ira Einhorn killed his girlfriend and “recycled” her into compost
04/27/2017 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

What is Earth Day, really? In the decades since its founding, several incidents have marred what was supposed to be a celebration of the environment and a day where people are made aware of the many effects of pollution. One grisly event that most people are not aware of is the observance's connection with one environmental activist, Ira Samuel Einhorn. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, that may be because Einhorn has since become notorious for one other thing: the murder of his girlfriend.

The “Unicorn Killer”

Born into a middle-class Jewish family, Einhorn was a left-leaning radical gifted with a wicked rhetoric. He nicknamed himself “Unicorn” because his surname translates to “one horn” in German. The “Prince of Flower Power” rubbed elbows with some of the most prominent figures and celebrities of the era while still a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Jack Kerouac, Isaac Asimov, and Allen Ginsberg were counted among his circle of friends. Einhorn even managed to endear himself to corporate personalities, selling blueprints of the future to CEOS and convincing them that funneling their resources into ecological projects could save the world.

His time as the “Guru of Peace of Love” would eventually introduce him to Holly Maddux, a member of the women's liberation movement. Maddux was initially drawn to Einhorn's magnetic nature. However, she soon discovered that this political icon was not what he seemed. After years of enduring physical abuse, Maddux fled to New York where she attempted to sever ties with Einhorn over the phone. In response, Einhorn threatened to dispose of her belongings if she didn't return to pick them up. Maddux returned to Philadelphia on September 9, 1977 and was never seen again.


Einhorn told police that Maddux disappeared after going out buy tofu and sprouts. No more than 18 months later, the truth was revealed after neighbors complained of a foul-smelling, reddish-brown liquid that leaked from the ceiling below Einhorn's bedroom closet. A police search turned up the badly beaten and partially mummified body of Maddux. They found her stuffed into a trunk packed with newspapers, air fresheners, and Styrofoam.

Before Einhorn could begin his trial, he jumped bail and spent 23 years evading authorities by hiding out all over Europe. He was finally tracked down and arrested on June 13, 1997 in Champagne-Mouton, France, where had been living under the alias “Eugène Mallon”. He was extradited to the United States from France over four years later. (Related: See more investigations of people and events at

During his trial in 2002, Einhorn took the stand in his own defense. He claimed that Maddux had been murdered by CIA agents because she “knew too much about the agency's paranormal military research”, an article in the stated. Einhorn was convicted of Maddux's murder on October 17, 2002 and is serving a life sentence without parole.

Earth Day today

Organizers have understandably distanced themselves from Einhorn, the man who claimed to have been responsible for the environmental movement. (Related: How 'Earth Day' could reinvent itself as... relevant). John Opperman, Executive Director of the Earth Day Initiative, has said in a statement to that he was “one of the millions of people who got involved in the first Earth Day in 1970,” before adding that Einhorn “was somewhat involved in helping put together the event in Philadelphia.”

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