That Time in 1971 When Someone Threw a Bomb at the Hanna Theatre

Steve DiMatteo

Hanna Theater in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland was once known as "Bomb City, USA" for a reason - and it wasn't just regulated to the ongoing mob wars going on in the city.

On April 26, 1971, even the Hanna Theatre downtown fell victim to a bomb attack. To protest the production of the play Hair - a rock musical that featured plenty of drug use, nudity, sexuality, and obscene language - someone threw a bomb out of their car, which bounced off the theater's marquee and exploded at the curb. It would blow out more than 40 windows in the Hanna Building, causing some minor damage to storefronts, though no one was injured in the blast.

Though this event made national headlines, it wasn't the only incident surrounding the show. Just a few days after the show's opening night, three sticks of dynamite were found outside the theater, and there were several other bomb threats made against the theater before the one that was actually carried out.

Tragedy Did Befall Hair in Cleveland, Though

On April 20, just six days before the bombing, family members of the cast were killed in a fire at the Pick-Carter Hotel, where 33 people involved with the show were staying.

Jonathan Johnson and Russel F. Carlson, cast members of the musical, each lost their wives and young children in the fire, which was suspected to be arson. The blaze started in the basement of the building and worked its way up the stairs to all ten floors, ultimately killing seven people and injuring eight.

Sadly, the families of Johnson and Carlson could have ultimately survived had they just stayed in their rooms and not left to go into the hallway of the hotel. One performance of the show was ultimately canceled.

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