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Ex-Con Claims to have Caused 1937 School Explosion that Killed 293 in Texas

July 18, 1961 - A lie detector test proved inconclusive today on an ex-convict who said he had unintentionally caused a 1937 Texas school explosion (pictured) that killed 293 students and teachers. The ex-convict is William E. Benson, 41 years old. Oklahoma City police arrested him last night for questioning about a $38 robbery. He told them he had been responsible for the New London, Tex., high school disaster of March 18, 1937. His 14-year-old sister had been killed in the tragedy. Benson said that when he was 17 and attending the school, the principal scolded him for smoking. He said he wanted to get even by running up the school gas bill, so he loosened the connections on gas pipes under the building. The gas accumulated under the building. Two weeks after he had loosened the connections, a spark got to the accumulated gas and set off the explosion that blew the building apart. Some law enforcement officials believed his story and some did not. A niece said he had "confessed" his guilt to his own family in the past a number of times.


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