The Great White House Arsonist

On April 3, 1956, a woman who identified herself as Julia Chase joined a White House tour group. Since she had no companion to question her absence, it was easy for her to sneak away from the group undetected. The 53-year-old spent five hours setting various fires within the White House. She was eventually discovered, taken into custody, and delivered to DC General Hospital for observation. She told police she had no idea where she had come from, but simply had a lot of trash and wanted to burn it. She was eventually discharged into the custody of her family. Today, that event would have been met with instant alarms, Air Force jets scrambling, a SWAT team dropping from panels in the ceiling, tanks rolling across the White House lawn, 90 minutes of sustained gunfire, and 14 days of continuous media coverage. In 1956, security was merely a word in the dictionary.