The Annie Larsen Affair Comes to Bunker Hill

July 10, 1917

A resident of Bunker Hill was arrested today as part of a secret indictment issued by the Federal grand jury in San Francisco.  Ladel P. Varna, aka L. Percy Ram Chandra of 318 S. Flower Street was charged with violating the President’s neutrality proclamation.  He was suspected of being involved in the recent Annie Larsen affair, part of a "wholesale plot to assist the Hindus in an effort to throw off the British yoke."

The affair, and the trial that followed is too hopelessly confusing to relate here in any detail, but involved "German spies," the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and India’s Ghadar Party.  The Annie Larsen, a barely seaworthy vessel, was loaded up with approximately 4 million round of ammunition, 3758 cases of small arms ammunition, 10,000 Springfield rifles, 10,000 bayonets, and 10,000 cartridge belts, and sent out to rendezvous with the Maverick, and transfer the cargo to the larger ship, which would then head for Southeast Asia.

But back to Bunker Hill for now…

A graduate of Delhi University, Varna had lived in the United States for about four years at the time of his arrest.  When he arrived in San Francisco, he operated a fruit stand that did enough business to allow him to save up his money and purchase some real estate around Berkeley.  Then, two and a half years ago, Varna moved to Los Angeles and took a job in a cafeteria on Fourth Street.  He lived in a room at 318 S. Flower with four other men, and spoke perfect English

Of the charges brought against him, Varna said, "I know nothing about it except as the complain was read to me.  It is all like a dream to me.  I was in no conspiracy to violate the laws of this country and can bring witnesses to show what I have been doing ever since I landed.  I have saved some money, but do not like to spend it on a lawyer.  I won’t hire an attorney."

Varna had recently registered for military service, and said that he was wiling to go to war for the United States if he was called. 

Susie Miller on the Loose

Date: July 3, 1904
Location: 200 Block of Flower Street

susie115-year-old Susie Miller was a pretty brunette with a vivacious disposition who loved to play the violin. She also loved Willie Miller, a 15-year-old butcher’s apprentice, and he loved her — the two were already talking about marriage. But Susie’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Miller disapproved of the match so strongly that they uprooted the family from their home in San Francisco and moved to Los Angeles in the hopes of squashing the love affair.

The family settled in at a pretty little yellow bungalow on the southwest corner of Flower and Second, and Susie’s brothers quickly found work — although the Times was quick to point out that they only took jobs to occupy their time, not because they needed the money. Samuel Miller was somehow affiliated with the streetcar business in San Francisco and described as "a man in good circumstances." Even little Susie got in on the fun, taking a job as an operator at the Home Telephone Company, just down the street.

And then, on the morning of July 3, 1904, Susie Miller disappeared.

She told her mother that she’d asked to work the 6 a.m. shift at the telephone office in order to have the 4th of July off, and left home at 5:30 that morning. However, when Susie didn’t come home for lunch, Mrs. Miller began to worry. She called the telephone office and was informed that Susie had, in fact, tendered her resignation on June 28, and that there was no 6 a.m. Sunday shift. The family began to panic, and called police to report her missing. However, they just as quickly lied and told the police that she’d returned home, not wanting the story to be reported in the paper.

By July 5, there was still no word from Susie, and they decided to come clean.

Yes, there was Willie in San Francisco, but Susie also had another beau in the wings, a man named Harry, last name unknown. Mrs. Miller said, "Susie met him over the telephone in conversation to begin with and afterwards saw him and told me he was an awfully pretty boy and that she could almost love him." All they knew about Harry was that he claimed to be from San Diego, and that his father owned a gold mine. Their suspicions were heightened when Willie sent a telegram from San Francisco saying he had not seen Susie.

Millie Leach, one of Susie’s co-workers at the Home Telephone Company, told police that she’d accompanied Susie to the train station that Sunday morning. Susie told her she was going to San Diego, but when she purchased her ticket, Millie swore she heard her say, "Frisco."

So, where was she? Had she run off with the derelict son of a gold miner, eloped with her hometown sweetheart, or fallen prey to a worse fate?

The Times wrote, "The scheming of a Sherlock Holmes could not have more successfully covered her tracks."

But where police and reporters alike were stumped, Susie’s family rose to the occasion and worked to track her down. Samuel Miller went to San Francisco, and submitted young Willie to some hard questioning, during which the boy cracked. Susie had gone to a San Francisco hotel owned by her aunt, a woman with whom the family did not keep in touch. Once she heard her father was on the way, she crossed the bay to stay at the home of another aunt in Vallejo.

After being recovered and returned safely home to Los Angeles, Susie explained herself saying that she meant to write home, but after taking off, it seemed like "a good joke" to let her family wonder where she was. Then, once the police got involved, she was too scared to tell them where she was. Outsmarting the LAPD is one thing, but dear old dad is quite another.