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  • Four Strange Suicides April 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback


    Beach has covered the difficult theme of suicide before on several occasions. There was suicides and loopholes, suicides on Saipan and, staying with the Second World War, madness in the last hours in the bunker in Berlin. But suicide is still rattling around his head and this particular post has been bothering him for a few days and, though he doesn’t have much material, he decided to put down what he has dredged up.  There are only four instances here that have made the grade as being truly strange. Hopefully, someone will be able to send in a few more? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com It goes without saying that none of this is written in a light-hearted way. Rather it represents curiosity at the absurd situations in which human beings can find themselves, all too often through no fault of their own.

    1) The reference that got us started on this morose topic came from Chris Woodyard’s Face in the Window to one Samuel Haggerty, a farmer who in 1901 walked into a field in Ohio with several sticks of dynamite. He packed a tree stump with the dynamite and then sat on said stump and lit the fuse. Beach immediately asked himself: why didn’t more desperate people do this back in the nineteenth century when dynamite was freely available? After all it is instantaneous. It also gets rid of the body: one concern of the suicidal is the horror that loved ones will have to clean up after them.  (Of course, that last point will depend on how much dynamite you use…)

    2)  William Kogut, who took his own life in 1930, deserves a prize for ingenuity. He also took the path of blowing himself up but managed to do it without explosives, at least without conventional explosives. He first got a leg from his prison bed: he was on death row at San Quentin. He hollowed it out. He then packed it full of dampened heart and diamond  playing cards, which at this date were glossed with nitrocellulose, for that shiny red colour. Kogut, next, managed to light the cards using the heater in his room, after placing the pipe up against his head. We suspect that there was a lot to clean up when the pipe bomb he had created finally went off.

    3) Guy Fawkes, the English Catholic patriot was sentenced to death, like William Kogut. However, unlike Kogut, Fawkes didn’t just have to sit in a chair and feel the current. He was going to be hung for a little and then forced to watch his own testicles be cut off and, afterwards, see his guts scooped out while still alive: his body would finally be cut into four quarters. In any case, in an action that is perhaps – if you want to be anal about this – not particularly Catholic he cheated his persecutors and leapt from the steps of the gallows just as the sentence was about to be passed. As the noose was already around his neck he died instantly.

    4)  Christine Chubbuck committed suicide in 1974 on live television, a first at that date. CC was, in fact, a television talent with WXLTV, aged thirty. She had prepared a script for her programme, including for the moment when she lifted up a gun and killed herself and also the script for those who took over once she had fallen to the ground. Read about at a distance this suicide seems to fall into the category of desperate attention seeking. Read about in more detail (pdf: chubbucknew) it is heartbreaking: a suicide based on a series of ingrained misperceptions that time would probably have put right.


    14 April 2013: Bast sends in this very curious case http://historicmysteries.com/the-lead-masks-case/. We give here a sample: Three days later, Jorge da Costa Alves found the bodies of the two men on Vintem Hill in Rio de Janeiro. Naturally, he alerted the police, who conducted an investigation. They ascertained the last known whereabouts of the men and discovered the miscellaneous items that represent their last moments alive. Both men were dressed in suits and wearing waterproof coats. They had lead eye masks with no holes, such as one would wear to protect from radiation. There was also an empty water bottle, two towels and a notebook. The notebook confused the case even further. It contained a few notes in Portuguese. Translated, they read: ‘16:30 be at agreed place, 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask signal.’ David Otton sent some nice links via twitter.  R. Budd Dwyer who also committed suicide on live television: . The Dance of Zalongo, a mass Greek suicide from 1831 and certainly worth a post of its own:  Ronald Opus, an interesting fictional suicide case that is well reading:  And most striking of all Peg Entwistle who killed herself using the Hollywood sign: On Sunday, 18 September 1932, an anonymous woman telephoned the police and said that while hiking she had found a body below the Hollywoodland sign… and then, according to a police transcript of the call, ‘wrapped a jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Gresham Police Station.’ A detective and two radio car officers found the body of a moderately well-dressed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman in the 100-foot ravine below the sign. Entwistle remained unidentified until her uncle (at whose Beachwood Canyon home she had been living) connected her two-day absence with the description and initials P.E. on a suicide note which had been found in the purse and published by the newspapers. He said that on Friday, 16 September she had told him she was going for a walk to a drugstore and see some friends. The police surmised that instead, she made her way from his Beachwood Drive home up the nearby southern slope of Mount Lee to the foot of the Hollywoodland sign, climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the ‘H’ and jumped. The cause of death was listed by the coroner as ‘multiple fractures of the pelvis.’ The suicide note as published read: ‘I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.’ Entwistle’s death brought wide and often sensationalized publicity. Her funeral was held in Hollywood and the body was cremated, with the ashes later sent to Glendale, Ohio for burial next to her father in Oak Hill Cemetery, where they were interred on 5 January 1933.’ Then Chris from Haunted Ohio Books has some crackers from her own collection: ‘Suicides were meat and drink to journalists, who reveled in the gory or unusual details and sometimes made light of the tragedies: An Ohio man has made six unsuccessful attempts to commit suicide. If he has made as great a failure of everything he undertook we are not surprised that he is tired of life. The Washington[DC] Post  20 September, 1907: p. 6 The latest phase in Parisian suicide is to shoot yourself in a hack. It is apt to damage the linings [horse-drawn hackney cabs had linings of cloth, like modern cars], but enables the suicide to be promptly conveyed to the morgue. Fort Wayne [IN] Daily Gazette 2-4-1882 p. 6.  ‘A few unusual suicides from my files’: Suicide by a Spiritualist. A short time since it was stated in the newspapers that a young lady, Miss Hattie A. Eager, of Boston, had died under peculiar circumstance—being a spiritual medium, she had predicted her own death at a certain time, being at the time of the prediction in good health. She was buried with ceremonies peculiar to the spiritualists, and since the event, her case has been mentioned by spiritualists as a clear and convincing proof of the truth of their theory. It has come out now that she committed suicide. The examining physicians say that 20 grains of antimony was found in her stomach after death. Lowell [MA] Daily Citizen 15 December 1856: p. 2  Suicide Of Miss Mary Kyger a Wealthy and Cultured Woman of Oxford, by Burning Hamilton, O., Dec 15. In a fit of madness, Miss Mary Kyger, 46 years old, a wealthy and cultured woman of Oxford, committed suicide by burning. Miss Kyger poured a can full of gasoline on her clothing. She then applied a match and was instantly a human torch. She dashed into the yard, but went less than 10 feet when with piercing shrieks she fell.  Many people saw her death agony, including scores of girl students in Oxford College for Women, just across the street. Several young women were prostrated by the shock. Miss Kyger’s entire body was roasted and she died in 20 minutes. Fifteen years ago she was in an asylum, and lately she has imagined that she could not manage her property. The Newark [OH] Advocate 12-15-1903 p. 2 Butler Co., Oxford GUILLOTINED HIMSELF. Deliberate Preparations Which a Demented French Inventor Made to Take His Own Life. Arthur Charollais, a demented inventor, 40 years old, guillotined himself this week in his laboratory at Mulhouse in Alsace. He had constructed the machine himself. It was an exact duplicate of the legal French guillotine, but was made of costly woods and finely polished. The triangular knife had engraved on it: “This blade cut Arthur Charollais’ neck, October, 1900.” Near the body was found a note reading: “Distribute my belongings among the poor. Demolish this guillotine. It is intended solely for my own private use.” Charollais’ servants heard an unfamiliar electric bell suddenly ringing persistently, and rushing to answer it discovered with horror a wriggling, headless body, with blood gushing in streams from the neck. The head was in a basket with sawdust where it had fallen. The suicide had so arranged the knife that its fall started an electric bell. Marietta [OH] Daily Leader 7 November 1900: p. 7 ‘I’ve found a number of cases of women strangling themselves with their hair.’ Strangled With Her Own Hair: Madeline Messner Commits Suicide in a Novel Manner. Toledo, Ohio, Jan. 30. Madeline Messner of Gibsonburg, Ohio, a melancholy patient at the insane asylum here committed suicide this afternoon in a peculiar manner. While sitting in a chair she fastened her hair around her neck and to the back of the chair and leaned forward. When found some minutes later she was dead. Daily Inter Ocean [Chicago, IL] 1 February 1896: p. 6 [I have seen other cases where people, with unusual strength of purpose, held up their feet until they strangled or otherwise performed seemingly impossible feats in order to die.] QUEER SUICIDE IN PRISON Woman Strangles Herself to Death With Her Hair The suicide in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul of a young woman named Dorofieff, who had been imprisoned there for nearly six months without trial, has caused as painful an impression here as that of the girl Vietrova, who committed suicide in the same place about eight or ten years ago by pouring over herself the oil of the lamp with which her cell was provided and setting herself on fire. Dorofieff strangled herself by tying her hair around her neck, fastening the end of the plait to the foot of the bed and then leaning back till death released her. She was a young married woman, barely 22 years of age, who came to St. Petersburg with her husband in the spring of last year. The Two lived a quiet, simple life and attracted little notice from their neighbors until shortly after the successful attack made by the Social Revolutionists at the corner of the Catharine Canal on a carriage conveying several hundred rubles from the port of St. Petersburg to the Branch Treasury in Kasnatcheifskaya street in October last year. The couple disappeared from their rooms at this time, and when the police made a descent upon their apartment they found the doors locked and had to force their way in. A few men were left in permanent ambush, and when two days later the husband returned alone he had hardly entered the hall when they rushed out with loaded revolvers and arrested him. Two days later he was executed in accordance with the verdict of a field court martial. The woman Dorofieff was arrested on the same premises the day after her husband had fallen into the hands of the police. She was immediately incarcerated in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul and since then, according to the newspaper accounts, she was kept in complete ignorance as to the fate of her husband, the jailers not being allowed to reply to any of her questions. The news of her husband’s death, it is said, was only conveyed to her on the eve of her suicide. She had been dead for several hours before it was discovered that she had put an end to her life. She was buried secretly at night time in the Preobajensky cemetery where are the graves of many of those who fell during the shooting on Red Sunday. Who she was and who her husband was remains a mystery. Those who knew her during her stay in St. Petersburg describe her as an exceptionally beautiful and attractive woman of superior intelligence and education. St. Petersburg, Cor. Chicago Chronicle. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 11 May 1907: p. 14 ‘What interests me almost as much as unusual suicide methods are the alleged reasons for why people committed suicide, as in these two articles’: READ NOVEL, WENT CRAZY AND DIED Boston, April 13. After reading Sir Conan Doyle’s House of the Baskervilles,” [sic] which tells of the ghostly dog that tears the throat of man and leaves him dead on the moor, Marcus J. Long,, 65, chopped to pieces all the keys and strings of the piano, smashed a $1,000 violin, then committed suicide by inhaling illuminating gas. The Spokane [WA] Press 13 April 1909: p. 6 Strange Fatality ERIE, PA., June 13 Mrs. Mary Kreshner suicided to-day under peculiar circumstances. A few weeks ago her husband’s dead and mangled body was brought home and the hearse containing the corpse ran over and killed her only child while enroute to the cemetery. She was about returning to her father in Germany when news came that he was drowned. Then Mrs. Kreshner resorted to laudanum for relief from further fatalities. Marion [OH] Star 17 June 1885. Thanks to Chris, Bast and David, who really blew my examples away!

    25 June 2013: Bast sends in this mysterious sucide story from Isdal in Norway. It is fascinating. This is part of the relevant Wikipedia article: On 29 November 1970 at approximately 13:15, while hiking in the foothills of mount Ulrikens north face, in an area known as Isdalen valley, a university professor and his two young daughters came across the partially charred remains of a naked woman hidden among some rocks at a remote hiking trail. Present at the scene were large amounts of sleeping pills, and bottles of petrol. A full scale murder investigation was immediately initiated and the case has since evolved to become the most comprehensive criminal case by the Bergen police.[2] Police traced the woman to two suitcases that were found in an NSB train station in Bergen. Police also found that the labels had been removed from every piece of clothing she wore, and that her fingerprintshad been sanded away. In addition, police discovered a prescription for a lotion, but both the doctor’s name and date had been removed. Within the lining on one suitcase police discovered 500 German marks. Partial fingerprints were found on a few pieces of broken glass. They were insufficient for an identification, but police suspected that they belonged to the dead woman. The police were able to make composite sketches on the basis of witness descriptions and analysis made from the body; these sketches were published in the media and disseminated via INTERPOL in a number of countries.Police eventually found out that the woman had travelled around Norway and Europe with nine different identities: Jenevive Lancia, Claudia Tjelt, Vera Schlosseneck, Claudia Nielsen, Alexia Zarna-Merchez, Vera Jarle, Finella Lorck and Elizabeth Leen Hoywfer. All of these identities were false. According to witness sightings the woman used various wigs, and in the trunk there were found several cryptic diary entries. The codes were later deciphered by police who concluded that they were coded dates and places the woman had previously visited.[3] The woman’s teeth were thoroughly checked during the autopsy, and the way the dental work was performed indicated that the woman had been to a dentist in Latin America. Witnesses reported that the woman had spoken several languages: French, German, English and Dutch. The woman had stayed at several hotels in Bergen. She had repeatedly changed rooms after checking in, when she wanted a room that had a balcony. In the papers she signed the check specified that she was a travelling saleswoman and an antiquities collector. The woman was fond of porridge with milk, as this order was left at several of the hotels where the woman had stayed.After the woman’s suitcases were found, police sought the help of the city’s most prominent textile retailers to identify her dress. It was concluded that the woman had a somewhat challenging style, which was marked by Italian taste. Early in the investigation police contacted an Italian photographer who had given the woman a lift and had dinner with her at Hotel Alexandra in Loen. The Italian had previously been questioned in connection with a rape case, though those charges were dismissed. One of the Italian’s postcards that were sold in Norway was also found in the woman’s luggage. The photographer claimed the woman had told him that she came from a small town north of Johannesburg in South Africa, and that she had six months to see the most beautiful places in Norway. This line of inquiry did not lead to any new information about the woman’s identity.Thanks Bast!