The Quick 10: 10 Deadly Landmarks and Monuments
I realize this is a pretty morbid subject, but when I was researching the Statue of Liberty I came across a list of people who have jumped off of Lady Liberty. Some did it for sport—paragliding and that sort of thing—but one guy committed suicide by jumping out of her crown. That made me wonder how often that sort of thing happens at monuments and landmarks, and the answer is: pretty often, but on occasion, the person jumping doesn't succeed. Here are five suicides off of well-known monuments or landmarks that failed and five that succeeded.
1. The Statue of Liberty suicide happened on May 13, 1929. A witness reported that Ralph Gleason made his way out one of the windows on the crown, then seemed to maybe change his mind and try to crawl back in. The witness said it looked like Gleason slipped at that point, then flew downward, bounced off the statue's breast and landed in the grass at the base, just feet from a very surprised man who was mowing the grass. (As reader Carl pointed out, this was the first of two suicide attempts at the Statue of Liberty. Elhajo Malick Dieye died on June 1, 1997.)
2. In 1932, Peg Entwistle made her mark on Hollywood, but not really in the way most actresses intend to: tired of the constant rejections and bad reviews, she committed suicide by jumping off of the fifty-foot "H" in the famed sign in Griffith Park. Although it made a statement, it probably wasn't the best choice for suicide—the coroner's report said she died from multiple fractures and breaks in the pelvis, which means it probably wasn't an immediate death. Entwistle's body wasn't discovered for two days, so who knows how long she survived in agony?
3. There have only been 20-some suicides at the Hoover Dam since its completion in 1936 (so the official literature says—some "insiders" say it happens about every other week), one of the most well-known being part of a murder-suicide in 2004. The man apparently shot his girlfriend at the Treasure Island casino on the Strip in Las Vegas, then drove to the Hoover Dam and engaged in a standoff with police. After several hours, he finally jumped and fell about 750 feet to his death.
4. Three suicides have happened from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, all of them in the '70s. After two in 1974 alone, a "safety grid" was installed around the observation deck's platform. Even so, another jumper managed to get through the grid and find his way to the ground in 1978. Although there have been attempts since then, police have been successful in coaxing the distraught people down.
5. As you might suspect, suicides aren't totally unheard of at the Eiffel Tower, but they aren't that common, either: The Société de la Tour Eiffel says there have only been 349 successful suicides since the tower first opened in 1889. They aren't all jumpers—some hang themselves from the beam. Those jumping from the first level don't always die; in fact, a young woman survived when she jumped, was caught in a gust of wind and blown onto the roof of a car, which broke her fall. She later married the car's owner. Take this one with a grain of salt, because I can't find a name or a year or any identifying characteristics about it, but it's a good story nonetheless.
6. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is the most popular place in the world to commit suicide. Of the more than 1500 people who have jumped, only 26 have survived. In 1979, a 17-year-old man jumped off of the bridge 250 feet up, then somehow came to his senses mid-air. Great timing, kid. It's a bit of free-fall, so he had time to decide that his best chance of survival was hitting the water feet-first and adjusted his position accordingly. He was right—he hit the water and was well enough to swim out, get in his car and drive himself to the hospital. He had some cracked vertebrae but was otherwise fine (and is presumably still around today).
7. More than 30 people have killed themselves by leaping from the Empire State Building over the years, but there was at least one who tried and was unsuccessful. In 1979, a woman named Elvita Adams leapt from the 86th floor, got caught in a gust of wind and was blown back on to the 85th floor. She suffered a broken hip.
8. The Clifton Suspension Bridge in England has seen its share of suicides since it opened in 1864. But thanks to her attire, one lady who jumped in 1885 was very lucky. After an argument with her boyfriend, Sarah Ann Henley jumped off of the Clifton intending, obviously, to end her life. But thanks to the Victorian fashion trends, she was wearing a couple of layers of petticoats and skirts and undergarments, and the wind caught them just right as she was falling and acted kind of like a parachute. Seriously! She suffered some injuries but none too serious and lived to be 84 years old.
9. In 2009, a despondent man drove off a cliff at Colorado National Monument. But he didn't quite make it to the bottom of the canyon—his van got stuck on an outcropping of rock that prevented it from falling. The man called 911 and was rescued.
10. Aokigahara, the "Sea of Trees" located at the base of Mount Fuji, has become a popular spot for suicides ever since the novel Kuroi Jukai, which (SPOILER ALERT) depicts a pair of lovers killing themselves in the forest at the end. A yearly search of the forest is conducted to retrieve bodies; in 2002 alone 78 were found.