Posts Tagged ‘Empire State Building jumpers’

The Empire State Building’s “beautiful suicide”

April 16, 2012

Evelyn McHale appeared to have everything going for her. The 20-year-old bookkeeper was engaged, and she’d just returned to the city after visiting her fiance at his college in Pennsylvania.

But she must have been despondent. On May 1, 1947, instead of going home to Long Island, she checked into the Governor Clinton Hotel, on Seventh Avenue and 31st Street.

There she composed a suicide note, tucking it into her purse. She then left the hotel. At 10:30 a.m., she went to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Against the railing she placed her folded coat, her purse, and a makeup kit filled with family photos.

At 10:40 a.m., pedestrians on 34th Street heard an explosive boom—what turned out to be the sound of Evelyn’s body crashing into a limousine.

A photographer happened to be nearby. He took several photos, one of which made it into Life magazine that week (right).

The caption read “At the bottom of the Empire State Building the body of Evelyn McHale reposes calmly in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a car.”

Still in her pearls, her legs crossed elegantly, Evelyn looked peaceful, as if she was asleep.

She was dubbed “the most beautiful suicide” because of the eerie way her face and body were unbroken on top of the twisted metal of the limousine, even after a 1,000-foot fall.

In 1963, Andy Warhol co-opted the photo for a piece he titled “Suicide (Fallen Body).