How Marcelle Solved the Puzzle
May 12, 1947
and affecting as when it was first published.

Evelyn Francis McHale was born 20 Sept 1923 in Berkeley, California. She was the
sixth child (of seven) of Vincent and Helen McHale.

Around 1930 Vincent accepted a position of Federal Land Bank Examiner and the
family moved to Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter Helen left the family for unknown
(although apparently material) reasons. They were divorced and Vincent took custody
of the children. Later he moved the family to Tuckahoe, New York were Evelyn
attended high school.

After high school Evelyn joined the Women’s Army Corps and was stationed in
Jefferson, Missouri. After her service it was reported that she burned her uniform.
Evelyn then moved to Baldwin, New York to live with her brother and sister-in-law and
took a job as a bookkeeper with an engraving company.2 It was here that she became
engaged to Barry Rhodes, an ex-GI studying at Lafayette College in Easton Pa. They
had intended to be married at Barry’s brothers house in Troy, NY in June 1947.

On 30 Apr she visited her fiance in Easton presumably to celebrate his 24th birthday
and boarded a train back to NYC at 7 a.m., 1 May 1947. Barry stated to reporters that
“When I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be

Of course we’ll never know what went through Evelyn’s mind on 66 mi train ride
home. But after she arrived in New York she went to the Governor Clinton Hotel where
she wrote a suicide note and shortly before 10:30 a.m. bought a ticket to the 86th floor
observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Around 10:40 am Patrolman John Morrissey, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street
and Fifth Avenue, noticed a white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the
building. Moments later he heard a crash and saw a crowd converge on 34th street.
Evelyn had jumped, cleared the setbacks, and landed on the roof of a United Nations
Assembly Cadillac limousine parked on 34th street, some 200 ft west of Fifth Ave.[3,4]

Across the street, Robert C. Wiles, a student photographer, also noticed the commotion
and rushed to the scene where he took several photos, including this one, some four
minutes after her death. Later, on the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray found
her tan (or maybe gray, reports differ) cloth coat neatly folded over the observation
deck wall, a brown make-up kit filled with family pictures and a black pocketbook with
the note which read:

“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy
my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or
remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would
make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I
have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”[5]

Her body was identified by her sister Helen Brenner and, according to her wishes, she
was cremated. There is no grave.

After Wiles photograph appeared in Life it was widely republished in a number of
photography anthologies and became one of the iconic images of the 20th century. It
was the only photograph he ever published. Andy Warhol later appropriated the photo
for his Suicide (Fallen Body) serigraph, part of his Death and Disaster series (1962–
Quiz #434 Results
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Answers to Quiz #434 - March 30, 2014
1. What happened?
2. What is the nickname of this photograph?
3. How many other people died the same way?
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Comments from Our Readers
35 people other than McHale since 1931 is the highest number I found. I cannot tell
if this counts the construction worker who was laid off in 1931 and jumped at an
elevator shaft before the building was completed in March. What I read says
"Since the Empire State Building was constructed in 1931 some 36 people
have jumped from the building, including 17 from the 86th floor observation deck.  
Evelyn was the 12th suicide from the building and the sixth to clear all of the
setbacks..."  My I-take-every-statement-literally interpretation of all things
translates this to mean "After/ following the completion date, 36 people have
jumped, not including the 1931 construction worker". I did find a New York Times
article (see last link below) that says that as of Dec 2004: "Its owners say they do
not keep a tally, but according to newspaper reports, the suicide last week was
either the 31st or 34th at the Empire State Building since it opened in May 1931."
Kim Richardson
Not a happy topic this week.
Fiona Brooker
Speaking of suicide, they are once again talking about installing nets on the Golden
Gate Bridge to catch/deter jumpers. Have you seen the documentary The Bridge?
It's terribly eerie. BTW, I first thought the photo was by WeeGee.
Tynan Peterson
Yes, I had read about [Elvita Adams who was blown back to the 85th floor by a
gust of wind]...When our time is up, it is up! And obviously it works the other way
around too - when it isn't, it simply isn't! She lucked out! Hope that she found a
new lease on life after that.

I wish people could realize that things are never as bleak as they seem; that they will
always get better with a little bit of effort. Gotta have faith in that though and some
people have no idea what that is unfortunately.
Cynthia Costigan
I did read about some of the other attempts and actual jumps.  Many that never
made it to the street but with the same outcome.  It is hard to fathom the thoughts
going through a person's head in these situations. No second chances except in the
case [of Elvita Adams]..  
Edna Cardinal
Congratulations to Our Winners!

Tynan Peterson                Donna Jolley
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Jackie McCarty                Kim Richardson
Arthur Hartwell                Karen Brauer
Evelyn Welker                Fiona Brooker
Cindy Costigan                Edna Cardinal
Timmy Fitzpatrick                Sherry Taylor
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Rebecca Bare

Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
Team Fletcher!

Robert Edward and Donald McKenna
Quiz Poets Laureate
A young, beautiful girl ended her life in a violent way. Her name was
Evelyn McHale.

The nick-name of her action is called "Codex  99".

36 Jumpers have died in this fashion using the Empire State building
as their spring-board.

After hearing of some bad news in her life, It is obvious that Evelyn
took this way out.

Evelyn could not handle rejection at all well.

Not well at all!

Que lastima

Robert Edward and Donald McKenna
Quiz Poets Laureate
A Death So Public, in the End So Forgotten

December 1, 2004

The young man walked into the soaring building that reduces us all to
specks. He took the only way up: past the ticket taker, past the
security checkpoint and into one of the elevators that rocket
skyward, 20th floor, 40th floor, 60th, 80th.

Within a few minutes, he had reached the 86th-floor observatory of
the glorious Empire State Building, the tallest building in New York
City once again. Before long, he had made his way through the
souvenir shop, past the King Kong coffee mugs and next year's
calendars, and out onto the deck, nearly a fifth of a mile above street

On this crisp and mostly clear November morning, on this day after
Thanksgiving, the world stretched out before him. Below, the
flesh-and-concrete experiment known as Manhattan; above, the
cerulean blue.

He pressed his back against one of the building's walls, witnesses
later said, and then rushed toward the 10-foot silvery fencing whose
rods curl inward and end in knifelike blades. He clambered up and
over to the other side, they said, so quickly that no guard could catch

Now the young man was on the outside rather than the inside, his
feet planted on a ledge. He paused for a moment, witnesses said, then
spread open his arms to become a falling human star.

Perhaps in another city this very public form of suicide would be
considered spectacular and would feed news reports for days. But in
New York, death by Empire State Building has long since lost its
novelty, its shock. This is partly because it has been done many times
before, partly because suicides are too sad, and partly because, well,
discussing suicides might encourage more.

That is why the city has a kind of procedure for Empire State
Building suicides. Witnesses recount the last words and gestures of
the dead. The building's managers express sympathy but point out
that nearly four million people visit the site a year. And some
newspapers illustrate the tragic leap with a graphic of descending
dots that often end with an X - as if to say, enough.

Many of the facts and statistics about the Empire State Building are
cemented in city lore: that it rises 1,250 feet in the sky, weighs
365,000 tons and has 103 floors, 6,500 windows and 73 elevators. In
1933, a make-believe King Kong clung to its side while swatting
pesky airplanes, and in 1997, a real-life gunman killed a tourist,
wounded six others and then killed himself on the observation deck.

But statistics regarding the number of people who have jumped from
the building's Olympian perches are less certain. Its owners say they
do not keep a tally, but according to newspaper reports, the suicide
last week was either the 31st or 34th at the Empire State Building
since it opened in May 1931.

And it is primarily in newspapers that those who leap are
memorialized. The brooding young magazine researcher who pushed
off from the observation deck's concrete wall, calling out, "Well, so
long, folks." The office clerk who scrawled several suicide notes,
including one to an associate that read: "Jack, please call Mrs. T. I've
gone out the window," and another to his wife, Mrs. T., explaining
that he had "gambled on someone's say-so and lost."

"Get your insurance and take good care of it," he wrote. "Get married
again by all means, but I certainly hope not. Love, Doll."

Another man, unremarkable save for his loud checked sport coat,
dropped a quarter on the observation deck's floor. A young boy
picked the coin up and offered it to the man, who said: "You keep it. I
won't need it." The boy dropped the coin in a pay-per-view telescope,
just as the man climbed onto the parapet - and vanished from view.

Of the others who vanished over the years, only a few received more
than passing notice, notwithstanding their very public deaths. In
1947, a World War II veteran fell 86 floors to land on Mrs. Mervin
Sylvester Coover, visiting from Iowa. In chronicling her long
recovery, newspapers had no choice but to repeat the veteran's name.

Most, though, are forgotten as quickly as if they had killed
themselves at home, no matter that they twirled through the air, drew
upward gazes, landed with a resounding thud. The young man who
died last week lingers on the fringes of the news only because his
body has yet to be attached to a name.

He was carrying no identification. And the police have little to go on,
other than a souvenir photograph of him, taken that day at the
world-famous Empire State Building.
1.   On May 1, 1947, Evelyn McHale commited suicide by jumping off
the 86th floor observation platform of the Empire State Building.
2.  The Most Beautiful Suicide
3.  Over 30 have attempted suicide, most successfully.
There were two known failures.
This detail from a photo by Robert C. Wiles was published
as a full-page image in the 12 May 1947 issue of Life
Magazine. It ran with the caption: “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.”

Evelyn, still clutching a pearl necklace, looks disarmingly
placid and composed – as if simply asleep. Around her,
however, the broken glass and crumpled sheet metal of a
car roof show the brutally destructive evidence of her 1050
ft jump. Some 60 years later the photo remains as haunting
Evelyn McHale

1. Much of Evelyn’s life story as presented here is based on research by Kathy Mechan
and is used by kind permission.

2. Kitab Engraving Company, 40 Pearl Street, Baldwin, New York.

3. Evelyn’s suicide was picked up by the International wire services and was widely
reported the next day in many newspapers: “Empire State Leap Ends Life of Girl, 20.”
New York Times. 2 May 1947: 23, “Afraid to Wed, Girl Plunges to Death from Empire
State.” Chicago Tribune. 2 May 1947: 4 and “Doubting Woman Dives to Death.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2 May 1947: 1. Here is a sadly 2-bit Xerox version of a photo
released by the family and used by the wire services:
4. Since the Empire State Building was constructed in 1931 some 36 people have
jumped from the building, including 17 from the 86th floor observation deck.
Evelyn was the 12th suicide from the building and the sixth to clear all of the setbacks.
She was one of five people in a three week period to attempt suicide from the
observation deck. In response a 10-ft wire mesh fence was installed and guards were
trained to spot potential jumpers. After the barrier was installed people just jumped from
other parts of the building, usually from office windows. The most recent suicide,
however, was a 23-yo Yale student who managed to scale the observation deck fence
on 30 May 2010.

5. The suicide note was reported in “Girl Who Leaped to Death Planned Wedding in
Troy.” The Times Record (Troy, N.Y.). 2 May 1947: 1,17. The striked sentences were
crossed out by Evelyn.

6. “Picture of the Week.” Life. 12 May 1947. See also: Maloney, Tom (ed). U.S.
Camera, vol 2. New York: Morrow, 1948, as well as several Best of Life collections.
Evelyn McHale
Over the years, more than thirty people have attempted suicide, most successfully, by
jumping from the upper parts of the building. The first suicide occurred even before its
completion, by a worker who had been laid off. The fence around the observatory
terrace was put up in 1947 after five people tried to jump during a three-week span.

On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor
observation deck and landed on a limousine parked at the curb. Photography student
Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale's oddly intact corpse a few minutes after her
death. The police found a suicide note among possessions she left on the observation
deck: "He is much better off without me ... I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody".
The photo ran in the May 12, 1947 edition of Life magazine, and is often referred to as
"The Most Beautiful Suicide". It was later used by visual artist Andy Warhol in one of
his prints entitled Suicide (Fallen Body).

In December 1943, ex-United States Navy gunner's mate William Lloyd Rambo jumped
to his death, landing amidst Christmas shoppers on the street below.

Only one person has jumped from the upper observatory: on November 3, 1932,
Frederick Eckert, of Astoria, ran past a guard in the enclosed 102nd floor gallery and
jumped a gate leading to an outdoor catwalk intended for dirigible passengers. Eckert's
body landed on the roof of the 86th floor observation promenade.

Two people have survived jumps, in both cases by not managing to fall more than a
floor: On December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be
blown back onto the 85th floor by a gust of wind and left with a broken hip. On April
25, 2013, a man, who is presumed to have jumped, fell from the 86th floor observation
deck but landed alive on an 85th floor ledge – where security guards managed to bring
him inside; he suffered only minor injuries
Empire State Building Suicides
Man Eludes Guard and Plunges From Stairway Above 102d Floor
Observatory. VISITORS SEE THE TRAGEDY German Postcards
in Pocket Sole Clue to Identity of First to Leap Off Building.

An unidentified man got past a guard stationed on the staircase
leading from the 102d-floor observatory of the Empire State Building
to the top floor yesterday, hurdled a fourfoot circular wall and leaped
to his death. His body hurtled past the eighty-eighth-floor observatory
in view of twenty visitors and landed on the roof of a promenade on
the eighty-sixth floor.

The New York Times, November 4, 1932
Man tumbles off Empire State Building
After 'leaping' one story security talks man out of jumping a second time
to avoid death plunge.
by Joseph Stepansky, et al
New York Daily News
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 2:20 AM
SCARY SIGHT: A man straddles the ledge of the Empire State Buidling before
being talked down.
Two tourists were taking in the sights Wednesday night, when right before their eyes a
man hovered between life and death on the 85th floor of the Empire State Building.
Argentinians Luis Ariel Jofre and Julieta Paola Barambones said they saw the man, who
had apparently already fallen one floor off an observation deck, swing his legs into the
air as if he meant to drop again.
Man is rushed from Empire State Building after tumbling one story, breaking
his ankle and cutting his hand.
“He was in his own world, like he was lost,” a shocked Jofre, 29, said of the 11:45 p.
m. incident. “He was calm looking down, like it was nothing, but it was 80 stories
Authorities say the man will be facing a trespassing charge.
Security guards talked the man off the ledge, said Jofre, who added, “We’re relieved
that he didn’t die.”
FDNY officials said
the man — wearing
a white shirt and
black pants — was
transported to
Bellevue Hospital as
an emotionally
disturbed person.
A cop at the scene
said the man
suffered a broken
ankle and cuts to
his hands and faces
a trespassing
The officer also
said it had not been
determined whether
the man’s fall from
the 86th floor was
Luis Ariel Jofre and Julieta Paola Barambones of Argentina who
witnessed man on a ledge of the Empire State Building.
Solving the quiz:

I searched on Google using variations of keywords  Images dead
woman lying on car. Bad move because what I got were hundreds of
pages of hits for articles and photos of car ads showing sexy ladies in
various stages of undress.

BUT buried in Page 3 of hits was this link:

Marcelle Comeau