Jumpers’ Hall Of Fame

A Wikipedia web page entirely devoted to folks who took their life
by jumping from a substantial enough height to guarantee results.

Featured in this post 3 jumpers culled from Wikipedia’s list.
Scroll down for:
·Tony Scott, film director
·Francesca Woodman, American Photographer
·James Vincent Forester, Secretary of Defense

Jumpers are usually impulsive, quick to suicide; unlike those who plot out their suicide, leave notes, take the time to give coveted stuff away to family, friends, put everything in order, quietly go about their business of suicide thoughtfully choosing the hour and means. Not jumpers; usually no goodbye note, window, bridges, rooftops are their choice, quick, easy to come by, there at a moments impulse.

Those who had the distinction to make it to Wikipedia’s list are in various degrees the cynosure of the public eye; they’re big news more or less, tragic news always, some known only by a select few with common interest, more males than females; they may be poet, actor, photographer, cinematographer, musician, lawyer, physician, serial killer, politician …

There are no other means of suicide, by gun, poison, asphyxiation, whatever, that supports a full-page alphabetical roster like this one — I googled and found none. I happenstance across “Suicides from jumping from a height” while researching  suicide via bridge, via Cornell University, for the post  “Suicide Paradise.” 

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Consummate film maker, director
July 21 1944  –  August 19 2012

The first name that got my attention, that I immediately recognized was Tony Scott, the film director. “What? No! When?” Somehow I missed news coverage of his demise. I was surprised, sadden, pissed-off. Tony Scott, one of my favorite directors.

Tony Scott climbed mountains for recreation. Obviously he had no fear of heights; witnesses say there was no hesitation.  Mention in the press of an inoperative brain tumor but his wife said not.  It’s difficult to fathom why he jumped. Why Tony Scott, extremely gifted, with a robust mettle, with an enormous appetite, passion for work, at the peak of his career, would leave this world willingly unless illness drove him to it; depression being an illness.

At 12.35pm on Sunday, Scott parked his black Toyota Prius in the east-bound lane of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, 30 miles south of his home in Beverly Hills.

He then scaled an 8ft fence and fell 185ft into the waters of a navigation channel serving Los Angeles Harbour. Witnesses allegedly told police he leaped “without hesitation”.

Vincent Thomas Bridge and the Port of Los Angeles

The incident was seen by passengers on a harbour cruise below, some of whom took photographs and videos. One of them said: “He landed right next to our tour boat, and many of us saw the whole thing.”



Tony Scott was determined to commit suicide. He had to scale up an 8ft fence, not an easy task for men half his age. He had to be in great shape plus driven to end it all. Again the question why? When it comes to suicide we always ask why? We’re dying to know why. Why Tony Scott did you? How could you walk-out on your brother, children, wife?

When Earnest Hemingway blew his brains out with his favorite shotgun, I an avid fan of his credited his suicide to brain cancer and mucho testosterone; Earnest Hemingway was in no way going to suffer a life of declining prowess. He beat cancer to the punch. The public and I accepted this as “why.”

Years later we discover that Hemingway went thru acute depression and paranoia. He went to Mayo clinic twice for electroconvulsive therapy and was put on antidepressants. When he returned home from the second round of treatment, two days later, he killed himself.

What surfaced years later — hemochromatosis. Earnest Hemingway’s behavior was much like his father’s before his father’s suicide. His sister and brother both committed suicide. They all most likely had the genetic disease hemochromatosis, in which the inability to metabolize iron culminates in mental and physical deterioration. Medical record confirmed that Hemingway’s hemochromatosis had been diagnosed in early 1961. Hemingway’s heavy, frequent drinking ultimately compounded his deterioration and answered the question “Why?” Boozing and hemochromatosis, that’s why.

Scott’s autopsy report released by the LA County coroner’s office

The report ruled that the official cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries and drowning. It also showed that therapeutic levels of the anti-depressant mirtazapine and prescription sleeping pill Lunesta were found in Scott’s system at the time of his death.

Side effects of mirtazapine can include general symptoms of malaise, but more rarely, can result in severe mood changes and hallucinations, according to Mayo Clinic. Lunesta is described as an eszopiclone medication used to treat insomnia. Lunesta can in depressed patients, worsen depression, increasing the risk of suicide. Risks may increase if you drink alcohol says LUNESTA Medication Guide.

Depression, not even the strongest, brightness, talented among us can avoid it, brings giants to their knees. At some time within our life our chemistry seems determined to go haywire. Given the amount of commercials running on TV hawking antidepressants indicates a considerable flourishing depressed population for the Pharmaceutical industry to concoct for. Coming up with the right antidepressants or combination of such is trial and error both for doctor and patient; adjusting to a drug’s side effects can be daunting.

What a compounded tragedy, if Scott’s meds was the answer “why?”

Hemingway’s Death and the Suicide Gene
by Sephen Cobb   July 2, 2011            

Ernest Hemingway died from hereditary hemochromatosis on July 2, 1961, exactly 50 years ago today. You might have read that Hemingway died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but hereditary hemochromatosis — also known as HHC, iron overload, bronze diabetes and Celtic Curse — was undoubtedly the underlying cause of his death. Quite by coincidence, July is Hemochromatosis Awareness Month in America, a time to raise awareness of what we now know is the most common genetic killer in America. By raising awareness of HHC you can quite literally save lives. And if a giant of literature can help raise HHC awareness, so be it.

How did hemochromatosis kill Hemingway? By causing toxic levels of iron to accumulate in his joints and organs bringing pain, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, and depression. That depression is more than just being unhappy because your body is damaged and your health is failing. That toxic iron accumulation plays its own role in affecting mood and brain function. Sadly, suicide is an all-too-common outcome of undiagnosed hemochromatosis.

One of Tony Scott’s best.
“True Romance,” a beautiful piece of film-making, a classic, included in the rank of 100 best, not only by Howard but by every permutation of film-buff.

The scene between Cristopher Walkens and Dennis Hopper is as riveting as riveting gets; watching the two off them verbally spar back and forth is mesmerizing, sweaty; when the scene is over you’re ready to leave the theatre, thinking you’ve just been thru a full-length feature and then oh yes, you have to remind yourself to breathe again.

Tony Scott took Quentin Tarantino’s deft dialogue and original script, filmed and directed it flawlessly, brilliantly, his choices were spot-on-perfect as were his choice of actors — doesn’t get any better than this —  Brad Pitt, Cristopher Walkens, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Patricia Arquette, Christian Slater and Samuel L Jackson.

Tony Scott’s Filmography   2010 Unstoppables • 2006 Deja Vu  • 2005 Domino
2004 Man on Fire • 2001 Spy Game • 1996 The Fan • 1995 Crimson Tide
1993 True Romance • 1991 The Last Boy Scout • 1990 Days of Thunder • 1990 Revenge 1987 Beverly Hills Cop II • 1986 Top Gun • 1983 The Hunger

Top Gun star Val Kilmer called him the “kindest film director I ever worked for”.

Val Kilmer got it right.

Tony Scott’s  face
reads kind,
great guy,
good soul,

Keira Knightley, the British actress who starred as a bounty hunter in his 2005 film Domino, said: “Tony Scott was one of the most extraordinary, imaginative men I ever worked with. He was a firecracker and one of the world’s true originals. My thoughts go to his family.”

Howard Blume, fan: “Scott should have stuck-around; he would have gotten his Oscar, without a doubt.

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American photographer
April 3, 1958  –  January 19, 1981

D.D. Prince’s portrait of Francesca Woodman

I clicked on Francesca Woodman’s name to find — lo and behold — an important America photographer whose work is coveted by collectors, critics and museums worldwide. I never heard of her until this post. Shows you how out of the loop I am. I do appreciate the significance and work of Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus and Duane Michals. Now I’ll have Francesca Woodman’s photography to grok over. 

Francesca Woodman made a deal with the muses:

                                    The Muses speak to Francesca

“We’ll allow you magic, Francesca, your creativity, passion, we’ll allow you your unique vision, your insatiable yearning for schematizing, juxtaposition, your surrealistic vision, your spontaneous bursts of shadow and light, your creative juice for 5 plus intense, prolific years. 
But Francesca, before your work is shown at the Tate Museum, London; before you are in the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum in New York; before you have a major retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art come November 2011; before you have a major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York come spring 2012; before you join the pantheons of the art world, you will take your life by jumping from a roof top come January 19, 1981. You’ll experience your last vision seen thru the eye-blink of a camera’s shutter; you’ll be unrecognizable after you hit the cement. Your work will carry the aura of death, the mystique of suicide. Some of the your devotees will be able to appreciate your work sans suicide, most will not. Either way you’ve knocked them dead.”

Her photographs are haunting, ethereal, fleeting, surrealistic, moody, spooky, textured, egocentric, confrontational, disturbing, stimulating. Most often she uses herself as subject, her reason she was quoted to say: “Convenient.”

Everything seen in her photographs seemed to be there at hand, there at the appropriate time, convenient, serendipitous, found scraps, detritus, mirrors, sheets, what have you.

She offers herself up to the camera, places herself behind a doorway, occupies a portion of the frame, squeezes herself into a corner of space and space occupies her; the camera won’t let her rest, relentess, looking for her next move, next juxtaposition, next long exposure flurry.

Every photograph taken inspired another; hypnotize by her own vision, a chain-reaction of creativity continues to draw her in deeper and deeper and us along with. She is haunted by her own work as we are.

The more photographs she took the more convincing her work became, the more convinced she became; eventually her images could not be ignored, her work overwhelmed any nagging doubts a collector/critic might have; her bizarre continuity wouldn’t quit, becomes disturbingly exceptional, her passion, courage is unmistakable —  she’s not fooling around.

She persisted at it for 5 plus years, claustrophobic focused continuity, turning out over 800 images. Dazzling.

Her kudos has nothing to do with her suicide. She made it all on her own without death. If someone can’t compartmentalize, no matter, her work easily bares the cloak of suicide, it haunts with or without. 

Francesca Woodman has claimed her standing along with Diane Arbus, Duane Michals and Cindy Sherman. She shares an essence with each one of them while possessing her own perfect, unique, intimidating, haunting vision.  I’m smitten.

She survived her first suicide attempt; obviously not a jump. After her first attempt she wrote to friend Catherine Chermayeff.

 “After three weeks and weeks and weeks of thinking about it I finally managed to try to do away with myself as neatly and concisely as possible. I do have standards and my life at this point is like very old coffee sediment, and I would rather die young leaving various accomplishments, some work, my friendship with you and some other artifacts intact, instead of pell-mell erasing all these delicate things”

On her second attempt she did jump; from a New York City rooftop, this time making sure her suicide would take.

An acquaintance wrote, “things had been bad, there had been therapy, things had gotten better, guard had been let down.” 

Why suicide? Was it a pile-up? Too much at one time: a rejected grant application, grief from Benjamin Moore her boyfriend, a stolen bicycle, difficulty with her work, not taking her meds. Some of the possibilities friends and family offered. Her father had his first group show at the Guggenheim five days after her death. ( Her parents were both full time artists)  Was it a message to her father?
Was it the muses cashing in on the deal?
Was it her DNA whispering to her: “Jump”

Last journal entry before she took her life… “This action that I foresee has nothing to do with melodrama. It is that life as lived by me now is a series of exceptions … I was (am?) not unique but special. This is why I was an artist … I was inventing a language for people to see the everyday things that I also see … and show them something different … Nothing to do with not being able “to take it” in the big city or w/ self doubt or because my heart is gone. And not to teach people a lesson.  Simply the other side.“


Blueprint for a Temple
Francesca Woodman  (American, Denver, Colorado 1958–1981 New York City)

Medium: Diazo collage
Dimensions: 457.2 x 304.8 cm (180 x 120 in.) approximately
Credit Line: Gift of George and Betty Woodman, 2001
Accession Number: 2001.737
Rights and Reproduction: © George and Betty Woodman

This monumental collage is composed from twenty-nine photographs printed on architect’s blueprint paper. It was exhibited only once, in a group exhibition, less than a year before the artist died at the age of 22. Woodman was on the cusp of a change in her art. Feeling hemmed in by the intimate, Symbolist-inflected tableaux (in which she often appeared nude) for which she had become known, she strove to make her art less personal and greatly expand its scale. Taking inspiration from the black-and-white patterned bathroom tiling familiar to New York City tenement apartments, Woodman sought to summon the ancient past and the contemplative calm she associated with it from its most faint surviving traces in everyday life. The child of two artists, Woodman spent much of her youth outside Florence and later studied in Rome; Blueprint for a Temple channelled her own deep and lifelong engagement with the art of antiquity. She also posed her friends as sculptural caryatids, further blurring the line between past and present, inanimate and animate.

The Metropolitan’s assumption that Woodman was “feeling hemmed in” by her body of work covering the last six years is hyperbole, boloney. Keep it simple — she was ready to move-on. She said what she had to say. Onward. Her new work, exciting, promising, the progenitor of great art to come, without a doubt she would have brought to it the same passion, mystery, focus, exploration she had to all of her work. But alas, she took her future with her — she moved-on — “to the other side” as she wrote in her journal.  


Francesca Woodman from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Francesca haunts Facebook A good representation of her work on Facebook.
Richard Avedon gives Francesca a Facebook’s thumbs up.
The Woodmans Documentory Film on her and her father and mother both artists
Francesca Woodman’s Suicide New York Review of Books.

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February 15, 1892 – May 22, 1949
The last Cabinet-level
United States Secretary of the Navy
& the
first United States Secretary of Defense.

Forrestal’s suicide

Although Forrestal, the United States Secretary of Defense, had told associates he had decided to resign, he was shattered when Truman abruptly asked for his resignation. His letter of resignation was tendered after Truman’s dismissal on March 28, 1949.

On the day of his removal from office, he was reported to have gone into a strange daze and was flown on a Navy airplane to the estate of Under Secretary of State Robert A. Lovett in Hobe Sound, Florida, where Forrestal’s wife, Josephine, was vacationing.

From Richard Dolan’s UFOs and the
National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-Up,

Forrestal finally left office in a formal ceremony on March 28th, his last public appearance.

What followed after the ceremony remains mysterious. “There is something I would like to talk to you about,” Symington, Secretary of the Air Force, told Forrestal, and accompanied him privately during the ride back to the Pentagon.

What Symington said is not known, but Forrestal emerged from the ride deeply upset, even traumatized, upon arrival at his office. Friends of Forrestal implied that Symington said something that shattered Forrestal’s last remaining defenses.

When someone entered Forrestal’s office several hours later, the former Secretary of Defense did not notice. Instead, he sat rigidly at his desk, staring at the bare wall, incoherent, repeating the sentence, “you are a loyal fellow,” for several hours.

[This excerpt is adapted from Richard Dolan’s UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-Up, 1941 to 1973, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2002. It appeared in the December 2001/January 2002 issue of UFO Magazine.]

William C. Menninger of the Menninger Clinic in Kansas was consulted and he diagnosed “severe depression” of the type “seen in operational fatigue during the war”. The Menninger Clinic had treated successfully similar cases during World War II but Forrestal’s wife Josephine, his friend and associate Ferdinand Eberstadt, Dr. Menninger and Navy psychiatrist Captain Dr. George N. Raines decided to send the former Secretary of Defense to the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, Maryland, where it would be possible to deny his mental illness.

He was checked into NNMC five days later. The decision to house him on the 16th floor instead of the first floor was justified in the same way. Forrestal’s condition was officially announced as “nervous and physical exhaustion.”

The attending psychiatrist, Captain George N. Raines was handpicked by the Navy Surgeon General.  Captain Raines diagnosed his condition as “depression” or “reactive depression.”  The regimen was as follows:

1st week: narcosis with sodium amytal.

2nd – 5th weeks: a regimen of insulin sub-shock combined with psycho-therapeutic interviews. According to Dr. Raines, the patient overreacted to the insulin much as he had the amytal and this would occasionally throw him into a confused state with a great deal of agitation and confusion.

4th week: insulin administered only in stimulating doses; 10 units of insulin four times a day, morning, noon, afternoon and evening.

According to Dr. Raines, “We considered electro-shock but thought it better to postpone it for another 90 days. In reactive depression if electro-shock is used early and the patient is returned to the same situation from which he came there is grave danger of suicide in the immediate period after they return… so strangely enough we left out electro-shock to avoid what actually happened anyhow”

Forrestal’s last written statement, which some have alleged was an implied suicide note, was part of a poem from Sophocles’ tragedy Ajax:

Fair Salamis, the billows’ roar,
Wander around thee yet,
And sailors gaze upon thy shore
Firm in the Ocean set.
Thy son is in a foreign clime
Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,
Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,
Worn by the waste of time–
Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save
In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….
Woe to the mother in her close of day,
Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,
When she shall hear
Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!
“Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–
No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail
Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale–

The official Navy review board, which completed hearings on May 31, waited until October 11, 1949, to release only a brief summary of its findings. The announcement, as reported on page 15 of the October 12  New York Times, stated only that Forrestal had died from his fall from the window. It did not say what might have caused the fall, nor did it make any mention of a bathrobe sash cord that had first been reported as tied around his neck. According to the full report, which was not released by the Department of the Navy until April 2004, the official findings of the board were as follows: After full and mature deliberation, the board finds as follows:


That the body found on the ledge outside of room three eighty-four of building one of the National Naval Medical Center at one-fifty a.m. and pronounced dead at one fifty-five a.m., Sunday, May 22, 1949, was identified as that of the late James V. Forrestal, a patient on the Neuropsychiatric Service of the U. S. Naval Hospital, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

That the late James V. Forrestal died on or about May 22, 1949, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, as a result of injuries, multiple, extreme, received incident to a fall from a high point in the tower, building one, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

That the behavior of the deceased during the period of his stay in the hospital preceding his death was indicative of a mental depression.

That the treatment and precautions in the conduct of the case were in agreement with accepted psychiatric practice and commensurate with the evident status of the patient at all times.

That the death was not caused in any manner by the intent, fault, negligence or inefficiency of any person or persons in the naval service or connected therewith.

Harassed by the columnist

A chief reason for Forrestal’s fragile mental state was that his high-profile position was in sharp contrast to his personality. As a person who prized anonymity and once stated that his hobby was “obscurity”, he and his policies had been the constant target of attacks from columnists, including Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell. Pearson’s protege, Jack Anderson, later asserted that Pearson “hectored Forrestal with innuendos and false accusations.”

He made his fortune
Before working for the government, a bond salesman: He was a workaholic with a burning desire to join the ranks of the super-rich. Within a few years of his arrival on Wall Street, he made a substantial fortune in the bull market of the Roaring 20’s and was moving in glamorous social circles.

Married a a chorus girl with the Ziegfeld Follies
In 1926, at the age of 34, he married the beautiful Josephine Ogden, a columnist for Vogue Magazine and who had once been a chorus girl with the Ziegfeld Follies. Yet as he skyrocketed to success, there were hints of the later tragedy to come. His marriage would prove to be a difficult, at times harrowing, union with a deeply unstable woman. And h himself had serious emotional problems.

An empty soul
He was “instinctively resistant to any genuine surrendering of himself,” it has been written, and unable to make deep commitments to other people, including those he ostensibly loved. The consequences of this failure was a barren personal life and, eventually, mental collapse.

Difficult to believe — no father would treat their children as he did
Forrestal, while working in England, received a phone call from his two sons, ages eight and six. The two had missed their plane in Paris, but Forrestal simply told the boys to work out the problem themselves and meet him in London. His wife was a victim of this treatment and eventually developed alcohol and mental problems inherited from her mother.

When he took over the top Pentagon position in September 1947 he was already, in the words of a close friend, “a burned-out-case.” Over the next year, his mental and physical condition deteriorated rapidly. The frustrations of his daunting job ground him down, as did a relentless campaign against him by columnist Drew Pearson.

What Thou Sown, So Shall Thou Reap
His personal life, moreover, had become emptier than ever. Once, near the end of his life, an aide found him in his office at 9:30 in the evening and suggested that he go home. He replied bleakly, “Go home? Home to what?”

Assassination allegations
Theories as to who might have murdered Forrestal range from Soviet agents, to U.S. government operatives sent to silence him for his knowledge of UFOs.

Doubts have existed from the beginning about Forrestal’s death, especially allegations of homicide. The early doubts are detailed in the book The Death of James Forrestal (1966) by Cornell Simpson, which received virtually no publicity. As Simpson notes (pp. 40–44), a major reason for doubt is the fact that the Navy kept the full transcript of its official hearing and final report secret. Additional doubt has been raised by the 2004 release of that complete report, informally referred to as the Willcutts Report, after Admiral Morton D. Willcutts, the head of NNMC, who convened the review board.

There were unsubstantiated reports in the press of paranoia and of involuntary commitment to the hospital, as well as suspicions about the detailed circumstances of his death, which have fed a variety of conspiracy theories as well as legitimate questions. One of Forrestal’s statements described as “paranoid” was his prediction that the United States would soon be at war; a few months later the US was indeed at war in Korea.

Forrestal’s Service

Forrestal was a supporter of naval battle groups centered on aircraft carriers.

In 1954, the world’s first supercarrier was named USS Forrestal in his honor, as is the headquarters of the United States Department of Energy.

He is also the namesake of the Forrestal Lecture Series at the United States Naval Academy, which brings prominent military and civilian leaders to speak to the Brigade of Midshipmen, and of the James Forrestal Campus of Princeton University in Plainsboro Township, New Jersey.

supercarrier USS Forrestal

Naval Aviator

When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Navy and ultimately became a Naval Aviator, training with the Royal Flying Corps in Canada. During the final year of the war, Forrestal spent much of his time in Washington, D.C., at the office of Naval Operations, while completing his flight training. He eventually reached the rank of Lieutenant.

Secretary of the Navy

He became Secretary of the Navy on May 19, 1944, after his immediate superior Secretary Frank Knox died from a heart attack. Forrestal led the Navy through the closing year of the war and the painful early years of demobilization that followed. As Secretary, Forrestal introduced a policy of racial integration in the Navy.

Forrestal traveled to combat zones to see naval forces in action. He was in the South Pacific in 1942, present at the Battle of Kwajalein in 1944, and (as Secretary) witnessed the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. After five days of pitched battle, a detachment of Marines was sent to hoist the American flag on the 545-foot summit of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. This was the first time in the war that the U.S. flag had flown on Japanese soil. Forrestal, who had just landed on the beach, claimed the historic flag as a souvenir. A second, larger flag was run up in its place, and this second flag-raising was the moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in his famous photograph.

His greatest legacy, almost.

Forrestal led the Navy through the closing year of the war and the demobilization that followed. What might have been his greatest legacy as Navy Secretary was an attempt that came to nought. He, along with Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew, in the early months of 1945, strongly advocated a softer policy toward Japan that would permit a negotiated face-saving surrender.

His primary concern was “the menace of Russian Communism and its attraction for decimated, destabilized societies in Europe and Asia,” and, therefore, keeping the Soviet Union out of the war with Japan.

Had his advice been followed, Japan might well have surrendered before August 1945, precluding the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So strongly did he feel about this matter that he cultivated negotiation attempts that bordered closely on insubordination toward the President.

First United States Secretary of Defense

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed him the first United States Secretary of Defense. Forrestal continued to advocate for complete racial integration of the services, a policy eventually implemented in 1949.

By 1948, President Harry Truman had approved military budgets billions of dollars below what the services were requesting, putting Forrestal in the middle of a fierce tug-of-war between the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Forrestal was also becoming increasingly worried about the Soviet threat. His 18 months at Defense came at an exceptionally difficult time for the U.S. military establishment: Communist governments came to power in Czechoslovakia and China; the Soviets imposed a blockade on West Berlin prompting the U.S. Berlin Airlift to supply the city; the 1948 Arab–Israeli War after the establishment of Israel; and negotiations were going on for the formation of NATO.

Eisenhower on Forrestal

Dwight D. Eisenhower recorded he was in agreement with Forrestal’s theories on the dangers of Soviet and International communist expansion. Eisenhower recalled that Forrestal had been “the one man who, in the very midst of the war, always counseled caution and alertness in dealing with the Soviets.” Eisenhower remembered on several occasions, while he was Supreme Allied Commander, he had been visited by Forrestal, who carefully explained his thesis that the Communists would never cease trying to destroy all representative government. Eisenhower commented in his personal diary on 11 June 1949, “I never had cause to doubt the accuracy of his judgments on this point.”


The Death of James Forrestal. Article adapted from Richard Dolan’s UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-Up, 1941 to 1973, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2002. It appeared in the December 2001/January 2002 issue of UFO Magazine.]
James Vincent Forrestal Arlington cemetery   Lieutenant United States Navy,
Secretary of the Navy – Secretary of Defense
James Forrestal From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Suicide Paradise

Cascadilla gorge bridge

So: the deal, pact, commitment I made with my self if I didn’t return home with the job I wouldn’t return period, end of story. I’d jump from one of Cornell’s bridges, the Cascadilla gorge bridge, the Fall Creek bridge, convenient, it’d take me less than five minutes to get to either one of those breathtaking views once the meeting was over.

“No chickening-out, Howard.”
“No problem, I won’t.”

Taken from the pedestrian bridge looking down into Fall Creek gorge.
credit: dennieorson’s photostream

We, Kay my wife and I spent seven years on a farm in Interlaken New York, 20 minutes outside of Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University. We made a hand-ladled goat cheese, sold to specialty food shops, supermarkets, restaurants in Manhattan and throughout the Atlantic and mid-Atlantic.  Great experience, stressful, sold lots of cheese, acquired a great reputation with cheese mavens and foodies. Profit margin, invisible.

Challenging life events during that time: my daughter committed suicide, a close friend, an cinematographer, was murdered while filming in Puerto Rico, a good friend’s son, bipolar, committed suicide, Kay’s mother and father passed on. Both of us were on antidepressants, me for a debilitating fatigue precipitated by Lyme disease, Kay’s depression most likely from a bad string of DNA.

The inevitable straw that broke our back: in the middle of finishing an addition to the creamery we lost our milk supply, went belly up, down the drain, bankrupt. In no time we ran out of money.  Had to beg for cash from family, scrounge money from friends, could not find work, felt isolated, in fact were isolated, depression no meds could fix, humiliated, angry, furious; if I could keep it up for furious, furious is what kept me going. I was looking for a fight, needed someone to beat the crap out of me. Kay and I, we both went into a tailspin. I never gave suicide a deadline till that morning.

Cascadilla gorge

Back then there
weren’t any physical
deterrents to impede jumps.
Clear sailing.

Cornell campus is plush with elegant mature plantings embellished and tended too by skilled, schooled landscapers; then to top off the scenery greenery they have two infamous wondrous gorges; the Cascadilla gorge and Fall Creek gorge, framing the campus to the north and south, formed over 2 million years ago by the endless, relentless fury of water and ice racing, pushing downward, carving, cracking, grinding, rocks, pebbles, sand, again and again, over 100 ft deep in places, creating spectacular haunting towering cathedrals, offering plants cracks in its wall to take root in, luring cliff swallows to nest in its crevices and mesmerizing folks, students, faculty, any one standing on one of the bridges looking over the edge facing down into its awesome beautiful terrifying abyss, beckoning. The vista so powerful you can feel engulfed by it, absorbed.

“Ithaca is Gorgeous.” You find this phrase printed on sweatshirts, T-shirts, mugs. You might also see the phrase “Ithaca is Suicide.”
And “suicide” is also expressed as: “gorging out.”

Thurston Ave Bridge

The campus has suffered six student suicides in the 2009-2010 academic year, three of them from jumps off the Thurston Avenue bridge. Two tragedies were back-to-back, one on a Thursday, one Friday. According to CNN, the university worked to become a model of suicide prevention after gaining a nickname, legitimately or not, “Suicide University,” in the 1990s.

The university’s mental health initiatives director, Timothy Marchel, told CNN that he did not know what may have prompted the recent wave of suicides was unclear, as Cornell had no suicides from 2005 to 2008. CNN reported that the school has consistently fallen within or below the national average, according to Karen Carr, the assistant dean of students at Cornell.

Cornell spent brainpower brain-picking, from the 1940’s to this current decade, masticating on the profile of a jumper and his or her predictability, as did psychiatrist and social-orientated professionals. Administrators hemmed and they hawed: what measures should they take to curb a jumper from jumping?  When fences were first suggested Cornell balked. Why bother? If someone intent on committed suicide by jumping off a bridge is discouraged by a fence they’ll eventually find some other way to off themselves. Not true, as evidence will bare-out.

Another consideration for nixing fences: Cornell, part of the student body and citizens of Ithaca were concerned with bridge esthetics: a fence will mess up the view. True but what holds more value, is more precious, a life or the venerable view. Don’t ask that question to a parent who lost a daughter or son to the gorgeous gorges.

Three students committed suicide by jumping from bridges within a month of each other. According to the newspaper, 27 people committed suicide between 1990 and 2010 by jumping from the bridges, including 15 students

Temporary Fences

Bridges lend
themselves to passion suicides — spontaneous combustion
premeditative suicides — slow leak

My daughter was a plotter, her suicide premeditative. She wrote letters, gave her things away, carefully picked the hour and the means. My suicide, one of passion. I gave it a go as I headed out the door, no goodbye note.

There are those who display the classic symptoms of so-called suicidal behavior, who build up to their act over time or who choose methods that require careful planning. And then there are those whose act appears born of an immediate crisis, with little or no forethought involved. Just as with homicide, those in the “passion” category of suicide are much more likely to turn to whatever means are immediately available, those that are easy and quick.

 Excerpted from: The Urge To End it all.
Scott Anderson. NY Times


Left the meeting, got into my car, drove off. I got the job; that would take care off us for 5 months. As I turned onto route 89, the scenic route along Cayuga Lake toward Interlaken, to the farm, it hit me; an adrenalin jolt to my gut, my being, my pact, my commitment, the deal to jump. If I didn’t get the work, instead of holding this steering wheel heading home, at this very instant I’d be cascading down into the gorge heading to my certain death. In one blinding flash I stop breathing, no longer was at the wheel. I jumped, dropped, fell through the car seat to the bottom of the gorge, then off to the great beyond and back again, my hands once more on the wheel.

Stunned, wiped, zombie-like, running on empty, scared shitless. “I came close to killing myself.” Driving back to the farm I was sure I would have jumped, gave myself no choice, signed on the dotted line, written in stone, a deal is a deal, loose face if I didn’t hold-up my end of the bargain. I could not face the future without a future. Fortunately the coin turned up heads, don’t have to put my commitment to the test, a reprieve. I’m driving back facing Kay, 2 German Sheppards, Sweet Pea and Winter, 5 cats, Brewster, Little Bear, Squirrel, Minky, Edwena, our goat Albert and Stinky the Bankruptcy.

When ever I think of life on the farm when I was on the verge of committing suicide, when it could have gone the other way, I find myself trying to talk my self out of the jump.

“ Howard, you know you could have never made that jump.”
“ Easy for you to say that now, Howard. Try it back then in the Gloom
n and Doom, the Sturm und Drang.”

Note: bridge of my own choosing. 

All the time we spent going to and fro from Cornell’s dairy department back to the farm, driving over Cornell’s bridges, over the gorges, I never thought of them as a means to my end. They were nothing but beautiful. Never heard or read of the bridges described as a “suicide magnet.” When I came to consider suicide I came to it all on my own, my choice of method my own. No suicides were flagged in the media that provided inspiration or reference, no external prompt. It was a simple one on one transaction. There I was. And there it was. “Make it and they will jump.”


 From cradle to bridge. 

Cornell Alumni, Jakub J. Janecka

What drives Cornell Alumni, Jakub J. Janecka, 33 years old, to return to Ithaca ten years later after graduation and take a dive into the Cascadilla Gorge? Witnesses described his jump as headfirst.

What does a headfirst dive tell us: determination: nothing will interfere: allows no change of heart: quick and unfailing.  How long ago did Jakub J. Janecka entertain self-immolation; a passing thought as he walked over a bridge when a Cornell student, then rekindled years later by one bad month or by years of depression? Sudden impulse? Gradual realization?

Jakub J. Janecka received a Bachelor of Science in biology from Cornell University and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Scranton. The past spring, before he jumped, he earned a master’s degree in biology from Catholic University of America.

What an awesome combo — biology and theology. He had to be quite a bright unique person given this marriage of two apparently opposing views of the world. No doubt he had much to offer. I would have looked forward to meeting him. There must be others who enjoyed his company; yet no sign of contacts or friends on the social net work except a facebook friend, Jane Goldschmidt, most likely a classmate of his at Catholic University of America.

Deciphering God’s DNA

Deciphering God’s DNA, a rare specialty for a student to pursue. Jakub J. Janecka, born in the Uherske Hradiste, Czech Republic, went to grade and high school in Lake Ariel, PA. With Jakub we have the makings of a passionate, exciting, brilliant, fascinating soul. What the fu__ went wrong. How could anyone taking-on the miracles of life and the miracles of God want to off himself?

Let’s find out how, think it through, write a film script or novel based on Jakub’s life, a dramatization patching together what is known of him, which is scant, and fill in the unknowns guided by creative instinct, sensitivity, psyche, pathos and passion; find the conflict, the relationships, see where it takes you. Follow Jakub from cradle to bridge. If you’re a  filmmaker, writer, novelist, its yours to take on.

Jakub J. Janecka return to Ithaca to seek his destiny, to find a bridge, his bridge, the bridge with his name on it, the bridge he envisioned when he decided to commit suicide, envisioned as he drove from somewhere to Ithaca, New York. He must have known that a jump from a Cornell bridge would make news, get him attention. Is that what he sought? As it was he received minimal attention. Several one-day announcements in the local papers.

Three responses to Jakub J. Janecka death.

1, A mention in the blog “Cornel Watch”: The Strange Case of Jakub Jan Janecka: The name of the body found yesterday in Cascadilla Gorge has been released, and the details may shock you. His name is Jakub J. Janecka of Lake Ariel, PA, and he graduated in 1998. Why Cornell alum would such make an eerie pilgrimage to Ithaca to commit suicide is as strange a question as it is tragic.

2. Dennis Cheng a friend from high school: “Jakub was one of my closest friends in high school. He was a brilliant student, bringing a much needed international view to a backwards, rural Pennsylvania public school. He was always one of those people that kept appearing in random thoughts, a name from the past to try to hunt down. I always pictured him doing big things. I learned of his untimely death today, too late to attend his service. I am sick over it.  My thoughts are with his family. He will be missed by many.”

( Two close high school friends never kept in touch with each other since they graduated. Jakub finally made contact with Dennis through his obituary piece in the newspaper. Not much of a friendship. )

3. Eight years after his death I ask: what about his close friends, his family. He has a brother and sister both with the title of doctor; did they know what he was going through? What was it that turned Jakub against Jakub?

Was his pain so quiet, so hidden from his family, friends that none of them saw it?  Did anyone look at his face to read, “ I’m not okay! Help!” Did he seek help? Was he a loner, terribly shy? What went bad for Jakub? Was it a sudden alteration in sugar levels, hormones, neurotransmitters? I imagined myself with Jakub, grabbing his shirt collar, trying to drag him back off the bridge. He had to be spent, blinded, tortured by pain, depression, despair when he took that bullet dive.

If there were fences installed on the bridges at the time Jakub returned to Cornell he might still be with us, he might have survived long enough to get help. I will miss Jakub J. Janecka based only on the compelling fragments of what I know of him; but that’s enough.


Sylvia Plath & The British coal-gas story.

For generations, the people of Britain heated their homes and fueled their stoves with coal gas. While plentiful and cheap, coal-derived gas could also be deadly; in its unburned form, it released very high levels of carbon monoxide, and an open valve or a leak in a closed space could induce asphyxiation in a matter of minutes. This extreme toxicity also made it a preferred method of suicide. “Sticking one’s head in the oven” became so common in Britain that by the late 1950s it accounted for some 2,500 suicides a year, almost half the nation’s total.

The mining and export of coal was a major industry in Great Britain and proved to be responsible for “the execution chamber in everyone’s kitchen,”

Those numbers began dropping over the next decade as the British government embarked on a program to phase out coal gas in favor of the much cleaner natural gas. By the early 1970s, the amount of carbon monoxide running through domestic gas lines had been reduced to nearly zero. During those same years, Britain’s national suicide rate dropped by nearly a third, and it has remained close to that reduced level ever since.

How can this be? After all, if the impulse to suicide is primarily rooted in mental illness and that illness goes untreated, how does merely closing off one means of self-destruction have any lasting effect? At least a partial answer is that many of those Britons who asphyxiated themselves did so impulsively. In a moment of deep despair or rage or sadness, they turned to what was easy and quick and deadly — “the execution chamber in everyone’s kitchen,” as one psychologist described it — and that instrument allowed little time for second thoughts. Remove it, and the process slowed down; it allowed time for the dark passion to pass.   The Urge To End it all.  By Scott Anderson. NY Times

Sylvia Plath

“outcast on a cold star, unable to feel anything but an awful helpless numbness. I look down into the warm, earthy world. Into a nest of lovers’ beds, baby cribs, meal tables, all the solid commerce of life in this earth, and feel apart, enclosed in a wall of glass.” 

Written by the British poet Sylvia Plath, 6 months before she sealed the windows and doors to her kitchen, turned on the gas and knelt in front of her stove. If she had natural gas, instead of coal gas would the outcome differ; before she could find a convenient, easy, sure-fired means of suicide her doctor could have her placed in a psychiatric hospital as he was trying to do before she committed suicide. He was in the process of finding her a bed in an over-filled psychiatric hospital — any day now, a bed for her. Natural gas could have bought him and Sylvia more time? What would happen after a hospital stay and therapy? Don’t know, more poems and extra years she would have never had with goal gas; still eventually suicide, some would say inevitable.

The  message

Don’t make it easy for the jumper. Create an obstacle. Buy them cool-off time. Read the entire NY. Times piece, “The Urge To End it All” by Scott Anderson.  You’ll find research shows that most of the would-be impulsive jumpers — those who are quick to suicide, those who often don’t have time for goodbyes or suicide notes — once the attempt is thwarted they loose interest; they won’t attempt to fulfill the act again.

Most importantly, there is the scientific research on means restriction, which suggests that bridge barriers are an effective tool in suicide prevention,” she said. “Five or 10 years ago, there weren’t any articles on this. Suicide prevention as a discipline is maturing.”   Susan Murphy, Ithaca Times

A few chuckles and research demonstrating no plan B

Following is Scott Anderson’s interview of Richard Seiden, a professor emeritus and clinical psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health, best known for his pioneering work on the study of suicide. Much of that work has focused on the bridge that lies just across San Francisco Bay from campus, the Golden Gate.

“At the risk of stating the obvious,” Seiden said, “people who attempt suicide aren’t thinking clearly. They might have a Plan A, but there’s no Plan B. They get fixated. They don’t say, ‘Well, I can’t jump, so now I’m going to go shoot myself.’ And that fixation extends to whatever method they’ve chosen. They decide they’re going to jump off a particular spot on a particular bridge, or maybe they decide that when they get there, but if they discover the bridge is closed for renovations or the railing is higher than they thought, most of them don’t look around for another place to do it. They just retreat.”

Seiden cited a particularly striking example of this, a young man he interviewed over the course of his Golden Gate research. The man was grabbed on the eastern promenade of the bridge after passers-by noticed him pacing and growing increasingly despondent. The reason? He had picked out a spot on the western promenade that he wanted to jump from, but separated by six lanes of traffic, he was afraid of getting hit by a car on his way there.”

Excerpted from: The Urge To End it all.
Scott Anderson. NY Times

The Education of Cornel University
Tuition: 27 suicides

1990-2008: 21 deaths from jumpers, 15 were from Cornell.
These figures differ from source to source

2009: Three students, bridge suicide:

February 17, 2010: Brad Ginsburg, bridge suicide

March 11, 2010: William Sinclair, bridge suicide

March 12, 2010: Matthew Zika, bridge suicide

Nov 21, 2011: Brad Ginsburg’s father sues Cornell

2012: The University is now working with the City of Ithaca to install nets under six of the seven bridges on or near campus. The seventh, the Suspension Bridge over Fall Creek Gorge, will be enclosed by protective netting.

Bridge Security

What do you think? Howard Ginsberg got a case?  

Ginsberg has got to be asking himself where is “my responsibility in my tragedy.” “What signs might I have missed?” “Could I have intervened if I paid more attention?” Once loosing a child, life is forever soiled, scarred, diminished, unacceptable, cruel, bitter.

Should Cornell bare all the blame? Can the courts divide blame? It took many years and a prominent body count before Cornell finally went the whole nine yards and installed proper suicide deterrents on the bridges. But there was a learning curve for all of the Universities when it came to student suicides; no one got it right the first time around or the second.  How should that effect the courts decision if not at all? It’s easier to see Cornell’s culpability, not for public consumption Howard Ginsberg’s.

Barbed wire fence credit: http://www.samuelmcquire.com

An artist’s rendering of vertical steel-mesh nets draped over the Suspension Bridge.



Chain-link fences on Thurston Avenue Bridge. Since the installation of the fences, they have been both decorated and vandalized by students.