History of the Suicide Notes Part 1

About the history of the suicide note, examples given, the use of the notes as insights into the psychology of the suicide.

Good-bye, Cruel World, or: Notes on the Suicide Note. . .

I wish to be buried in Uniondale Cemetery #4, facing Marshall Ave., so that I may be able to see the fair weather friends and thank them for the sarcastic and hateful remarks.

I would like my sister Frances to have the piano that you have in your apartment. Do this or I will haunt you.

The suicide note, like suicide itself, can run the gamut from clear lucidity to complete concealment of the reason behind it. Suicidologists have described these last messages as cries for help, acts of cultural breakthrough necessary to the suicide's "success," and as artifacts of the most deadly of art forms, the ultimate in pregraveyard graffiti.

Practicality often runs hand in hand with a final desire to tie up the loose ends before departure. In Britain a workman, about to hang himself in an abandoned house, chalked his final words on the wall outside.

Sorry about this. There's a corpse in here. Inform police.

The famous inventor and industrialist George Eastman laid out pencil, paper, and revolver, and was equally terse.

To my friends:

My work is done. Why wait?


And briefer still. An empty house. Everything is quiet. The note, carefully placed on the table for the police to find, answers all.

Why suicide?

Why not?

Only recently has the suicide note been recognized as a valid research tool, useful in discovering the causes and possible means of prevention of suicide. In the past 15 years, suicide notes have been examined for their syntactical and graphological characteristics, their semantic similarities, and the organizations of thought by such noted scientists in the field as Schneidman and Farberow, J. Jacobs, C. J. Frederick, and Lester and Lester. Osgood and Walker, in a 1959 study, by comparing genuine suicide notes with spurious ones, concluded that, generally, suicide notes are: 1. prone to stereotyping; 2. less reliant on adjectives and adverbs; 3. more reliant on terms of endearment and words denoting certainty ("always," for instance, or "never"); and 4. identifiable by their handwriting when examined by graphologists. Approximately one suicide in 5 leaves such a note.

One 45-year-old laborer 1st left precise instructions before making his final political comment.

My small estate I bequeath to my mother;

my body to the nearest accredited medical school;

my soul and heart to all the girls;

and my brain to Harry Truman.

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