You probably read
about it or saw it on television, but let me refresh your memory. I know quite
a bit about it because I reported on the incident for Associated Press. The
continuing mystery knocked the twentieth anniversary of Kennedy Jr’s supposed
tragedy, and the civil war in the reconsolidated Soviet Union, out of the news
for awhile. My reporting really made my career.
Fortunately, I had been AP’s obituary guy, with a special interest in
suicides. I had done think pieces about causes and frequency and high profile
analyses of celebrity cases. I’d like to think that I know more about suicides
than the so-called “experts”. My biggest year before the elevator case was the
year when both Sean Penn and Penn Jillette did it. I consider that my
Penn-ultimate accomplishment, ha-ha. I think that I even got people to cry over
Dennis Rodman when he did himself in. I had my own talk show for two years. I
didn’t last too long, but my initial ratings were at least enough to get one of
the talk show hacks off the air. The country should be grateful to me for that
if nothing else. Even now I’ve got several offers for syndicated radio programs
and I may make it back to TV.
By the way, thanks
for the drink. I’ve got awhile to kill before flying to CBS headquarters.
people committed suicide in elevators in 50 countries on 5 continents at 5PM
local time. Initially there was no common thread even though most had some sort
of statement on his or her person. Some stats:
283 male / 217 female.
Of the 156 American suicides there were 106
Caucasians, 21 Hispanics, 18 Blacks, 9
Asian Americans and 2 Native Americans - in other words the demographics
roughly match America.
88 Non-Russian Europeans, 20 Russians, 103
Asians, 25 Australians, 65 Africans and 43 Non-US North or South Americans.
The age distribution skewed both young and
old—182 were under 19 and 153 were over 64. The middle aged only contributed
165, many fewer than would be expected in a random draw.
As might be expected, the suicides had a high
incidence of physical and mental illness.
128 had been diagnosed as mentally ill—schizoid, bipolar or depressed
and 165 had less than a year to live.
As would be unexpected, the economic status of
the victims was pretty high. There were no homeless. It is difficult to
calculate an average income for those outside America given the different
currencies and income reporting, but the overall victim income seems consistent
with the American average of $57,562.
cases were all over the place:
Algerian, Ahmed Ali, who died for a secular government.
Oregonian, Doug Ivy, with acne.
Quebecer who urged French to be adopted as the universal language.
Republican senator from South Carolina, Grant Holmes, who had been married
three times, and who didn’t want to be outed.
Caucasian Australian, Jimmy Sanders, who died to promote ousting Euro
Australians from Australia.
Chinese Communist, Wen Wang, who admitted to living a lie all his life—he
entered politics to get a good car.
Frenchwoman, Marie Simone, with ovarian cancer.
Their notes ranged
from the short and direct “I hurt” to the rambling “I die for my country, I die
for Islam, I die for the future. No one knows the anger I have. No one outside
[an extreme religious group with less than a thousand adherents] knows
what I feel. I die that millions should live. I die for the hungry. I die for
the oppressed. All should die or no one should die. History will record this
day as important as the messenger’s birth. From this date all will
The methods used
for death were diverse. Most used guns, but some took fast-acting poisons such
as cyanide. The elevators varied from rickety antiques to glassy wonders
outside beautiful resort and hotel buildings. There was no attempt to kill any
bystanders. One man in Morocco died of a heart attack during the excitement. Several
people were injured in trying to get out of the elevators.
In short, there is
no immediate, obvious central theme to the suicides. They were obviously
organized, since the common circumstances were beyond coincidence. One may
infer that they were willing to kill themselves and wanted publicity. An
ordinary solitary suicide gets noticed only locally unless someone famous is
involved. These people should have known that 500 people committing suicide
under identical circumstances would get world wide press and the individuals
involved could all be famous or notorious.
could be made between most of the victims. At most, a connection to one other
party could be made in the case of a couple of Right to Life crusaders. No
correspondence between suiciders could be found.
I have a theory
that I was not allowed to report on. I think that the group was organized by
email. My problem is that I could not establish any evidence other than that
all of them had access to computers. Without evidence—and I think because of
the fear that there would be copycat situations—my editor would not let me put
my theory in writing.
I don’t think this
group came together on their own. Someone got them started and told them the
Two things that I
wonder about the organizer. Did he / she kill himself / herself? I don’t think
so, since none of the dead claimed credit and each one wanted either notoriety
or maximum publicity for his or her purpose. Second, what did the organizer
have to gain?
listening. I’ve never seen someone so interested in my work on this story
I guess we’ll
never know some of the answers, but I have my suspicions. Thanks for the
drinks, I’ve got a plane to catch.