Evelyn McHale (1923 – 1947)

Little is known about what drove Evelyn McHale to jump from the Empire State Building and be captured in the “most beautiful suicide [photograph] ever” on 1st May 1947.

 

Berkeley, California born bookkeeper McHale was one of nine children of a divorced bank examiner. The 23-year-old worked at the Kitab Engraving Company in Pearl Street, Manhattan and was engaged to a college student discharged from the United States Army Air Force named Barry Rhodes. She seemed to have had it all, but chose to end her life from atop one of the most famous buildings in the world.

 

“Elegantly attired and wearing a silk scarf, white gloves and a pearl necklace… [she is said to have] carefully removed her coat and neatly folded it, next she placed her black pocketbook on top of her coat [along with her makeup compact filled with family pictures and a handbag]. At 10:40am: Patrolman John Morrisey of Traffic C, directing traffic at 34th and 35th Avenue, reported seeing a white scarf floating lazily down from the heavens. Moments later this peaceful, dreamy scene was brutally interrupted by a heart rendering boom” as McHale had jumped 1,050-feet to her death and a crowd had converged.

 

Photography student Robert Wiles is said to have run over and captured a “poignant and surreal photo.” It was the only image of his ever published and Life Magazine captioned it: “At the bottom of the Empire State Building the body of Evelyn McHale reposes in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a [United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine].” The driver was “in a nearby drug store, thereby escaping death or serious injury” other reports added.

 

A note found in her pocketbook announced: “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.” She had crossed out the following: “My fiancé 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” and then ended: “Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

 

Of the image, one commentator later remarked: “Evelyn’s gloved hand appears to be serenely touching her pearl necklace, and her legs crossed as if taking a nap,” whilst another added: “Evelyn McHale will go down in history as something akin to a fallen angel, as poignant and iconic as Marilyn Monroe.”

 

She was cremated with no service, grave or memorial and her fiancé reportedly said of her: “When I kissed her goodbye, she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.” He remained single for the rest of his life and died in Melbourne, Florida in 2007.

 

Many ‘sightings’ of Evelyn McHale wearing bright red lipstick and “looking distressed” on the 86th floor observation deck have been reported and in the years since her death, she has been recalled in the works of Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Pearl Jam and Taylor Swift amongst others.

 

The United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine that the body of Evelyn McHale landed upon after falling 86 floors from the observatory deck of the Empire State Building in New York City and the original image (unedited) taken by Robert Wiles. It has been has been compared to the photograph by Malcolm Wilde Browne of the self-immolation of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức who burned himself alive at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11th June 1963.
An image clearly showing the damage to the car from above.
Joséphine Wister Faure created a ‘mixed media sculpture’ of the car that the body of Evelyn McHale hit on 1st May 1947. Her sculpture is described as: “An interpretation of the photo, revisiting the impact of the image and the trace this woman left, both literally and physically. Also being true to her last wishes in which she specifically asked not to be seen. Inside the car the radio is playing 1947 NYC broadcast.” It was exhibited at the Boite Noire Gallery in the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles in 2015.

The Roll Call - WILDCARDS

Evelyn McHale (1923 – 1947) – Little is known about what drove Evelyn McHale to jump from the Empire State Building and be captured in the “most beautiful suicide [photograph] ever” on 1st May 1947.

1

Evelyn McHale (1923 – 1947)

2

‘Mr Black Lives Matter’

3

Gabriel and Sarah A. Chrisman

4

Eileen Gray (1878 – 1976, née Eileen Smith)

5

Robert Adam

6

Lady Ridsdale DBE (1921 – 2009, née Victoire Bennett)

7

Bob Marshall-Andrews QC

8

Charlot Malin (1969 – 2017)

9

Baba Vanga (баба Ванга, AKA ‘Nostradamus from the Balkans’, 1911 – 1996)

10

Mr Make a Big Issue

11

Mary Millington (marital name Mary Maxted, born Mary Quilter, 1945 – 1979)

12

Sir Ken Adam OBE (born Klaus Adam, 1921 – 2016)

13

Will and Calum Thompson (AKA “The Eat Wild Boys”)

14

Arthur Woodham

15

Hannah Wick

16

Daniel Lismore

17

John Patrick Hannan

18

Max Whitlock (nicknamed “Maxi”)

19

Kelly Killoren Bensimon

20

Lee Miller (Lady Penrose, born Elizabeth Miller, 1907 – 1977)

21

Ted Richards

22

Victoria Pendleton CBE (married name Victoria Gardner)

23

Christopher Mason

24

Bonnie Lee Bakley (1956 – 2001)

25

Gino D’Acampo

26

Gillian Clarke (1941 – 2015)

27

Francesco Macera

28

Nicholas Loeb

29

Reverend Robert Parker

30

Gillian Duffy

31

David Hallberg

32

Ruthann Aron (AKA “Ruth Aron”, née Ruthann Greenzweig)

33

Lady Alice, Lady Eliza and Lady Violet Manners (AKA “The No Manners Girls”)

34

Topsy Taylor (born Lesley Taylor)

35

Peter Dinklage

36

Olivier Sarkozy and Mary-Kate Olson

37

Nina Campbell

38

Crispin Baynes

39

Bill Martin MBE (born William Wylie MacPherson)

40

Henry Blofeld OBE (AKA “Blowers”, “Tycoon” and “Typhoon”)

41

Emma Sayle

42

Nancy Cunard (1896 – 1965)

43

Elliot Bssila

44

Joudie Kalla

45

Ross O’Connell Jennings

46

Alexa Jago

47

Claire Zambuni

48

Amanda Eliasch (née Amanda Brown)

49

Charlie Anson

50

Count Louis-Marie de Castelbajac

51

Jeremy Lloyd OBE (1930 – 2014)

52

Sandra Howard, Lady Howard (née Sandra Paul)

53

Anne Naysmith (1937 - 2015, AKA “The Rag Lady of Chiswick”)

54

Claudine Longet

55

The Fantasy Cyclist

56

Sarah, Duchess of York (AKA “Fergie”, née Sarah Ferguson)

57

Fredrik Eklund

58

Sir Gerald Nabarro (AKA “Old Whiskers” and “The Abominable Showman”, 1913 – 1973)

59

Lord Bell (Tim Bell, Baron Bell of Belgravia)

60

Teresa Gorman

61

Julia Child (1912 – 2004)

62

Keith Floyd (1943 – 2009)

63

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (1880 – 1963)

64

Dan Bilzerian (AKA "Blitz")

65

Cognac Wellerlane

66

Thai Dang Cao (1953 – 2014)

67

Craig Brazier

68

Alejandro Flores

69

Doris Thompson

70

Gloria Minghella MBE (AKA “the Queen Mum of the Isle of Wight”, 1930 – 2014)

71

Clarissa Dickson Wright (1947 – 2014)

72

Wayne Bryson

73

Mary The Elephant (AKA ‘Murderous Mary’)

74

Fred Dibnah MBE (1938 – 2004)

75

Emeritus Professor Jane Somerville

76

Russell Brand

77

Cindy Crawford

78

Lady Camilla Bloch (born Lady Camilla Bingham)

79

Terry Deary

80

Dame Norma Major DBE

81

Jeannette Etheredge

82

Michael “Chalky” White

83

Nubar Gulbenkian (Armenian: Նուբար Սարգիս Գյուլբենկյան, 1896 – 1972)

84

Huguette Clark (1906 – 2011)

85

Viola Herms Drath (1920 – 2011)

86

Ian Towning

87

Ryan Lochte (nicknames 'Reezy' and 'The Lochtenator')

88

Jerry Hall

89

Austin 7 man

90

Martin the Poet

91

The Waitrose Clepto

92

Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba (1926 – 2014)

93

Tim Tebow

94

The Most Hon the Marquess of Bath

95

Judy Joo

96

Toby Flood

97

Justin Timberlake

98

Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan (1971 – 2007 and 1966 – 2007)

99

Norman Balon

100

Bubble (2012 – 2013)

101

Dr. Vanessa Neumann

102

Martin Miller (1946 - 2013)

103

Lady Docker (Norah Docker, née Norah Turner and also Norah Callingham and Lady Collins, 1905 – 1983)

104

Beverly Cohen

105

Patricia Kluge (née Rose)

106

Charmian Brent (better known as Charmian Biggs)

107

David Nalbandian

108

April Ashley MBE (born Toni Jamieson)

109

Scott Disick

110

Andrew Embiricos (1985 – 2011)

111

Shireen Ritchie, The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Ritchie (1945 - 2012)

112

Eugene Carokis

113

Anouska Hempel (Lady Weinberg)

114

Joseph "Joey" Barton

115

Neil & Christine Hamilton

116

Iris Apfel

117

Marisa Masters (1925 – 2016)

7 COMMENTS

  1. What a sad, sad story. I cried when I got to the end. The videos – especially the first one – are worth watching. The second one features a man a little obsessed with his own problems. Poor Evelyn – she must have found out something that morning that truly tipped her over the edge. How tragic. May her spirit rest forever in peace. The image if I didn’t now know it was real would indeed be described as beautifully choreographed.

    • Not only that Fred, but if the owner had been in it, she would have probably taken him with her as well. She obviously wanted to make some sort of statement ending it the way she did.

  2. I wonder what the fiance had said that triggered her. Did he tell her the marriage was off? Did she tell him the marriage was off? Was there another secret? Something plainly went on between the two of them.

  3. She wrote in her suicide note that she has too many of her mother’s tendencies, which nobody talks about and which I think is the key to what made her commit suicide.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Exit mobile version