Evelyn McHale, 23, fell to her death from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building and since then, her last photograph became known as the "Beautiful Suicide." This truly remarkable photo, taken 4 minutes after her death, was further commemorated by the modern artist Andy Warhol.
It was around 10:40am on 1 May 1947 when Patrolman John Morrissey was suddenly alerted to a public commotion and crowd forming. He had been directing traffic at 34th and Fifth Avenue, next to the Empire State Building in New York.
Officer Morrissey didn't witness the jumper’s body hit the top of the United Nations' limousine parked in from of the skyscraper, but heard the loud crash, breaking glass, and twisted steel.
Four minutes later, a student, Robert Wiles, pulls out his camera from his backpack, removes the lens cover and snaps one of the most iconic photos in human history.
Evelyn's story is immortalized in the photo of her death.
The Final Kiss
Barry Rhodes, a 19-year-old ex G.I., was just as enthusiastic as his girlfriend Evelyn to be married that June.
They would hold their ceremony at his brother Barry's home in Troy, N.Y. where Evelyn had served as a bridesmaid just one year before. In a telling event, the other bridesmaids remembered she threw her dress to the other women and said,
"Who wants this? I don't ever want to see it again." They assume Evelyn burned the dress afterword.
Rhodes knew of his bride to be's depressive states, but he did not know that she would make the extreme and final decision to end her own life just one month before her wedding.
"When I kissed her good-bye, she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married."
Evelyn Francis McHale was born as the 6th child of 7 on 20 September 1923 in Berkely, California.
Her father, Vincent, was a Federal Land Bank Examiner and would continually move his children to suit his employment demands. It was when the family moved to Washington, DC that Evelyn's mother, Helen McHale, filed for divorce from her husband.
Vincent took the kids.
This separation devastated Evelyn, and she became "very moody" as the years progressed.
After highschool Evelyn joined the Women's Army Corps (WAC), burning her uniform after her enlistment ended.
At the time of her suicide, she lived in Baldwin, Long Island and worked for a Manhattan lithographing company.
The Train Station
Not even 3 hours before she would jump 1250 feet to her death, Evelyn kissed her fiancee, at the time studying at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, and boarded a train back to her Long Island apartment.
During this train ride, Evelyn began having negative thoughts about herself and worth. She wondered if she was even good enough to marry someone like Barry Rhodes.
We can see the confliction in her mind with the suicide note written before she jumped.
"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 that they don't have any service for me or remembrance of me."
She crossed the next 3 sentences out, but read:
"My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don't think I would make a good wife for anyone. He is much better off without me."
She closed the note by saying, "Tell my father I think I have too much of my mother's tendencies."