How many Titanic survivors took their own lives


Jan 7, 2002
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A tragedy on the scale of Titanic scarred just about everyone involved, and a good many survivors never recovered emotionally. Its seems a few commited suicide- whether it was because of the horrible memories of the Titanic sinking, or due to other circumstances, or clinical depression, Im not sure. Here are the suicide victims I can think of...

Fred Fleet- Titanic's lookout hung himself, though I have a hunch it had nothing to do with Titanic, and everything to do with the passing of his wife.

Dr Frauenthal- I beleive the rotund Doctor jumped out of a window- Im not sure the reason.

Jack Thayer- Shot himself, no doubt due to greif at losing a son in WW2. I doubt Titanic's memories played a big role.

Madeline Astor- Ive read conflicting reports- One said she shot herself- i believe she never recovered fromn the loss of JJ.

I think thats it- were there any other survviors who took their own lives? I dont mean to create an overly depressing thread, but if a survivor took their life due to greif and depression caused by the sinking, they are in effect titanic victims in my view.

Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Jack Thayer- Shot himself, no doubt due to greif at losing a son in WW2. I doubt Titanic's memories played a big role.

Um, Tarn?: In truth, that should say found in a parked car (his wife's) with his wrists and throat slashed. No gun was involved. The police found razor blades in the car, and the whole thing was very hastily ruled a suicide. (I'm not swearing it wasn't, but I certainly have my own doubts, based on several peculiarities involved.)

As for the "no doubt due to grief at losing a son in WWII", I have lots of doubt about that! That convenient explanation, along with several other reassuring details, was only ever voiced by Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John C. Bell, who seemed to do *most* of the talking for the whole family at the time. (Bell was a "friend.")

However, Jack's son Edward had been killed in the Pacific on October 30, 1943 -- almost 2 years prior! Jack's mother, Marian, died six months later -- April 14, 1944, on the 32nd anniversary of the Titanic collision. But even that was still a year-and-a-half before Jack's own demise!

Even if these two events conjointly, albeit incredibly slowly, led to Jack's alleged "nervous breakdown" and subsequent "amnesia" that Bell alluded to, it's difficult to reconcile his supposed suicide with the fact that he left behind a wife (Lois), yet another serviceman son (John B. Thayer IV), and three daughters in "taking his own life."

Possibly the only redeeming factor for the improbable claim that Edward's death led to Jack's suicide is the realization that September 2, 1945, was "V.J. Day", on which Japan surrendered. If Jack's mental state *was* for some reason a latent result of his one son's death, this *might* explain why the floodgates never opened till then. (But it doesn't explain much else.)

Fred Fleet had lost his wife and his lodgings -- his brother-in-law threw him out. His suicide at least makes *some* kind of sense. (He was an old man who likely felt he had nothing left to live for and minimal ability to provide for himself.)

Jack Thayer's doesn't -- at least not the way it was "officially" presented. Here was a prominent man of 50 with a wife and children, a fine house, and a prestigious position at the University of Pennsylvania. Ostensibly, he had everything to live for, despite some painful interludes along the way.

(Incidentally, I was born 10 years and 10 days after Jack's death, at least according to his headstone. Think it means anything? Sometimes I wonder.)

Cheers,
John
 
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Dec 12, 1999
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Tarn,

There's a lengthy thread on this subject entitled "Survivors' Suicides." I think you'll find it interesting. Many of the suicides occurred decades after the disaster. But I suspect that the Titanic experience had something to do with each of them. In that thread I quoted a line from Robert Louis Stevenson: "for the doom and burden of this life is forever on man's shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns with more awful pressure."
 
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Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Tarn,

Only two surviving passengers would later shoot themselves; Dr. Washington Dodge in June 1919 and George Brereton in July 1942. See their respective biographies for further details, including a link to an excellent article on the latter gentleman written by Mike Herbold.

Hope this helps,
Ben
 
Jan 7, 2002
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John, thanks for the info on Thayer. Based on your description, it sounds almost like murder. How could a person cut their throat then wrists without losing conciousness? It reminds me of that NY Post article, about the man in Brooklyn found to have been hit on the head some 50 plus times by a hammer. It was ruled a suicide.With his throat and wrists cut? Good lord.

On an equally morbid thread, I know there was one murder victim who had been on the Titanic- perhaps Thayer was in fact amonmg the ranks of the murdered?

Thanks

Tarn Stephanos
 

Mike Herbold

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Dec 13, 1999
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Ben: Thanks for that nice compliment. Actually, there were 3 survivors from California alone who shot themselves: Dodge, Niskanen, and Brereton.
 
Sep 20, 2000
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It reminds me of that NY Post article, about the man in Brooklyn found to have been hit on the head some 50 plus times by a hammer. It was ruled a suicide.

Hi, Tarn: Yep, sounds about as plausible to me. ;-)

One thing -- of several, actually -- that seems incredibly "off" (at least in my mind) in those accounts of Jack's final days is that quip about how he "seemed to develop amnesia." (Uh-huh. "Amnesia", eh?? Do tell!)

Naturally, I can't prove anything. But I am extremely reluctant from a close scrutiny of a few reports surrounding Jack's death to accept the explanations that were presented at face value. It just all seems too pat.

Cheers,
John
 

Chris Dohany

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Dec 12, 1999
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Though perhaps it's a moot point, survivor Phyllis Quick also used a firearm to take her life, so at least four survivors shot themselves.

I would imagine the odd factors of Jack Thayer's death were examined at the time. Being that Thayer was an upstanding citizen of prominence, it seems to me that any sign of foul play would have been explored.
 

Ben Holme

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You're welcome, Mike ;) Thank you, and Chris, for those additonal passengers. I had them in my mind, but for some odd reason I only posted on the first class survivors.

How goes your research into the Californian passengers, btw? I anxiously await the fruits of your labour!

Best Regards,
Ben
 
Sep 20, 2000
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I would imagine the odd factors of Jack Thayer's death were examined at the time. Being that Thayer was an upstanding citizen of prominence, it seems to me that any sign of foul play would have been explored.

Hi, Chris: I would have imagined that to be the case, too. But his obituaries and related articles seem to point strongly in the opposite direction. For whatever reason, there doesn't seem to have been a very lengthy or exhaustive investigation at all. (It was all being swept under the rug, basically, the same day he was discovered.)

It could also be the case here that "good intentions" might have served to occlude the facts. Bell was, after all, the state's Lieutenant Governor, and apparently had quite a bit of influence. If he took the coroner's verdict of "suicide" as a finality, he might have deliberately stifled further investigation "for the sake of the family".

He did have sufficient pull to have the state police out looking for a purportedly missing watch of Jack's. (The crime scene was within Philadelphia's jurisdiction.) ;^)

Anyway, there is more to the story. I've sent Phil some additional articles which he might add to ET that cover this, and I'll be looking for more of the same myself.

Cheers,
John
 

Charmaine Sia

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Nov 25, 2001
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Jan,

Could you please post the link to that thread over here? I don't know which forum the thread is in, so I don't know where to start looking for it. Thanks!

Regards,
Charmaine
 
Dec 12, 1999
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It's under "Lost and Saved" and captioned as "Survivors' Suicides." The theory is, and I absolutely believe it, that the Titanic disaster softened certain people up so that they were unable to effectively deal with other traumas encountered in later years. Thus, they opted for suicide. Others, such as crew member John Collins, ended up in a psychiatric institution. Robert Daniel, who died of cirrhosis of the liver and suffered through three marriages, may have been afflicted. Johan Svensson, also known as "Titanic Johnson," reported in later years having nightmares about the people dying in the sea. There are many examples, and many others are just being uncovered in research.

Locally, Dr. Washington Dodge, the San Francisco Tax Assessor, and a public figure, seems to have acutely suffered from a traumatic condition. For example, during a speech on May 12, 1912 given to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, about the disaster, newspapers reported that he broke down and wept. Dodge became involved in a financial scandal in 1919, and purportedly took his own life.

The condition that affected survivors is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or commonly "PTSD." This condition can be treated, and overcome through treatments, therapy and medications. However, in 1912, no one even knew such a thing existed. The first recognition of the psychiatric disorder was during World War I, when many soldiers were afflicted with so-called "shell shock." If left unresolved, like any other kind of mental illness, the condition manifests itself, and as set forth above, "when the attempt is made to cast it off it but returns with more awful pressure." Thus, arguably, the condition for survivors would have worsened, the longer they lived -- which accounts for suicide and related problems appearing many years after the disaster.

It appears that certain survivors had a more difficult go of it, and a higher incidence of the disorder. But I don't have enough information to really draw that conclusion.

In a lot of the cases, the symptoms are fairly mild. For example, when at the beach, Lawrence Beasley always turned his back to the sea. Albert Fryer, Harold Bride, and many others, simply refused to talk about the disaster.

Jack Thayer, John Collins, Charles Lightoller, and it seems to me there were others who exhibited symptoms of PTSD or other mental trauma. Thayer, of course, is reported to have committed suicide. All of these men were on Collapsible B -- which must have been a particularly traumatic experience. Recently, when some members reported finally locating some information on Rosa Abbot (the sole woman survivor in Collapsible A), I thought there might be some evidence of mental trauma -- but they didn't seem to find any.

I was also looking at the bridge, i.e., Murdoch (who some contend took his own life), Mooney, Fleet, Lee, and Hitchens. These men may have felt that they were to blame for the disaster. Murdoch and Mooney went down with the ship. Fleet committed suicide many years later, and Hitchens came to have a severe drinking problem, and purportedly attempted to kill someone else. So far, nothing particularly unusual has surfaced about Lee.

Probably the most important point to remember about this is that the "killing field," which is what I call the Titanic disaster, continued for many, many years after April 15, 1912. It's hard to fathom that something back in 1912 could impact a death fifty or sixty years years -- but that, I believe, is what happened. The sinking of that ship continued to take people's lives for many years. As bad as the loss of 1,500 lives is, the impact of the disaster was, in fact, even worse than that when you add in the destruction of people's mental health and welfare.
 
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Charmaine Sia

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Thank you for directing me, Jan. Actually, I saw the other thread after posting in this thread after a while, but I wasn't sure if that was the one you were referring to.

>I was also looking at the bridge, i.e., Murdoch (who some contend took his own life), Mooney, Fleet, Lee, and Hitchens. These men may have felt that they were to blame for the disaster. Murdoch and Mooney went down with the ship

While I personally feel that Murdoch didn't commit suicide with a gun, I think that he essentially had already set himself to it as he went about lowering lifeboats. I have heard some stories about what Murdoch did both on the deck (I read that he gave away his lifejacket, although I do not know if this is true, because I have not found any other sources to collaborate and confirm it) and after he was thrown into the water (struggling to free the last lifeboat while in the water), and although I do not know how accurate these accounts may be, it seems to me that he had pretty much braced himself for death.

I would appreciate it if somebody could either confirm that these were true/untrue incidents.

Regards,
Charmaine
 
E

Elaine R Barnes

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Hi, All,
I was very interested in the above post about Murdoch. I always felt that Capt. Smith felt the same way and that's why he didn't seem to be the commanding figure when giving orders to the crew. Knowing that there were not enough lifeboats for everyone, knowing that he couldn't live with the deaths of so many people on his head, he was preparing himself to go down with the ship.
I always wondered what went through Ismay's mind when he jumped into that lifeboat? That there had to be someone in authority to tell the story? That his life was just as important, if not more important than the thousands of others left onboard? That there seemed to be no one else around, so he might as well save himself?
I have always been fascinated by the thoughts of the survivors, especially the male passengers. I'm sure guilt played a part in the men who committed suicide, though they may not have been aware of the feeling at the time.
Sincerely,
Elaine
 
Jul 9, 2000
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If memory serves...(I don't have ready access to my sources at the moment)...the last reliable sighting of Murdoch was when the ship plunged and he was washed over the side while trying to deal with one of the collapsibles.

Regarding Captain Smith's "inaction", be thee not decieved by outward appearances. He was but a single man who couldn't be everywhere at once, so he did what every smart master would do; stay on the Bridge where he could be found if needed, gave out the appropriate orders, and let his officers and crew make things happen. You would be surprised at how much a good captain gets done that way, even when it looks like he's doing very little at all.

I doubt that his emotions played much into it, and it's not all that likely that he would have given them much thought in a crisis when he had more important things on his mind.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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kelly murru

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Tarn,
About Madeleine Astor, I play Madeleine at the Titanic Exhibition in Orlando,FL and I've done alot of research into her life, I don't believe that I've ever read anything about Madeleine commiting suicide. As far as I know she died of a heart attack. She had been suffering with a heart condition for quite a while. Besides If she wanted to die so badly she could of stayed with her 3rd husband Enzo Fiermonte, sooner or later he would have beat her to death.
But on a lighter note it has been said that JJ was the love of her life, but I don't think he or Titanic was the reason for her death.
 
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Mac Smith

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It has been said also that Mrs. Astor's second husband, Mr. Dick, with whom she had two sons, was in fact her true love, and that they were childhood sweethearts, reunited after Mr. Astor's death.

When she married Mr. Dick, she gave up her claim to the Astor estate (a generous stipend from a generous trust fund) as well as her claim to the New York place and other endowments. (She did have a fairly generous premarital amount of money from Mr. Astor.)

She seems, in old newspaper reports, to have been tougher than a frail flower who wilts because she was left without a man or a ship.

In fact, the one who probably did not get over Mr. Astor's death was Madeleine's mother, dubbed unlovingly by the press as "Mama Force."

Mac Smith
 
May 8, 2001
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Mac. Not to argue, but if Mr. Dick was the love of her life, why did they get a divorce, especially if she was so ill, and why did she remarry a mere 5 months later?
Just an observation.
Colleen
 
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Mac Smith

Guest
Colleen - Good points!

I guess we won't know who her true love was, as that secret was probably locked in her heart when she died. I guess I feel confident saying that Mr. Dick was her childhood sweetheart, however.

She probably did not get over the Titanic disaster, I shouldn't be flip about that-she was, in fact, in one of the last lifeboats lowered. According to reports, she thought to the end Mr. Astor would go in that boat with her, and even as she landed in New York she is quoted as saying she hoped Mr. Astor would be O.K. (Some newspaper quotes were fabricated, however.)

It is good you said something, though, Colleen, because the point, to me, is that Mrs. Astor was, in fact, a multifaceted woman whose story has woefully been overlooked.

Colleen, Mrs. Astor talk is always good!

Mac Smith
 

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