Survivors' post traumatic stress syndrome/suicides

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Mariano:
According to your categories, they break down as follows:

Thayer 2
Dodge 1
Fleet 3
Frauenthal 1
Quick 3
Niskanen 1(?)
Holverson 3
Astor 3
Davis 1(?)

(any others?) Virtually all of the women would be in 3 because none of them were rescued from the water (except for Rosa Abbot, I think, in Collapsible A?). Moreover, none of them were excluded from the boats. Your idea is interesting, but probably too constricted to properly take account of the reasons for the suicides. Further, your categorization of the suicides doesn't bring about any revelation - - because the suicides are fairly split up among the categories. I tend to agree with Arthur Merchant, who explains, above, that it comes down to how each individual handles trauma. This is something that really can't be categorized. Further, society likely had an impact on the men's deaths because society at that time would have been so unforgiving of any implication of cowardice among the survivors.
 
Apr 25, 2001
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Dear everybody, there is one thing to consider: most male survivors simply entered starboard boats, allowed to do so without further ado. Murdoch filled his starboard boats up with anyone rather than send them away half-filled, so most men would be in category three, only those on the port side would be in category one if one divided survivors as above. Very few men had to use 'tricks' to find a seat in a lifeboat. About 100 of 131 surviving male passengers entered a starboard lifeboat, i e category 3 if you follow the reasoning above. Perhaps they felt guilty anyway, I don't know.

Peter
 
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Mariano Sana

Guest
Joe, thanks for taking the time to assign these survivors to the three categories I suggested.

Notice that if four of them belonged in category 1 and also four belonged in category 3, but category 3 outnumbered category 1 (probably by far), then the suicide rate in category 1 is higher than in category 3...

Anyhow, in order to test my hypothesis we would need to have a lot more suicides... Actually, I think I started my previous message thinking on mental health in general, and ended up focusing only on suicide. (In previous messages you cited some more people having severe adjustment disorders later in life, who nevertheless didn't commit suicide... in what categories would you put them?)

Finally, I agree that different people cope with trauma differently. But I would say that they faced different traumas, even if all of them were on the Titanic.

Mariano
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Okay, Mariano, let's take another look at this:

The suicides and mental sufferings among the persons set forth above may be categorized in the following manner:

Thayer 2
Beane 1
Dodge 1
Collyer 3
Fleet 3
Svensson 1
Frauenthal 1
Salomon 1
Quick 3
Daniel 1 or 2, probably 1
Niskanen 1(?)
Holverson 3
Astor 3
Davis 1 (?)

Please keep in mind that the placement of any one person in a category is highly subjective, and in some instances, simply guesswork. Concededly, many of the problematic ones are in the no. 1 category which, as you say, is a smaller group than the others. Perhaps, but then there is Thayer's suicide, in category 2, which is an extremely small group. All of this tends to buttress your point that "they faced different traumas, even if all of them were on the Titanic."
Again, Arthur Merchant's point about the ability of some, as opposed to others, to handle the trauma is well-taken. It's fair to say that the men in category 1 all heard the screams of people in the water, and witnessed the deaths. Some, like Thayer, in category 2, were right in with the dying people. Johan Svensson ("Titanic Johnson") dreamed about the people dying in the water in later years. Afterward, male survivors were chastized for their alleged cowardice. However, some survivors, such as Masabumi Hosono (spl?), a second class passenger and category 1 person, suffered the public's indignation for many years. Hosono died naturally in 1939. Others, like Robert Daniel, sort of lived out a lie. Daniel apparently spread the, likely false, story that he swam to a lifeboat and was pulled out of the water. Fleet was a category 3 person, yet he killed himself. He may have blamed himself for not sighting the iceberg in time, etc. To resolve this, one would have to lay each of these people on a couch and psychoanalyze him or her. Thanks for the interesting exercise.
 
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Mariano Sana

Guest
Joe,

Thank you for all the research work, and for bringing up this interesting topic. As we seem to have reached some consensus given the available data, I guess I'll move on to some other discussions now. See you there!

Mariano
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Another person to add to this list: J. Pierpont Morgan. He died less than one year after the disaster.

Morgan, American financier, steel magnate and railway baron, headed the vast syndicate, International Mercantile Marine Company, which had acquired the White Star Line. He was scheduled to travel on Titanic, but instead, went to France for a visit with his mistress. In "Titanic & Her Sisters" it says the following:

". . . Morgan . . . received the news with great shock . . . he became a recluse, to all intents and purposes withdrawing from public life . . . His health rapidly deteriorated and in March 1913 he died in Rome a broken man."

One might argue that Morgan became sick over the potentiality of huge finanical losses from the disaster. I think not. The financial loss proved to be quite minimal. More likely, Morgan lost several people he knew very well, on Titanic, and had to face the wealthy upper class's disenfranchisement, for what his ship had done to such families and individuals as Astor, Strauss, Thayer, Widener, Butt and others.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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With reference to the comment above: "Actually there are over 20 eyewitness reports of an officer committing suicide. Some name the officer, but most say "an officer" or "the chief officer."

According to Bill Wormstedt's site, there are only four passengers who claim to have been eyewitnesses to the event (do you have a supplementary 16 to add to the list?). Of these, Francatelli's can most likely be dismissed for the reasons given on Bill's page. The others bear more consideration.

Peter is quite correct in his comment that "one must bear in mind that very few people actually claimed to having seen a person shooting himself. Rather, they said that 'someone told me....' or something to that effect".

There seems to be a common feeling that it was somehow appropriate that Murdoch shot himself as he was on watch at the time of the disaster - it gave a dramatic closure to events. This sort of speculation is both seductive and dangerous.

The only person who was both in a position to both identify the individuals involved and see what became of them was Lightoller, and he stated that Murdoch did not shoot himself. While Lightoller's account is not beyond question, he is still the only source in the right place at the right time to provide an identification.

Note that I do not say it is impossible that Murdoch shot himself - I am not attributing the act to any individual. I'm simply resisting the certitude with which some want to identify the first officer.
 

Dan Parkes

Member
Jul 1, 2010
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Inger -what an interesting message you have posted! Thank you for this!

Basically, you seem to cast doubt on the suicide scenario based on the lack of eyewitnesses (there are at least 8 actual eyewitnesses, plus 15/16 additional "second-hand" accounts). But remember this: considering that only a handful of the "hundreds" on the starboard side at the time of the alleged incident (c2:10am) survived to tell their story, it is remarkable that there are as many as 8 accounts. Remember that if a suicide did take place, only a handful would have observed it due to the huge number of people in such a small area (causing obstructions), the lack of lighting, the utter chaos and confusion and, importantly, that fact that each individual would have been intent on their own survival and not necessarily focusing on the events surrounding them. In other words, most of those who saw what REALLY occurred were lost with the ship. Additionally, of the 705 who survived the sinking, only a small percent were ever given the opportunity to have their full story told.

Hence, 8 plus 16 other accounts is worthy of attention. Not only this, but when one takes an indepth look into each account, the person's background, their reliability, their location... etc it reveals a startling ring of truth, rather than a media myth concocted for a drama hungry public (e.g. even a high ranking official of the White Star Line admitted that an officer or officers had possibly committed suicide).

In looking at such an issue that has unfortunately become emotional due to geographic or historical prejudice, it is important to maintain a completely unbiased attitude, a proverbial OPEN MIND. Only in this way can the facts be revealed.

On the 15th of April, 2000, a monograph on this very subject was released and will soon be made available in the form of a web-site. Look out for it....

The truth is out there.
 

Dan Parkes

Member
Jul 1, 2010
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In addition to the response I provided to Inger's message:

A comment was made that Second Officer Lightoller was the "only person" who could conclusively rule out Murdoch as the suicide victim. However, the evidence of Colonel Archibald Gracie is far more worthy of consideration. As a military historian (with an eye for detail) who was on the forward starboard side at collapsible A up until the time the boat deck was submerged, he is a far better candidate and his evidence at the Senate Inquiry and in his book are most compelling. He even drew a diagram of the ship pin-pointing the positions of Lightoller, Murdoch and himself.

However, Lightoller, whose evidence is dubious (especially in connection with the "image" of other officers, the White Star Line and himself), was not in a position to witness exactly what occurred. While there is no reason to believe that he did not see Murdoch on the starboard side, he did not see what eventually happened to the First Officer, since he was later positioned "amidships" before diving overboard.

And, on closer inspection, Gracie's evidence is not as conclusive as it might seem either. While he is adamant in his book that Murdoch did not commit suicide, he also did not see what really happened to the First Officer, becoming surrounded by the sudden surge in the crowd (which would have obstructed any view of the real events) and moving aft.

In summary: since the bodies of Smith, Wilde and Murdoch were never recovered, it would be just as "seductive and dangerous" to "resist" any eyewitness evidence without having investigated the eyewitness accounts and the circumstantial evidence in an unprejudiced manner. It is sad when sometimes history is at the mercy of historians loaded with preconceived ideology!
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo, Daniel!

"In looking at such an issue that has unfortunately become emotional due to geographic or historical prejudice, it is important to maintain a completely unbiased attitude, a proverbial OPEN MIND. Only in this way can the facts be revealed.

I've long attempted to dissociate myself from those who attach a stigma to the idea of suicide -my resistance to the certitude with which some identify an particular officer is based on my reading of accounts, not to personal feelings about the idea of either suicide or the individuals themselves.

I have also noted the geographic prejudices you note - but as an Australian, how do you think I line up? ;-)

As you admonish me, I certainly do keep an open mind on the issue - very open. It's one reason, as I said, that I resist the certitude with which some individuals attempt to ascribe actions to one officer in particular.

"On the 15th of April, 2000, a monograph on this very subject was released and will soon be made available in the form of a web-site. Look out for it.... "

I'll be very interested in seeing this. I'm aware of a good deal of other research that individuals have conducted which has not been made public as yet, and I have my own research and conclusions on the subject.

BTW, could you possibly name your eyewitnesses? I'd be very interested in seeing if I'm familiar with their accounts.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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"However, Lightoller, whose evidence is dubious (especially in connection with the "image" of other officers, the White Star Line and himself), was not in a position to witness exactly what occurred. While there is no reason to believe that he did not see Murdoch on the starboard side, he did not see what eventually happened to the First Officer, since he was later positioned "amidships" before diving overboard."

Well, not quite amidships - he said at the American inquiry that he was 'practically midships; a little to the starboard side, where I had got to' when he stepped off.

At the English Inquiry:

Q. 14047 Then tell us your last minuite or two on the ship. What did you do? - I went across to the starboard side of the officers' quarters, on the top of the officers' quarters, to see if I could do anything on the starboard side. Well, I could not.
Q. 14048 And coming over to the starboard side on the roof of the officers' quarters, could you see any other officers? - I saw the First Officer working at the falls of the starboard emergency boat, Obviously withthe intention of overhauling them and hooking on to the collapsible boat on their side.
****
Q. 14051. Were there others with him helping? - There were a number round there helping.
Q. 14052. Then what happened? - Well, she seemed to take a bit of a dive, and I just walked into the water.

As I said - very clearly - "Lightoller's account is not beyond question". However, I do believe that it merits very serious consideration.

"In summary: since the bodies of Smith, Wilde and Murdoch were never recovered, it would be just as "seductive and dangerous" to "resist" any eyewitness evidence without having investigated the eyewitness accounts and the circumstantial evidence in an unprejudiced manner. It is sad when sometimes history is at the mercy of historians loaded with preconceived ideology!"

I completely agree - and I'll assume that this is not directed at me, nor are you suggesting that I am 'loaded with preconceived ideology'.

You suggest that "Basically, you seem to cast doubt on the suicide scenario based on the lack of eyewitnesses".

Not so - if you re-read my original post, you'll see that what I was responding to was the assertion that there were some 'twenty eyewitnesses' to the alleged event. If this were so, I doubt that there would be as much controversy over it as there is today. I also clearly pointed out that there are certainly at least some accounts that do merit consideration.

You've made a very sweeping comment on 'preconceived ideology' - would you care to clarify if you believe that I am one of these individuals? I've found that, in the past, simply not jumping on the 'Murdoch did it' bandwagon has been enough to prompt individuals to assert that I'm part of a hidden agenda. This is regardless of the fact that I have also cautioned those too willing to glibly assert that it must have been Wilde.
 

Dan Parkes

Member
Jul 1, 2010
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Hello Inger!

An Australian! Well it seems we are both exempt from any geographical bias -I used to live in Australia but am presently in New Zealand! Thank you for your comments, they are most interesting!

Please do not confuse my generalisation regarding preconceived ideology -it was not a personal reference but a general concern that I have that so many casual and professional historians very often look at history through glasses tainted by their own view of history.

Your response shows clearly that this is not the case. I am most pleased that there is someone willing to look at all the options and am intrigued by the research you have done.

Yes, Lightoller's testimony does merit serious consideration but it will not achieve any more than an obvious conclusion: he did not see what really happened to Murdoch. If he did, then he did not relate it for one reason or another. Hence, his evidence can only be used to detail Murdoch's last movements and activities, not disprove any shooting/suicide allegations.

As for the correspondent that you replied to concerning 'twenty eye-witnesses,' according to my research there are at least 24 witnesses, 8 of whom are eye-witnesses. However, just because the other witnesses did not personally see the alleged suicide does not necessarily invalidate their accounts or observations. It is a case of gaing the BIG PICTURE.

I would be most pleased to share my research with you (at last count it stands at over 150 pages) but while this message board is a good place to explore ideas and questions, there is not enough space (or time) to provide all the information.

You may e-mail me at parkesville@xtra.co.nz if you want further details. I would most enjoy an interchange of research!
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo, Sandie!

The site you refer to is indeed interesting, particularly for its insight into Murdoch's personal background. A colleague and I recently met the webmaster while on a visit to Dalbeattie, and he discussed some modifications he intends to make to the site with us. As updates in the past have sometimes been made without a revision of the site as a whole, or proper 'vetting' of material, there is a need to bring some of the work on the question of Murdoch's death into line with the quality of the rest of the pages. I understand that the webmaster intends to do so.

Note that I, too, do not have any affiliation with this site. I do, however, appreciate the work that has gone into gathering biographical material, including images that you will not find elsewhere.

This is also one of the few sites that attempts to address the life of the man outside his role in the Titanic disaster. With the focus on Murdoch's death or actions during the collision, the context of his entire existence falls by the way side. I've had the privilege over the past month of travelling to areas like Liverpool and Scotland in an effort to learn more about this context. I've found that the Murdoch family, historians and researchers who have been working on the material for years, and the people of places like Dalbeattie and Kippford have been remarkably accomodating and hospitable.

Work has just begun on the background for some of the other officers such as Wilde, and I can only hope to be so fortunate in researching him as I have been with some of the other deck officers.

Daniel - I emailed you privately last night (London time). Fairly lengthy and unfocussed discourse, you'll find.

Inger
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Thanks to Mike Herbold's research we can now add George Brereton's name (aka Bradley, Brayton) to this conversation. He apparently killed himself in 1942 with a shotgun blast. I think the record of this conversation clearly establishes that we're on to something, so many suicides, and yet so many years after the disaster. Titanic must have had something to do with these deaths. Also, it's interesting to realize that the disaster lasted for many decades, and didn't end with the sinking on April 15, 1912.
 
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Paul Judd

Guest
Does anyone know anything about Stewardess Roberts,
as a contact address was Nottingham , born I think about 1880 and we had a family living there about this time. What was her parents names??
ctpjudd@ozemail.com.au
 
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MIMI FLURASE

Guest
AS A MATTER OF FACT , I DON'T MEAN TO DISSAPOINT ANY ONE BUT NOT ONE OF THE TITANIC SURVIVORS COMMITED SUICIDE NOT ONE , THEY ALL DIED NATURALLY
MIMI
CHICAGO
 
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Bitteroot Brute

Guest
Dear MIMI FLURASE/MANOLC, so you expect us to believe what you say when youre not even sure of your own last name. And whats flurase anyway? Some kind of nasal spray?
 
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travisk

Guest
Sorry, Mimi, but Frederick Fleet committed suicide after his wife died.