Monday, August 30, 2010

Empire State Building: Its Dark History

"He is much better off without me … I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody". (suicide note, woman above)

The Empire State Building is personally my favorite building in America, the most beloved to me; more so than the White House, Washington Monument or any other significantly recognizable structure. At 102 stories and 1,454 feet tall it is seriously impressive. My first time to the observation deck, all I could think about was whether a penny would kill someone. I was terrified one might fall out of my pockets, so I stood back (even though it’s not possibly for one to spill out a pocket to the crowd below). Movies like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “King Kong” romanticized this beautiful art deco styled edifice even more. It possesses what I consider to be the observation deck for America.

The next thing one thinks of up where the winds are howling is how freaking far down it is and what kind of state of mind people would have to be in to choose that way to die. Not only are they serious about dying, but in a symbolic way, liberating themselves as they fly for the first and last time.

Strange facts about the building: It was built with a mooring for blimps, but later nixed the idea as it was too unsafe (duh). In 1945, a small plane crashed into the 79th floor. The people on the plane were all killed. The building has colored light displays they show off during different holidays.

Suicide: More than 30 people have jumped to their death from the Empire State Building.

Most beautiful fall:
1947: 23-year-old Evelyn McHale jumped and landed on a United Nations Limousine (photo above) Andy Warhohl used the visual later for a piece of art entitled “Suicide.” This was just after the building opened and 5 more tried to jump within a 3-week period.

Most botched attempt: On December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams jumped from the 86th floor, only to be blown back onto the 85th floor and left with a broken hip.

Most surprising: 2007: A lawyer on the 69th floor was interviewing a client, then got up, opened the window and jumped.

Most recent: 2010: 21-year-old male Yale student jumped.

They ain’t just jumping: On February 24, 1997, a Palestinian gunman shot seven people on the observation deck, killing one, then fatally wounding himself.

Penny Myth: If you drop a penny off the Empire State Building, will it actually kill someone below? Nope! Busted on “Mythbusters.” Terminal velocity means that force exerted by air keeps the speed constant.

I remember being in the Empire State Building when they were still erecting the Twin Towers. I went back later once the towers were done and they made the Empire State Building seem like a dwarf and yet I never wanted to visit those sleek sharp-angled buildings for a better view. The Empire State Building always has had my heart and always will. It has made it into the list of American icons and a symbol of our fast growth in the 20th Century.

(**Tomorrow, beware! Dale is on the rampage and has made a video for ya'all, speaking to you face-to-face. This is just a harbinger of the upcoming Halloween season at GHT!**)


  1. Thanks for doing this one. Many tend to forget that New York City has many ghosts.

  2. Mary;
    When you think of how many bodies you have in a very close area for many generations, there's gotta be more ghosts per square inch than anywhere else in America.

  3. I loved the view from the observation tower, it was just amazing! You can be on one side and feel no wind, turn the corner and get a harsh blast of wind. The elevator ride was tough because of the claustrophobia, but I just closed my eyes and had happy thoughts. It was totally worth it. I love the history of the building and all those tragic deaths.

  4. Awesome! I've loved that building ever since I saw King Kong as a child. I was raised in a fairly intellectual household that favored classic films and PBS over the garbage puked out by regular sitcoms, etc. To that end I saw a lot of old movies set in NYC that invariably made use of the beautiful structure. Truly and American icon.

  5. Cullan;
    I have no doubt that if you landed in Manhattan, you would not want to leave for a very long time. The buildings alone are truly amazing. Don't even get me started on the museums and culture. Everyone should make one trip up that building and you feel like you were thrown back to an era that is long past. Even the lobby and elevators have a real vintage feel. It's most excellent!

  6. Very cool and creepy history lesson. Thanks so much. So want to visit that place someday...soon.


  7. I've sadly never seen the Empire State Building, or even been to NYC. Hope to though. Not that suicide is ever a good thing, but that picture is awe-inspiring.

    Thank you for sharing this. I never knew that many people have died at/due to the Empire State Building. The one about the Lawyer, very creepy, random.

  8. Invidus;
    Seriously, can you imagine how the client must have felt? Talk about feeling like you have a losing case...even your lawyer decides to walk out on you!

  9. Great stories. I bet the fall is exhilarating, but the land??? That's the hard every sense of the word.

  10. MM;
    Yeah, I'm sure it's like an off switch and it's lights out. I did a bellyflop while doing a one and a half in pike position off the high dive one time, thought it might be like that....

  11. isn't it sadly interesting how this building is death related. After Sinatra's death it was lit in blue to celebrate his nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". After the death of actress Fay Wray the building stood in complete darkness for 15 minutes.

  12. autumnforest, i SO want to see NYC someday!!

  13. Libby-Girl;
    You know the thing that got me the most about it was something I never experienced in the DC area where I grew up. There, the buildings basically couldn't be higher than the Washington Monument, but when I went to NYC as a kid, I couldn't get over that they only have a tiny little strip of sky and no perspective of distance except down the street. The buildings are so tall and crowd you so much, it's scary to look up at them. It's humbling and it's exciting, sort of funneling people to be close to each other. The smells are sometimes awesome (greatest cuisine in the world) and then sometimes nasty (garbage piled up along the streets). The stimulation is so great, that I was happy to leave after a week's stay just to get calm again.

  14. I love the empire states building, but I only go there late at night after the lines die down.

  15. Jessica;
    I must admit, all the times I've been there I went in the daytime just to see the view, but I bet at night it's wicked cool!

  16. My ex-hubby and I with a few friends went to the Empire State Building on a vacation. It is a beautiful building and wonderful view. We happened to be there at night. There was a guy there who was dressed up like King Kong. He was funny and we got some great pictures. He was also inappropriate when kids weren't looking which made it that much more entertaining! LOL

    What was the coolest, was that due to my ex's handicap, the guards and employees noticed him, and ushered us in front of EVERYONE else in that long, long line! We got up there quick! LOL We were pleasantly surprised and thought...well, it sucks to be you, all you "normal" people! Tee Hee!

  17. Tara-Dear;
    That's a hoot. We always went in the hot muggy summer and waited forever for the elevators and of course you have to switch elevators cause they only go up a certain amount of floors. I feel sorry for the folks who work in the building. Your story reminds me of one time when my husband's company rented Disneyland and we basically had the place to ourselves, could just keep riding the pirates ride, they'd leave us in the boat and send us back in again and again. It was a blast!

  18. See now that would be fun too! We were in the city in the winter. We always took our vacations during the off season. It's cheaper, we both loved the fall/winter, and you can still see the same stuff for the most part but without all the crowds!

  19. Yeah, I would love to vacation in late October to see Halloween in other cities or even around Thanksgiving when everything just feels so rustic and autumnal. Hey, it's my season, what can I say? Living in the desert, I have learned to vacation in summer just to have a few days anywhere cool. Of course, my last vacation was the summer of 2008, so you can tell, I don't get away often. Things are going to change for me. That's ridiculous!

  20. I don't mean to sound morbid but I can't believe how...intact? Evelyn is after jumping from such a height! Even the car looks worse that she does... In fact she looks like she laid down for a nap. It's eerie...

  21. Dolly;
    You're right! There was actually a photographer student that was there when it happened and took the shot that became world-famous and was on the cover of Life magazine, I believe. You know everything inside of her had to be shattered, but what an exit!

  22. Dolly,

    That's because the car "cushioned" her fall. It wasn't the sudden stop of hitting concrete! Now THAT would have caused a LOT of damage!

  23. The picture made me think of Thulsa Doom revealing "The Riddle of Steel" to Conan.

    "Yes! You know what it is, don't you boy? Shall I tell you? It's the least I can do. Steel isn't strong, boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; a beautiful girl. Come to me, my child... "

    The building I used to work in was old enough that you could still open the windows (not huge, about 46 floors, but still). I was always getting told not to open them.

  24. How is it possible to jump from the 86 floor with all the safety fencing.