The Story of ‘The Most Beautiful Suicide’

“The Most Beautiful Suicide,” was taken by Robert C. Wiles and soon featured as a full-page image in a Life Magazine Issue. The caption read, “At the bottom of the Empire State Building the body of Evelyn McHale reposes calmly in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a car.”

Evelyn is the youngest, and most reputable, of all suicide jumpers from the Empire State Building. She jumped off the 86th floor observatory in 1947, landing on top of a parked United Nations limousine. She was seen and photographed four minutes after her fall. She looked beautiful and peaceful, as if she were asleep.

Evelyn was born on September 20, 1923 to a family of seven siblings. She grew up with divorced parents and worked as a bookkeeper in New York City.

The day of her death on May 1, she left her fiancé, Barry Rhodes’ house, and got on the 7:00 AM train to Penn Station. He did not notice any signs of depression or distress. He said she was “happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.” They were to be married in June.

A mere three-and-a-half hours later, patrol man John Morrissey saw a white scarf slowly drifting down from the top of the Empire State Building. Seconds later, he heard a huge crash and saw people gather near 34th street.

Robert Wiles, a photography student at the time heard the crash and ran over. Her body was completely intact as he took her photograph four minutes after her fall. She is seen with her white gloves on, her ankles delicately crossed, and her hand on her pearl necklace. The contrasting elements of Evelyn’s peaceful, intact body and the crash of the limousine is what makes the image so captivating to people all around the world.

However, when they eventually moved her body, she “fell apart” for her insides had been completely liquefied from the fall.

While the observation deck was under investigation, Detective Frank Murray found her coat folded at the wall next to a make-up kit which included family photos and a black pocketbook with a note. The note read:

“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. My fiance 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. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

Her body was cremated and no grave was made for her, per request.