September 14, 2014

The Day Evelyn Died

She is laying down, her legs are crossed, one ankle resting on the other. Her hands are near her head. One hand is clutching her pearl neckless. Her head is tilted up and her mouth is slightly open. It's as if she looking up at the sky, day dreaming, watching the clouds go by, except her eyes are closed. She will never open her eyes again. She is dead.

The force of the collision is evident in the crumpled roof that molded around her body.
Photo: Imgur.com
On May 12th, 1947 Evelyn McHale climbed 1,576 steps1 to the 86th-floor observatory of the Empire State Building. Once there she folded her coat and laid it over the observation deck wall.2 She then jumped off the building to her death, landing 1,050 feet below.Her body landed on the roof of a limousine on 34th ave. A young photographer named Robert Wiles, was across the street when he heard what sounded like an explosion, he ran over as a crowd was gathering around the crushed car and quickly snapped a photograph of Evelyn's body on the hood. A detective named Frank Murray found her coat, makeup kit, and a note book with a suicide note in it, which 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."

The following part of the suicide note was crossed out:

"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."
The note continued:
"Tell my father, I have too many of my mother's tendencies."
Post card of a family at the Empire State Building Observation Deck, 86th Floor.
Circa 1930s. Photo: Fashion Herald.org
Another view of the 86th Floor Observation Deck May 22, 1947. Photo: Mashable

Evelyn was born in 1923 in Berkeley, California to the parents of Vincent and Helen McHale. Her father was in the banking business. Evelyn parents divorced sometime around 1940 and Evelyn and her siblings lived with their Father. 
Evelyn circa 1942 Photo: Geni.com
After high school, Evelyn joined the Women's Army Corp. In 1944 she moved to Long Island, NY and started work as a bookkeeper in Manhattan. It was there, in New York that she met an Air Force navigator named Barry Rhodes. They became engaged.4

It's ironic that Evelyn didn't want anyone to see her body but since Robert Wiles decided to publish his photo of her body, the photo has become part of historic photos ever taken, as macabre as it. 

The photo was subsequently published in Time Magazine on a full page in May 1947 and dubbed it "The Most Beautiful Suicide." The famous artist Andy Warhol used the photo in his prints entitled "Suicide (Fallen Body)".5

A little boy poses for a photograph at the 86th-floor observation deck. Circa 1948.
A steel barrier had been erected to help prevent further suicides or accidents.
Photo: Fashion Herald.org

Evelyn's solution to her problems was permanent and tragic. No one really knows why Evelyn felt like she needed to end her life. Outworldly she seemed to have all the makings of happiness, a fiancee, a job, and a family. It's said that her Mother, suffered from depression and Evelyn, obviously did too. I hope she has found peace.

Due to the nature of this blog post, I feel compelled to say that if you are contemplating suicide or know someone who is suicidal please reach out for help!

1-800-273-8255

Text CONNECT to 741741

For More Info On Evelyn and The Empire State Building, Check Out:

Photos of the empire state building circa the 1930s and 1940s.

Codex99- Photojournalism as Iconography
More about Evelyn's background, and photos of the tragedy.

Geneology of Evelyn, pictures, and info on her parents, and siblings.

Interesting info and pictures on the history of the Empire State Building.

Article on the photo.

The macabre history of suicides at the Empire State Building

Offical Website

Bibliography

1. [“Empire State Building Fast Facts.” CNN, 2017 July 14, 10:11 am, www.cnn.com/2013/07/11/us/empire-state-building-fast-facts/index.html.]
2. [“The Most Beautiful Suicide - Evelyn McHale Leapt to Her Death from the Empire State Building, 1947.” Rare Historical Photos, 27 Feb. 2014, rarehistoricalphotos.com/beautiful-suicide-evelyn-mchale-leapt-death-empire-state-building-1947/.]
3. [Empire State Building Fast Facts.” CNN, 2017 July 14, 10:11 am, www.cnn.com/2013/07/11/us/empire-state-building-fast-facts/index.html.]
4. [99, Codex. “Evelyn McHale Photojournalism as Iconography.” Codex 99, 8 Oct. 2009, www.codex99.com/photography/43.html.]
5. [Wikipedia contributors. "Evelyn McHale." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Aug. 2017. Web. 27 Aug. 2017]

April 27, 2014

Ways In Which We Handle Our Dead

Cremation 

Setting a corpse on fire has been a favored method of disposing a body since pre-antiquity. In technical terms cremation is using high temperatures to reduce a human body to its chemical compounds.
Modern cremation is done in a crematory, a building equipped with a cremator, a furnace that can generate temperatures up to 1,800 °F. Cremating an average person takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The body is either cremated within a casket or a simple cardboard box. You do not need to purchase a casket in order to be cremated.

The organic material of the body is completely burned after the 2 1/2 hours and all that is left is bone fragments. The cremated remains are removed. Any metal such as joint replacements are removed with a magnet. The remains are then put into a processor and crushed into a fine powder material, giving the remains the appearance of baby powder.

There are many options to then "house" the cremated remains. The most common methods are in an Urn either placed in a niche in a mausoleum, buried in a cemetery, scattered, or just left in an urn in possession with the family. The selection of urns available is numerous. There are many options to complement the personality of the deceased.

In places around the world, such as India. The body is cremated in open air. Indians believe that touching a dead body is highly taboo, and only members of the lower cast are allowed to do this. The body is placed upon a funeral pyre, made out of logs, and sticks. The pyre is placed next to the Ganges River which is considered holy for Hindus.

There are other less common methods such as making the ashes into diamonds, sending them into space, placing them in a locket or a pendant, burying them in an underwater reef, and having them turned into ink and incorporation into a tattoo. According to LowCostCremation.com, the national rate for cremation in the United States is 2011 is 42%.

For more information on Cremation please visit:
The Cremation Association of North America
The Internet Cremation Society
Celestis, Inc. - Post-Cremation Memorial Spaceflights
LifeGem Memorial Diamonds
Eternal Reefs
Cremation In India- Short Online National Geographic Video

Traditional Funerals & Earth Burial

© Alexandria Barrington 2014
The most popular method of handling the dead in modern society is having a traditional funeral at a mortuary and earth burial in a cemetery. When a person dies, assuming it was a natural death, not needing a corner or autopsy, a funeral director is called and the body is taken by the funeral home to the mortuary to be prepared, in most cases, for a viewing, than a funeral.  The body is cleaned, embalmed, dressed, and placed in a casket.

According to the Federal Trade Commission's Guidelines for Funeral Service Providers (The Funeral Rule) "Except in certain special cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial." Embalming is the process of removing blood and gases in the body and replacing them with a strong disinfectant and preservative."

Except in certain special cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial." The casket is then buried in a cemetery with a vault. A vault is basically a concrete or metal box that houses the casket. The vault is used to keep the ground from caving in during time. Burial vaults have started to now serve the function of protecting the casket. This type of vaults are much more expensive then a regular concrete vault. They are hermetically sealed and covered with a veneer either made of bronze, granite or marble.

However embalming and protective burial vaults are only meant to deter the process of composition. Eventually the body will decay, and it's illegal for a funeral director to tell you otherwise. Burial vaults are required by most cemeteries to keep the ground from settling in above the casket. This help with the lawn maintance of the cemetery.

The choice of caskets is numerous.

Batesville Casket Company headquartered in Indiana is one of the biggest companies to manufacture caskets. They can be individualized according to the families wishes. Caskets are most often purchased through a funeral home, but one can also buy directly through a company and have the casket shipped to the funeral home. For example Walmart is now selling caskets. (Check out my earlier post on this subject.)

Coffins and caskets have become interchangeable words in modern society both essentially meaning the same thing. However, there are differences between the two. A coffin is a six sided box made out of wood. It fits the shape of a body. Coffins are often used in vampire movies. A casket is a 4 sided box that that can either be made out of wood or metal. It has a split top to allow viewing of the body. The inside is padded with material, and gives the illusion of being "comfortable" and "restful" to the dead. It is thought by historians that the funeral director or mortician's selling of a casket vs. a coffin would be more pleasing to families of the deceased. Since it looked more like a bed then something to bury a body in.

Today, the post popular option of disposing of a dead body is traditional earth burial but that cremation will likely become the most popular method in the near future.

For more information on traditional funerals and burials please visit:
National Funeral Director Association
Batesville Casket Company
Funeral Service Foundation
Natural Museum of Funeral History- Houston, Texas
Embalming- Wikipedia
Colourful Coffins- Coffins as unique as you are!
Headstones & Memorials- A provider of headstones and memorials throughout the continental United States.

Mausoleums 
Photo by Dave Bouskill

The most well known mausoleums around the world, include the Taj Mahal in India, The Pyramids in Egypt, and the Lenin Mausoleum in Russia.
 "A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people"[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum]
Mausoleums became quite popular in at the end of the 19th century in America. America's industrial elite such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, railroad tycoon, Frank W. Woolworth, founder of Woolworth Company, Charles H. Schwab, American steel magnate, Charles G. Dawes, vice president under Calvin coolidge, Aaron Montgomery Ward, famous for the Montgomery Ward Catalog, and Richard W. Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, all chose this method of burial. It was a way to leave a legacy. A reminder of their wealth, and status. When the Depression hit mausoleums became a less popular option for interment. However, they are now starting to become more popular. Companies such as American Mausoleums are making some beautiful mausoleums that are equal to their earlier counterparts, in elegance and status.

For more information on Mausoleums please visit:

Mausoleums.com - A provider of custom private mausoleums throughout the United States
The Taj Mahal
Lenin Mausoleum
Cornelius Vanderbilt Mausoleum - Youtube
Frank Woolworth Mausoleum - The Bowery Boys @ BlogSpot
Charles Schwab Mausoleum - David Gayon Photos via Flickr
Charles Dawes Mausoleum - Kenneth Watson via Flickr
Richard W. Sears Mausoleum - Graveyard of Chicago

Green Funerals
Photo from http://www.musgroves.com/

Green or Natural burial had been in place for thousands of years. It wasn't until the Civil War that the modern funeral in the United States, or the practice of embalming came into place. With so many decaying bodies of dead soldiers, families wanted a way to stop the decomposition in order to have their bodies shipped back home. President Abraham Lincoln was one of the first people whose body was preserved with the new technique of embalming.

Green or Natural Burial is the process of burying a body in the earth without a traditional coffin, or a vault. The idea is to have the body have contact with the Earth and decay naturally and be recycled or returned to the Earth. The body is not embalmed or injected with chemical preserving agents. The body is most often put in a simple shroud before being placed in the Earth. However, the body may be placed in a biodegradable coffin.

A natural funeral is also attractive to people who are looking to lessen their environmental impact on the Earth. In addition to recycling, driving electric cars, and buying organic and free range produce and meat, people are also wanting their funerals and burials to be green.

The disuse of chemicals to preserve the body, and cutting down trees to build a wooden coffin is attractive to this type of consumer. They want their body to be returned back to the Earth, and not have their body's decomposition deterred.
There are natural burial sites around the world that look more like a simple field or forest than a cemetery. There are no traditional grave stones or monuments. Natural landscaping such as boulders, rocks, and trees are the only ornaments. Bodies can be buried with GPS locators to mark the place of burial. "The United States now has about a dozen green cemeteries, while Great Britain has about 200.
While more than 70 percent of Americans polled by AARP prefer green burials, most funeral homes and directors don't offer this service to the environmental conscience consumer." [source: Trimarchi, Maria.  "How Natural Burial Works"  15 January 2009.  HowStuffWorks.com.  13 April 2014].

For more information on green/natural funerals and burials, please visit:
Green Burial Council
A Greener Funeral
The Natural Burial Company
Final Footprint- Green Caskets

Cryonics 

Cryonics is the practice of storing a body in extremely low temperatures in the hopes of reviving the person one day when modern science has the ability to cure disease the person died from.
In cryonics there are two terms that used often and difference between the two is important to understand: Legal Death, and Total Death. People who undergo cronics must be legally dead, that is their heart must have stopped beating. Total death, is the when brain function stops. cryonic scientists say the that without total death the brain still has cellular function. They state that a person can be resurrected as long as they are not in "Total Death".

A person's body isn't simply frozen to preserve it. If you froze a body the water within the cells of the body would form ice crystals which would destroy the cells, making the ability to resurrect a person completely impossible. The water from your cells is replaced with something called a cryoprotectant, a glycerol based chemical that protects the cells and tissues from forming ice crystals. Vitrification is the process of cooling the body at extremely low temperatures without freezing it.

Neurosuspension is the process of removing the head of a body instead of whole body cryogenic preservation. The thought behind this, is the brain is the only organ that is essential to restore a person back to "who" they once were, with their thoughts, and mind. The hope is that science of the future will give the ability for a body clone or some sort of robotic body will be available to attach the head to.

The body or head is then stored in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen, for the inevitable future. You often have "room mates". These tanks can store up to four bodies and six heads.

Cryonics definitely isn't for the penny pinching consumer. It can cost up to $150,000 for whole body preservation and up to $50,000 for just your head. [Source: Watson, Stephanie.  "How Cryonics Works"  05 January 2005.  HowStuffWorks.com.

For more information on Cryonics please visit:
Cryonics Institute
Alcor Life Extension Foundation

February 22, 2014

Titanic

April, 2014
Titanic Letter Sells At Auction







Titanic.. everyone knows the story.. the great passenger liner, beauty and glory.. and her fateful maiden voyage.. I have been in love with the Titanic story since the first time I heard of her back in grade school. I was lucky enough to visit the Titanic exhibit in Las Vegas a few years ago.
I saw clothing worn by passengers, the dishes they ate off of, the beds they slept in. I was able to experience how cold the water was that April night in 1912 and see an almost endless list of names of those who perished.
It gets to me every time.. the stories.. the heroes.. the romance.. and the horror the sheer horror of all those who lost their lives.. 2200 passengers and crew set sail from south Hampton and over 1400 of those people met their end when the great ship sank. Titanic was the second in a series of ocean liners built by White Star. These liners were to be the most luxurious, fastest, and largest of their day. Titanic's construction began in 1908 resulting in over 3 years of hard labor on the backs of Irishmen. It was a symbol of status..It was the best, of everything. Along with the rich and prestigious that Titanic attracted there was also the poor and disheartened who saw Titanic as a first step in a better life in America. That hope for a better life, a new beginning for so many passengers, came to an abrupt end on April 12, 1912 in the North Atlantic ocean.
The Mackay-Bennett
The Mackay-Bennett set sail on April 17th with the morbid task of recovering Titanic's victims. Bodies that where recovered from the water they were tagged, embalmed and placed in coffins, or if too badly decayed, were placed in white bags and put back into the ocean. The bodies were were then taken back to Halifax Nova Scotia and laid out in a temporary morgue located at for families to identify them, then buried in one of three cemeteries, Fairview Cemetery, Mount Olivet Cemetery, and Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Click here for pics of graves and bios on some of the people buried in these cemeteries.
Sidney Leslie Goodwin Circa 1911
Of all the stories of the victims one that touches me the most is that of the unknown child. A blonde haired little boy whose body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. The body didn't have any means of identification. The captain and the crew of the Mackay-Bennett were so touched and grief stricken by they site of the child they paid for his funeral and gravestone in Fairview Cemetery. The child was laid in a white coffin and carried out of a packed St George's Anglican Church on May 4. The fair haired child was buried in Fairview cemetery with a head stone that read "Erected to the memory of an unknown child whose remains were recovered after the disaster to Titanic, April 15, 1912."
However, in November 2002 an exhumation followed by DNA testing, the body was identified as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13 month old child who's parents were from Finland. There is an excellent series on PBS entitled Secrets of the Dead. In one of the episodes entitled Titanic's Ghosts, the story of the unknown child is told along with the process of identifying him. However, further DNA testing was done and the remains were said to be that of
Sidney Leslie Goodwin. A two year old English boy who boarded with his parents, and 5 siblings. Sidney's body was the only one that was recovered when the ship sank.
A name was finally put to the small body. For over a hundred years the body of a child laid in a cemetery in Nova Scotia with out a name to identify him and now he is finally someone, he is some one's child, some one's little boy, who can finally rest.
Sidney's story is one of many. So many perished in that cold April night, many that have families, lives, hopes and dreams. Since the release of James Cameron's film, Titanic, there has been a new appreciation and curiosity about the ship but to me the true life stories of Titanic's victims will always be much more interesting and wonderful than what TV and films can offer. It has been over two hundred years since the ship sank but her hold on the world's hearts will never fade.

Check out these sites to learn more about the Titanic:

Encyclopedia Titanica
-Anything and everything about Titanic, her passengers and crew.

Sidney Leslie Goodwin
-Wikipedia site about the little boy

Titanic and Nova Scotia
-The ship and her connection to Nova Scotia, Canada

Titanic
The History Channel's Titanic website

Titanic - Find A Grave
See pictures of the graves of Titanic's passengers

The "Unsinkable" Molly Brown
Learn more about one of Titanic's famous passengers

White Star Line
-Wikipedia site about the shipping company that built Titanic