Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Jar Full of Note Paper, 1975

Several months ago, while doing research for a friend, I came across this in the Gadsden Times from March 27, 1975.

The Headline: Suicide note asks authorities not to seek victim’s identity.

Belle Chasse, La. (AP)-He only gave himself 16 or 17 years to “develop into a real person.” Then he bade his parents farewell in a note laced with philosophy and hanged himself from a persimmon tree.
“When you stop growing you are dead. I stopped growing long ago,” wrote the youth, whose body was found six weeks ago but who still has not been identified. His note was found beneath the tree where he hanged himself.
“I never did develop into a real person and I cannot tolerate the false and empty existence I have created,” he wrote in the note, addressed only to “Mom and Dad.”
He added this aside to authorities:
“You are bound to preserve domestic peace and order. If you pursue who I was (and spend hundreds of dollars) you will accomplish little. There are no legal consequences of my death or any kind of entanglements. All that can happen is that you will shatter the domestic peace and order of two innocent lives. Do not deprive them of the hope that their ‘missing’ son will return…Let me be, let it be as if I wasn’t ever here. Simply cremate me as John Doe.”
His body was found on Valentine’s Day by a couple driving through the woods. They noticed a white shape shimmering through the trees. They stopped to look and found the body hanging from a limb of a tree, a bedsheet tied around his neck.
He was wearing a maroon and yellow knit shirt, blue trousers and unmatched socks on his shoeless feet. A jar full of note paper lay against the tree trunk.
“It is best if I cease to live, quietly, than risk that later I will break and shatter by violence or linger years under care,” the boy told his parents in the note.
“I implore you to see a psychiatrist in order that you might understand my death and my life. Ask thoroughly about what I was and you will see that it is not tragic that I am gone but more natural than if I continued…”
The letter concludes, “I am no longer interested in the world and know that it is not interested in me. When you stop growing you are dead. I stopped growing long ago.”
Plaquesmines Parish authorities have circulated “John Doe’s” description and fingerprints to police across the country. But the body still lies in a funeral home, unidentified and unclaimed.

As Valentine’s Day draws near, I can’t help but think of this young man, so wonderfully articulate, and so full of disappointment at how his life turned out, so set on making sure that no one was inconvenienced by his life, or his death. He sounds to me as if he had developed into a real person, just painfully incapable of recognizing it, painfully incapable of allowing others into his life to help. I wonder if they were ever able to determine who he was and if his parents ever found out what happened to him…


Eric Wright said...

wow, what a story

Joubert Jones said...

In a twist that is either blackly humourous, overwhelmingly sad, or both, this child did receive his wish to remain anonymous, albeit inadvertently. Though his case was a fairly high profile one in 1975, nearly four decades later, due in large part to the immense damage rought by Katrina, no records concerning him are available with the Louisiana authorities, thus he can't be entered into databases of the missing and unidentified, and his grave cannot be located, which bars the possibility of an exhumation for DNA acquisition or forensic isotope analysis. Apart from a few newspaper articles, none of them current (the public appears to have lost interest in this case pretty quickly if online archives are any indication, everything I found was from 1975), many of which recycle the text of the one you've copied here, he essentially doesn't exist as far as officials are concerned. the entire suicide note was never released to the public and has doubtless been destroyed, so there is no way to analyze it for clues to his identity. From what fragments were printed in papers, we can only infer that he killed himself either because he committed some manner of crime that left him guilt-racked, or was stricken by mental illness. There has even been some speculation that he may have been a self-loathing homosexual whose parents attempted to "cure" him (at the time homosexuality was still widely considered a mental disorder), hence the references to psychiatry. Other than that, we know nothing more about him than we did when he was first discovered thirty-nine years ago.

La_Petit_Rouge said...

Joubert Jones, thank you. Thank you so very much for your comments. Yes, blackly humorous and overwhelmingly sad.