"A 20-year-old man accidently shot himself to death at his apartment while imitating the suicide of Kurt Cobain"...As his friends watched early Monday, the man propped a 12-gauge shotgun on the floor and knelt with his mouth over the barrel, Sgt. Jim Hanson said.
'He wasn't intending to hurt himself,' Sergeant Hanson said. "He put the gun up to his head and said, "Look, I'm just like Kurt Cobain," and the gun went off.'
Associated Press, December 6, 1994.
Experts were worried that the death of Kurt Cobain would lead others to commit suicide (my note:but they didn't expect people to be this stupid). It was not an unreasonable concern. The most famous example occurred in the eighteenth century after the publication of Goethe's "The Sorrows Of Young Werther" in which the protagonist kills himself. Soon the police were finding copies of the book next to suicides. The copycat phenomenon is now called the Werther Effect.
Researchers have found interesting evidence to support the Werther Effect. After Marilyn Monroe's death, the suicide rate jumped 12 percent.
A study of thirty-three well-publicized suicides found the suicide rate increased after twenty-six of them. The more publicly the suicide received, the greater the increase in the rate.
In addition to the increase in the suicide rate, researchers have found an increase in automobile and airplane crash fatalities after well-publicised suicides. This is probably not a coincidence. Many people try to disguise their suicide as accidents. One researcher estimates that up to 25 percent of all single car crashes are deliberate.
"I wish, Charlotte, to be buried in the dress I wear at present: it has been rendered sacred by your touch...My spirit soars above my coffin. I do not wish my pockets to be searched. The knot of pink ribbon which you wore on your bosom the first time that I saw you, surrounded by the children--Oh kiss them a thousand times for me, and tell them the fate of their unhappy friend! The dear children! How warmly have I been attached to you, Charlotte! Since the first hour I saw you, how impossible I found it to leave you! The ribbon must be buried with me: it was a present from you on my birthday. How confused it all appears! Little did I then think that I should journey this road! But peace! I pray you, peace!
"They [the pistols] are loaded-the clock strikes twelve. I say amen. Charlotte, Charlotte! farewell, farewell!
This is an excerpt from the fictional suicide note in Goethe's "The Sorrow of Young Werther." ... Compared to the emotional distance of a genuine note, this note seems obviously fictional. So why did it inspire so many suicides? A. Alvarez believes it was a function of the Romantic period where life and art became inseparable. "At the high point of Romanticism," Alvarez wrote, "life itself was as though it were fictional, and suicide became a literary act."
Taken from "Or Not To Be: A Collection Of Suicide Notes" by Marc Etkind.