Suicides Reported Aboard "Titanic"

Suicides Reported Aboard "Titanic"

Postby Thomas Golembiewski on Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:24 pm


Soon after the tragedy many news items appeared that concerned the suicide of an officer aboard the RMS Titanic. Usually that officer is identified as First Officer Murdoch. The following news items, all from Chicago dailies, concern this matter.


Chicago Daily News, Friday, April 19, 1912, p. 3. c. 4:

Chief Officer Reported a Suicide

Chief Officer Merdock was reported to have shot himself on the bridge when he realized the magnitude of the disaster.

The men who were saved—the majority of them at any rate—were taken into the boats to help man them, or jumped overboard and were picked u p afterward.

The berg was discovered before the Titanic struck it by the lookout, who notified Quartermaster Moody to port his helm. Moody obeyed, but it was too late.


Chicago Tribune, Friday, April 19, 1912, p. 4, c. 3:

Revolver Shots Heard

“Revolver shots, heard by many persons shortly before the end of the Titanic, caused many rumors. One was that Capt. Smith shot himself, another was that First Officer Murdock ended his life. Smith, Murdock, and Sixth Officer Moody are known to have been lost. The surviving officers, Lightoller, Pitman, Boxhall, and Lowe, have made no statement.

“Members of the crew discredit all reports of suicide and say Capt. Smith remained on the bridge until just before the ship sank, leaping only after those on the deck had been washed away. It is also related that when a cook later sought to pull him aboard a lifeboat he exclaimed: ‘Let me go,” and jerking away, went down.

Chicago Inter Ocean, Friday, April 19, 1912, p. 1, c. 1:

Survivors See Ship’s End.

Survivors in the lifeboats huddled in the darkness at a safe distance from the stricken ship and saw her go down. As to the scene on board when the liner struck, accounts disagree widely. Some maintain that a comparative calm prevailed; other say that wild disorder broke out and that there was a maniacal struggle for the lifeboats. That the liner struck an iceberg as reported by wireless was confirmed by all.

Sensational rumors, told by hysterical passengers who would not give their names, said that Captain Smith had killed himself on the bridge; that the chief engineer had taken his life, and that three Italians were shot in the struggle for the boats. These rumors could not be confirmed in the early confusion attendant on the landing of the survivors.

(same paper and date), p. 2, c. 1:

Revolver shots, heard by many persons shortly before the end of the Titanic, caused any rumors. One was that Captain Smith shot himself, and another was that First Officer Murdock ended his life. Smith, Murdock and Sixth Officer Moody are known to have been lost. The surviving officers, Lightoller, Pitman, Boxhall and Lowe, have made no statement.

(same paper and date and page), c. 2:

Revolver shots were heard in the ship’s last moments. The first report spread among the boats was that Captain Smith had ended his life with a bullet. Then it was said that a mate had shot a steward who tried to push his way upon a boat against orders. None of these tales has been verified and many of the crew say the captain, without a preserver, leaped in at the last and went down refusing a cook’s offered aid.

Chicago Record-Herald, Friday, April 19, 1912, p. 1, c. 6:

Report Captain a Suicide

Sensational rumors told by hysterical passengers who would not give their names, said that Captain Smith had killed himself on the bridge, that the naval had taken his life and that some Italians were shot in the attempt for the boats. These rumors cannot be confirmed in the early conditions attendant on the landing of the survivors.


Chicago Tribune, April 19, 1912, p. 3, c. 3:

Describes Death of Butt

Among the first of the passengers to leave the pier were Washington Dodge, his wife, and his 7 year old son, whose large eyes shone with excitement from beneath the rolls of white mufflers that bound him from head to foot.

A camera man set off a flashlight directly in front of the party, but it only seemed to please the little boy. He shouted with joy. Mr. Dodge said he estimated that the time the ship sank was 12:15 a.m.

He said the last man he saw was Archibald Butt, who was standing stiff and erect on the deck.

Mr. Dodge was asked if he heard any shots. He replied, “Yes.”

“Suicide?” asked a reporter.

“I am afraid so,” said Mr. Dodge.


Chicago Daily Journal, Saturday, April 20, 1912, p. 2, c. 4:

Chief Officer Wilde

Passengers declare they saw him shoot himself and that his body fell into the sea.


Chicago Inter Ocean, Saturday, April 20, 1912, p. 3, c. 4:

Widener Widow Saw Officer Shoot Self

Captain of the Titanic Leaped Into the Sea as Great Vessel Sank,
Declares Woman Who Lost Her Husband and Son in Sea Tragedy


Special Dispatch to the Inter Ocean

Philadelphia, Pa., April 19—In describing her experiences in the sinking of the Titanic Mrs. George D. Widener, whose husband, a wealthy financier of this city, and their son were drowned, said that she had seen Captain Smith of the liner jump from the bridge into the sea, and that, a moment before, she had seen another officer turn a revolver upon himself and send a bullet into his brain.

“Mr. Widener and I had retired to our cabin for the night,” she said, “when the shock of crashing into the iceberg occurred we thought little of it and did not leave our cabin. We must have remained there an hour before becoming fearful. Then Mr. Widener went to our son Harry’s room and brought him to our cabin.

Gave Aid to Officers

“A short time later Harry went out the deck and hurried back and told us that we must go on deck. Mr. Widener and Harry a few minutes later went on deck and aided the officers, who were then having trouble with those in the steerage. That was the last I saw of my husband or son.

“I went on deck and was put into a lifeboat. As the boat pulled away from the Titanic I saw one of the officers shoot himself in the head, and a few minutes later saw Captain Smith jump from the bridge into the sea.”

Both Lost Their Lives

Mr. Widener and his son Harry were among the victims of the disaster.

Mrs. Widener is at her home at Elkins Park, Pa., near here. The entire Widener family, which is among the most prominent in Philadelphia’s financial and social circles, is overcome by the disaster. The family has received messages of sympathy from all parts of the world.



Yes, according to an account by third class Titanic passenger, Carl Janson, who was passing through Chicago on his way west, an officer did take his life moments before the luxury liner sank into the depths of the North Atlantic. The following news item explains:

Chicago American, Thursday, April 25, 1912, p. 2, c. 4:



Remarkable strength of Carl Janson, another of the surviving passengers of the Titanic, kept him alive in the frigid ocean for six hours, hanging to a door with twenty others after the ship sunk. Janson reached Chicago today and told of his terrifying experiences when the queen of the seas went down.

Janson is twenty-one and a robust young man. He was a third cabin passenger and after the wreck was nearly frozen to death. When he reached New York the White Star Line gave him a cheap suit of clothes, an overcoat and $10 in money to sign a release of the line from further damages. Janson lost $50 and all his luggage on the boat.

Janson saw Chief Officer Murdock shoot himself just before the last boat was launched. He gave a graphic story of the sinking of the great liner with its human freight. His story proves that the passengers almost two hours after the ship struck were not warned of the danger that confronted them. The steerage passengers especially, even when told to get up, were given the information that “there is not great danger.”

“I had gone to bed,” said Janson, “and was asleep when I was awakened by stewards, who called out that the ship had struck an iceberg, but that there was no great danger. They told us, however, to get up. That was about 11:30, or more than an hour and five minutes after the Titanic had struck the iceberg.

“I arose and dressed, even putting on my overcoat before going on deck. There did not appear to be any great excitement in the steerage quarters. I went to the top deck. No one attempted to stop me.

“Women and children only were allowed to come out of the steerage after that. Shortly before the last boat was launched I glanced toward the bridge and saw the chief officer place a revolver in his mouth and shoot himself. His body topped overboard. I waited for the last boat to leave and then jumped overboard myself. I was swimming not more than twenty feet from the ship when she upended and went down.
The Titanic did not break in two, though there were two explosions. I saw her propellers as she went under. The suction was small. A door from the wreck was flung near me and I grasped it with more than twenty others. We clung to that door for hours. One by one the others slipped off and sank.

The water after the sinking of the Titanic was dotted with persons and floating ice cakes. The cries and moans continued for hours. I cannot see why more could not have been rescued. It was 7 in the morning when I was picked up.”

Janson left on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway to-day for Swedeburg. Neb., where he has a brother.
Thomas Golembiewski
Posts: 231
Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:13 pm

Re: Suicides Reported Aboard "Titanic"

Postby Arlene Blundell on Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:57 pm

It would seem that the "Chicago Tribune" was more concerned about appearing in print with the magic name "TITANIC".

They do not even bother to spell names correctly, (I.e. First Officer Merdock), indicating that little in the way of research work was conducted in the rush to print.

Reports of three people shot as "Italians" beggars disbelief. Unless gifted with super vision, or a long range linguist shouting information to them, it's hard to see just how they could tell what nationality the three 'victims' were.

Why does this site allow such obvious 'crap' to be posted? Just because it's the "Chicago Tribune"? A quick check and a little common sense can weed out the more outlandish newspaper "reports". Why inflict us with them? Lets face it, the American media is little changed from this period. Still overly concerned with the "drama" and short on factual analysis.

But of course, I'm beginning to suspect that this entire sight is short on replys to straight questions, or even conversation on the level of anything but "MY book, published by....and available at....,"Yes......a fine piece of research, but not as comprehensive as MY ......available at....."......etc etc etc. :lol:
Arlene Blundell
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:59 am

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