Suicide Of Harold Speakman, September 24, 1928

Harold Speakman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right temple from a 32 cal. automatic pistol. His suicide occurred on, or near, the 26th & East River Drive ambulance entryway to Bellevue Hospital, Manhattan, New York at approximately 5:45 a.m. on September 24, 1928. He was attended in the hospital by the duty surgeon, Dr. Stump, and died at approximately 7:14 a.m.

Per his obituary, he was picked up at 83rd & Broadway at approximately 5:30 a.m. by a cab driven by Frank McGlynn of Brooklyn. Although the weather was reported to have been chilly, Speakman wore a light, grey summer suit and straw hat. The driver described Speakman, who carried a suitcase, as “highly excited.” After paying the driver, Speakman walked a few paces up the hospital drive, pulled the pistol and fired.

The shot brought Dr. Stump, hospital clerk Samuel Hess, and a policeman to the scene. The entry wound to the right temple, and exit wound through the left parietal, were both approximately 3/4″ in size. Speakman was taken into the hospital on a stretcher, and died without regaining consciousness.

Per the New York Times, on Speakman were found two notes (neither recovered by the Medical Examiner).
The first read:

“To Whom It May Concern. Get the police, ambulance and take me to where the bodies belong. You will receive further instructions later as to what to do with me.”

The second, addressed to the “Resident physician of Bellevue Hospital,” stated that he had been unable to obtain relief from a long illness and was going to meet “a man riding a white horse.” The cab driver was also reported to have heard Speakman mention a man on a white horse.

At the time of his death, Speakman was living with his wife at 45 Tiemann Place, several blocks north of Columbia University. Although entering a cab approximately 2.25 miles from his home, it is not known whether Speakman reached 83rd & Broadway by walking directly from Tiemann Place, or by a circuitous route, or directly from some other residence or establishment within the adjoining neighborhood.

Neither of the above suicide notes, nor letters to family members, have been recovered. Since Speakman’s half-brothers are believed to have received farewell letters, it is likely he left home (or the last place he was able to write such letters) with the intent to commit suicide. It is therefore likely the suicide notes were also written before he began his early morning walk. However, it is possible those notes were written in the cab.

The fact that Speakman carried a suitcase gives rise to some speculation. The suitcase contents, if any, are unknown, and apparently were of no interest to the press or police. If Speakman left home directly, with the intent to commit suicide on the steps of Bellevue, it seems a suitcase was superfluous.

All of the above taken into consideration, my sense is that he wrote the notes and farewell letters at home in the early morning hours, walked two miles down Broadway alone in his thoughts, and then either due to fatigue, resolution, or opportunity hailed the cab and went to Bellevue. Given a walking speed of four miles per hour, and not taking into consideration stops, then he may have left Tiemann Place about 5:00 a.m.

Sources:

  • Obituary from New York Times, 9/25/28
  • Report of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York (Case 5402), 9/24/28
  • Report of Death to Medical Examiner By Bellevue Hospital, 9/24/28
  • Notice of Death, 9/24/28, filed with District Attorney, 9/28/28
  • Report of the New York Police Department, Precinct 8-A, 9/29/28