If you or anyone you know has had suicidal thoughts, please contact someone for help. Suicide.org offers an international listing of suicide hotlines or helplines throughout the world.
1A bridge in California that boasts so many suicides it is nicknamed the "Suicide Bridge"
While the 1,500-foot-long Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena is not as big and well known a landmark as the others on our list, it has another notorious distinction – it is nicknamed the “Suicide Bridge” for its large number of suicides.
Built in 1913, the bridge is part of the last leg of famed Route 66 and has been designated a historical landmark. It spans the length of the Arroyo Seco, a deeply cut canyon linking the San Gabriel Mountains to the Los Angeles River and is also known in Los Angeles as the spot where approximately 150 people ended their lives.
The bulk of suicides occurred during the Great Depression. One of the more notable stories is that of a despondent mother who threw her baby girl over the railing on May 1, 1937 and jumped after her. She died but the baby landed in some trees and was later rescued from the branches.
The bridge still sees around 10 suicides a year, despite barriers. A search of police records indicates that more than 10 percent of the city’s suicides in the past five years have taken place at the Colorado Street Bridge.
What became of the little girl that was thrown off the bridge? In 1993, she returned to the bridge for its grand reopening ceremony.
2Consumed by burning desires, people take the plunge at Mount Mihara
In 1933, a 21-year-old student, Kiyoko Matsumoto, committed suicide by throwing herself into the volcanic crater of Mount Mihara on the Japanese island of Izu Oshima.
Matsumoto was infatuated with fellow student Masako Tomita, but since lesbian relationships were taboo at the time, she asked Tomita for guidance: “Dearest, I am bewildered to distraction by the perplexities of maturing womanhood. I can stand the strain no longer. What shall I do? I should like to jump into a volcano.”
Tomita took her friend to the perfect place – Mount Mihara. (Ed note: Some friend, huh?)
When Tomita came home, she told school pals the story and the volcano was established as a new suicide venue. To profit from the location’s popularity, The Tokyo Bay Steamship Company set up a daily steamship line to the island and the brim of Mount Mihara. The volocano picked up a new name – “Suicide Point.”
In 1933, the volcano saw 944 people jump into the crater. The following year there were 350 suicides and visitors would often travel to Mount Mihara just to watch people jump.
Soon after, the Mount Mihara suicide epidemic ended through enhanced security to prevent suicides and making it a criminal offense to purchase a one-way ticket to the island.
As for Tomita, she died two years after taking Matsumoto to meet her death, cause unknown. We can only wonder if karmic retribution was somehow involved.
3The "Angel Of The Gap" saves lives in Australia
The cliffs that make up The Gap are currently home to the largest number of suicides in Australia. The locale has been a popular suicide spot since the 1800’s.
In the 2000’s, funding was okayed for a higher fence and security cameras in the area, but sometimes it’s the human touch that makes all the difference.
Enter Don Ritchie, “The Angel Of The Gap.”
For 50 years he lived across the street from The Gap and when he saw someone a bit too close to the edge, he would walk over and ask them if they’d like a nice cup of tea. He saved over 160 people that way.
In 2012, the Angel of The Gap passed away, leaving behind a legacy of love and care that have been greatly missed.
4Beachy Head has been a suicide spot since the 17th Century
The stunning white cliffs of Beachy Head in England have a dark secret – they are home to the largest number of suicides in Britain.
Beachy Head is located close to the town of Eastbourne in the county of East Sussex and is a heavily patrolled area. Regardless, the site sees about 20 suicides a year. The earliest reports of deaths come from as far back as the 1600’s.
The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team have been patrolling the cliffs since 2004 to reach out to those in distress. As of January 2013, the Chaplaincy Team has saved the lives of 252 people and hopes with additional volunteers and funding they will be able end the suicide epidemic at Beachy Head for good.
5The most photographed bridge in the world is also the largest suicide site in America
Since San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, there have been more than 1600 confirmed suicides, but the real number of people who have jumped from this spot is unknown. Ocean currents are strong around the San Francisco Bay and people can be carried out to sea long before they can be recovered. Still, with 1600 suicides and counting, the Golden Gate Bridge is the top suicide spot in the U.S.
In the 80s and 90s, health care professionals asked the media to remain quiet about the number of suicides on the bridge in hopes that would slow down copycat behavior, but the numbers didn’t go down, they went up. The strategy changed and suicide prevention advocates became vocal about the deaths at the Golden Gate.
In June 2014, San Francisco approved a $76 million dollar plan to install a steel safety net that would extend from the bridge 20 feet below and 20 feet from the side of its span. The net would collapse slightly if someone were to fall in, making it difficult for a person to exit without assistance. However, many hope the mere presence of a net will dissuade people from jumping at all.
For more on the Golden Gate suicides, check out the 2006 documentary, The Bridge.
6The subway system where bodies are stored in the cupboards
The Tube, or London Underground, has been a suicide destination since it opened in the 19th century.
Starting in 1940, the rate of suicides in Tube stations was about 25 a year. That rate increased to about 100 a year by the 80s. Officials say this is less than expected considering more people ride the trains than they did in the 40’s.
64% of suicide attempts in London Tube stations are usually made by young men. It’s also worth noting that stations located near psychiatric hospitals have a higher incident of attempts, because a large percentage of victims were inpatients – at one station it was calculated at 55%.
Some stations have what are known as “suicide pits.” The pits were originally constructed to drain water, but they have since had a different purpose – they reduce the number of injuries and deaths as they likely allow people who jump to escape the train’s wheels.
In 2012, it was revealed in a documentary that suicides are often stored in cleaning cupboards and storerooms until an undertaker can collect the bodies.
7A suicide site that is too big to be secured
“Suicide Season” at Niagara Falls usually starts after Memorial Day weekend in late May. Each year, approximately 20-25 people decide to end it all at the Falls, which makes it second only to the Golden Gate as a suicide destination in the U.S.
Local historian Paul Gromosiak estimates there have been 2,780 known suicides there between 1856 and 1995, but like the Golden Gate the number is probably much higher because many bodies are never recovered.
Gromosiak claims the most popular day for someone to kill themselves at the Falls is on a Monday, and the most popular time is at 4 p.m. Traditionally, as seasons change from spring to summer, the number of deaths increases and culminates in an “orgy of death” in September.
The American Journal of Public Health in 1991 showed that 59 percent of jumpers are male and 41 percent female (an unusually high number in that the nationwide total for suicidal women is a mere 24%).
For many years, the owners and operators of Maid Of The Mist excursion boats (the boats that take tourists close to the Falls) had a lucrative side business of pulling bodies out the water.
8The peaceful forest at the base of Mt. Fuji that is the largest suicide site in Japan
Aokigahara, a 30 square kilometer tract of woodland in Yamanashi Prefecture on the northwest flank of 3,776-meter Mount Fuji, has earned the nickname “Suicide Forest” because it is the most popular suicide destination in all of Japan.
Police records show that 247 people attempted to kill themselves there in 2010, and 54 actually completed the act, but that number could be significantly higher considering many people come to the Aokigahara forest and end up dead in another wooded area because they don’t exactly know where the forest is.
The area is heavily patrolled and people are discovered in different states of consciousness. What is certain, according to police, is that the number of attempts will continue to rise as Japan’s economy has suffered its greatest contraction in over 30 years.
The forest itself has an eerie history. After the novel Kuroi Jukai was published in 1961, in which a young lover commits suicide in the forest, people started taking their own lives there at a rate of 50 to 100 deaths a year.
It is also believed ubasute may have been practiced there in the 19th century – a custom in which an infirmed or elderly relative was carried to a remote place and left to die of starvation, dehydration or exposure.
9An icon of French ingenuity is also a popular suicide site
Because the French government doesn’t want to draw attention to the Eiffel Tower as a suicide destination, it is difficult to find exact numbers, but we are assured it’s a lot. Jumping off of the “Iron Lady” is the third most popular means of suicide in France (preceded by poison and hanging). Despite all the security measures taken, where there’s a will there’s a way.
The first known suicide at the Eiffel Tower was committed by a 23-year-old man who hanged himself from one of the beams in 1898. Of all the Tower suicides, two people actually survived after jumping from the first floor, which has a 171 foot drop. One person was blown onto a rafter by the wind. The other, a woman, landed on a car and rumor has it she eventually married the owner of the vehicle.
10A small bridge in Scotland where canines go to end it all
What is causing the dogs on Overtoun Bridge in Milton, near Dumbarton, Scotland to kill themselves?
For the past 50 years, approximately 50 dogs have jumped to their deaths from the exact same spot on the Overtoun Bridge. All the deaths have taken place on sunny, clear days and even stranger, all the dogs in question were long nose breeds – labs, collies and the like.
Vets, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and locals are stumped. Some believe that there is a supernatural force at work, propelling the dogs to jump, but perhaps there is a more scientific explanation.
Canine psychologist Dr. David Sands was called in to investigate. He walked 19-year-old Hendrix – the only dog to known to have survived the fall – over the bridge.
When the dog approached the spot where it jumped, it tensed up, but was too old to make the leap. Sands concluded one of his senses must have been piqued, but at what?
Beneath the bridge he found mice, mink and squirrels. After testing the three scents on 10 different dogs, 70% made straight for the mink scent. And so far this has been the most plausible explanation – the strong musty smell emitted by minks, exaggerated on dry and sunny days, must have proved irresistible to dogs.
Why did the dogs pick this bridge over all the others in Scotland? Simple, says Dr. Sands, “When you get down to a dog’s level, the solid granite of the bridge’s 18-inch-thick walls obscures their vision and blocks out all sound. As a result, the one sense not obscured, that of smell, goes into overdrive.”