Naked suicide plague streaks across USA

Three recent unsuccessful attempts suggest a clothing-optional development in self-destruction.

By Hank Hyena

Published November 19, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Nov. 19, 1999

Is there an urge to face death as naked as a newborn babe? Do we want to exit existence wearing only the skin of our entrance? Three self-snuffing-in-the-buff attempts have occurred in the last 23 days in Maryland, Texas and California.

Forty-four-year-old Robert Pearson scaled the roof of a three-story building in downtown Houston on Veteran's Day. Screaming at the transfixed onlookers, he tore off his garments and heaved them to the pavement below. (His boxers were "striped," reported the following day's Houston Chronicle.) Pearson hovered buck-naked near the ledge for three hours before accepting a sheet from a negotiator who escorted him to Ben Taub Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

On Tuesday, an unidentified 35-year-old woman wearing only a T-shirt climbed 100 feet up a utility tower in Clinton, Md. Electrocution would have been her crackly demise if Potomac Electric Power Company hadn't switched off the juice, notes the Washington Post. Once again, it took three hours of persuasion before the bottomless woman descended for her subsequent psychiatric evaluation at Prince George's Hospital Center.

The final, freakiest nude suicide effort occurred at the University of California at Santa Cruz at 1 a.m. on Oct. 25. Ronjon Sen, 19, was strolling in the center of McLaughlin Drive in his birthday suit when he was struck by a Toyota. When the startled driver leapt out to offer assistance, Sen stole the car! The undressed auto thief sped away but immediately crashed, notes that day's San Jose Mercury News. Sen won't receive his psychiatric evaluation until he recovers sufficiently from his injuries at Stanford University Medical Center.

Is there a link between nakedness, insanity and suicidal behavior? Dr. Lee Slome, a San Francisco clinical psychologist, suggests, "Their behavior might be a regressive act; they want to return to the condition they were born in, the original birth scenario, a safer existence that excludes the complex suffering that they now experience."

Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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