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Death Becomes Them

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Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous, and the Notorious


The weather in Sussex, London is brisk; the sun shining. The large stones are smooth in her hands. Solid and heavy in her pockets. They bulge from her coat. Though she found herself in this exact position, standing by the river, ready to end her life days ago, she failed. She returned home drenched, body shivering from the cold. But today she knows more. Today she has the rocks.

Virginia Woolf spent most of her life in one of two states: writing or fighting a bipolar/manic depressiveness which went undiagnosed until after she’d drowned herself on March 28th, 1941. Three weeks later her body was discovered by a group of children playing near the water.

Each of the 20 legendary luminaries unearthed in Alix Strauss’ Death Becomes Them was brilliant, creative and of course, suicidal. Manic, bipolar, depressed and suffering from addiction, these geniuses were also self-destructive.

Death Becomes Them is an eye-opening and intimate portrait of the lonely, sad and nightmarish lives these famous folks led. Along with being an historic overview of suicide, Strauss’ book delves into the deaths of our most influential cultural icons: Sylvia Plath, Adolf Hitler, Diane Arbus, Sigmund Freud, Vincent van Gogh, Abbie Hoffman, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Cobain, Spalding Gray, and Anne Sexton, among others. The deaths are as diverse as the person that killed themselves. Some are tragic – Dorothy Dandridge was found naked on her bathroom floor, a handful of anti-depressants swimming in her system. Others are bizarre – Hunter S. Thompson shot himself while on the phone with his wife in an eerie, copycat tribute to his hero, Ernest Hemingway who killed himself in a similar way forty-four years earlier.

While Strauss explores some of the most talked about and monumental suicides of the past she examines our own morbid fascination, asking why we have become so fixated on these tortured souls. While paying tribute to their lives, focus is placed on their final days and the incidents that led up to the moment when they took their last breath.

Strauss decodes their suicide notes, touches on their accomplishments and delves into the methodology of their deaths by documented autopsy and police reports, death certificates, obituaries, and personal photos. Lists regarding controversial, bizarre, famous and poorly executed suicides along with unusual facts and statistics are found in this mammoth tome.

  • It takes about 90 seconds to pass out and 4 minutes to die if you put a plastic bag over your head. Even more unsettling, the bag doesn’t need to be tied at the bottom for the lungs to be deprived of oxygen.

  • Called a suicide magnet, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular location in the world to jump from.

  • Actor David Strickland, who hung himself in a cheap hotel room in Vegas, falls into the category of the group most apt to leave suicide notes. The most common knot used is the slipknot, which is usually placed at the side of the neck.

  • Musician Elliott Smith – who stabbed himself in the chest – chose one of the rarest methods.

  • The leading method of killing yourself, a gun, is easy, fast, painless, efficient and accounts for approx 52% of all suicides. ‘Pulling a Hemingway’ or the ‘Hemingway Solution’ refers to someone who killed themselves placing a shotgun to the head.


Written in a creative, descriptive and informative tone, Death Becomes Them is a private, provocative and personal tribute to these lost souls—a fond remembrance and a final goodbye.

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