An Elaborate Contrivance for Suicide

One hundred years ago a delusional Superior man hung himself in his home in front of a wall painted with a crucifix. The June 19, 1921 suicide was reported in the Duluth Herald on June 20.

The text of the article is below.

Hangs self upon self-made cross
Arthur A. McDonald of Superior victim of mania.

Suspended upon the most elaborate contrivance for suicide ever seen in this section of the country, the body of Arthur A. McDonald was found hanging upon the wall of his home at 308 West Second street, Superior, in an attitude of crucifixion, about 3 p.m. yesterday. Upon the wall was painted an elaborate cross, the preparation of which must have taken a week or more. Nude, except for a white leather apron, a blue sash and a crucifix hung about his neck, McDonald fastened a multi-colored silk scarf to a hook at the top of the painted upright, twisted it about his neck and slid his feet off the platform which he had constructed at the bottom. Fred Trombley, 305 West Third street, who bad been dickering with McDonald for the sale of the house, found the body in this position at 3 p.m. and notified the police of the East end.

Had Photos Taken.

Before hanging himself, McDonald had taken pictures of himself standing in the position upon the platform, had developed the negatives, made prints and fixed them upon the wall near the crucifix. A note addressed to Sergeant Henry O’Brien of the East end police force, about $300 in currency and another crucifix were found in the room.

The cross upon which McDonald took his life was painted upon the wall in gilt. It was about six and a half feet high. Outside of this were two concentric circles, also in gilt, between which were painted letters and inscriptions in gold paint edged with black. At the bottom of the circle was painted. “I. W. W., Superior, Wis.,” and the date. At the top of the circle, the inscription, “A. A. McDd.” was painted, below which was another “I” with the letters “W” at each end of his arms. Hooks were fastened in the wall at each end of the arms and also at the base to hold the feet in position. A platform at the base, intended to be kicked out, held the man in position, while he
fastened the scarf.

Had Planned to Wed.

Upon another wall was found a calendar with the date, July 19, marked with an arrow. Residents of the neighborhood said that McDonald was to have been married yesterday, but difficulties with his fiancée intervened. He had invited the neighbors to his house yesterday, saying that there would be a “big crowd and much excitement.”

That the man was insane was evident from the character of the inscriptions, the letter left for Sergeant O’Brien and the reputation he had in the East end. According to Clarence Erlanson of the Erlanson Lumber company and Patrolman Walker of the police force his mania was a combination of religious obsessions, delusions concerning persecution, and radical social ideas.

The letter addressed to Sergeant O’Brien read as follows:

“Please call H. F. O’Brien to take care of the body, for I am going to the moon or to McKinnon.

Had “Great Work Ahead.”

“Please Mr. O’Brien, take care of me. I leave $300 for my burying under the cross and get this warranty deed and my suitcase under the table to Martha Dittler, Allouez, for I need nothing in this world only to complete this great work of mine.

“Good-by, Mr. O’Brien.”

The Miss Dittler referred to has not yet been located. She resides with a family named H. Ekholm, 179 East Sixth street, Allouez, but police have failed to get into touch with her as yet.

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