This Florida News Anchor Killed Herself On The Air And Her Brief Speech Is Chilling

Considering the level of violence on TV today, it's no wonder that most people hardly even pause when they hear about murder and mayhem on the local news. The Hollywood version of dying has desensitized most of society to the degree that it shouldn't even be a surprise when videos of the real thing become so popular. From the video Faces of Death to people who took their own lives on TV, there are always those who want to witness the genuine article. 

Such was definitely not the case back in the mid-'70s when just cartoon violence and mild profanity were thought to be a bit too much. It was during this time that the first on-air suicide occurred, and the shock was absolute. The questions were endless. But unlike the ones who would follow in the digital age, the video of Christine Chubbuck taking her life was viewed only by the TV audience and her colleagues at the station, leaving everyone else to wonder what happened. Almost 50 years later and nearly all the questions have yet to be answered, and the video footage itself remains a mystery.

  • Reporter Christine Chubbuck Committed The Act On Live TV

    Twenty-nine-year-old Christine Chubbuck, the morning host of Sun Coast Digest on WXLT in Sarasota, FL, arrived to work at 9 AM on July 15, 1974. Chubbuck's co-workers stated she was in an unusually good mood that day. Instead of starting the show with an interview like Chubbuck usually did, she decided to begin the program with a report of a local shooting. There were a few issues with the pre-recorded video footage and a moment of dead air before Chubbuck returned to her script and began reading.

    She stated, "In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first: an attempted suicide.” Chubbuck then reached into a bag, took out a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, and shot herself behind her right ear. 

    Chubbuck was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead approximately 14 hours after the shooting.

  • She Wrote A News Story To Follow Her Actions

    After Chubbuck carried out her plan, the studio's technical director immediately played a public service announcement from the station followed by a movie. After Chubbuck was taken to the hospital, the news director, Mike Simmons, looked over a blood-splattered stack of papers, which was Chubbuck's script from that morning, and it detailed her plans. It is assumed that Chubbuck wrote the piece and left it to be read by a news reporter. 

  • Chubbuck Struggled With Depression

    Chubbuck Struggled With Depression
    Photo: Christine / The Orchard

    Throughout her life, Chubbuck had suffered from depression and had seen several different psychiatrists for treatment. Her brother Greg noted that their parents had spent a great deal of money trying to figure out what was wrong with their daughter. In the '70s, depression wasn't treated as it is today, and it was viewed as a character flaw rather than a medical illness. During an interview, Greg stated he believed that Chubbuck suffered from bipolar disorder, although that was not a known condition when she was still living. 

  • Family Members Speculated That Chubbuck Was Depressed Over Her Love Life

    Peg Chubbuck gave an interview to a local newspaper while at the hospital shortly before her daughter's passing. In it, she talks about her daughter saying: "She was terribly, terribly, terribly depressed. She had a job that she loved. She said constantly that if it ended tomorrow, she would still be glad she had had it. But she had nothing else in her social life. No close friends, no romantic attachments or prospects of any. She was a spinster at 29, and it bothered her. She couldn’t register with people."

    Her family explained that Chubbuck often complained about still being a virgin and not being married. She had also had an ovary removed, and doctors told her if she wanted to have children, she would need to try to do so quickly. While all of these things may have led to sadness in her life, it's highly doubtful they were the core reason for her depressive state. Rather, it's likely to have been caused by untreated mental illness.

  • There Were Warning Signs

    On July 8, 1975, a week before Chubbuck committed the act, she casually told the night news reporter, 22-year-old Rob Smith, that she had bought a gun. When Smith inquired as to why Chubbuck would purchase a firearm, she responded: " Well, I thought it would be a nifty idea if I went on the air live and just blew myself away,” after which she laughed. Smith did not take her seriously and changed the subject to something lighter. 

    Also that same week, Greg Chubbuck, Chubbuck's brother, and his fiance went to visit her and use her washing machine. Greg recalls his sister told him how depressed she was and how she no longer felt like living. He quoted her as saying: "I’m thinking about killing myself, and I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do." Her brother asked whether she wanted to talk about it, but she shrugged him off, telling him they could have that conversation some other time. 

  • She Asked Her Boss To Do A Segment On The Topic Weeks Before

    Several weeks before she passed, Chubbuck asked the news director, Mike Simmons, if she could work on a news segment about people who end their lives. While doing research for the piece, Chubbuck reached out to the local police department to talk about different methods people typically use. One of the officers she spoke to informed her that using a gun, specifically a .38 caliber pistol, is the most efficient.

    Additionally, the police told her that a person shouldn't point the gun at their temple, but instead, at the lower back of the head. Chubbuck seemed to have used the officers' advice for her own means.