Man Leaps to Death From Washington Monument

Washington Monument from above
Washington Monument from above

This is a morbid story from The Baltimore Sun, printed on March 10th, 1923. What is extremely striking is how graphic the depiction was back then.

Washington, March 9.–For the first time in the 35 years that the Washington Monument has been completed a man today hurled himself from the top of the shaft to instant death, when he hit the concrete pavement 504 feet below.

Albert Birney Seip, a war veteran, of 1694 Lanier street northwest, made the leap from the south window of the monument about 1 o’clock this afternoon. At the time he was the only visitor in the top of the shaft and only one person could be found who witnessed the death plunge.

The guard on duty in the observation platform of the monument said that a party of tourists had just started descending in the elevator at the time Seip made the jump and that he did not know that anyone except himself was in the top of the shaft. The guard at the top was unaware of the tragedy until he received a telephone message from the guard at the bottom. Seip is believed to have walked up the steps to the top of the monument, reaching there just after the elevator had started down. The guard was on the north side of the elevator shaft and could not see the south window, through which the man climbed.

Seip’s body is believed to have struck the walk almost in an oblique position with the head and right arm probably hitting first. Every bone was crushed almost to a pulp. About the head was found a pool of blood and the right hand was discolored. He hit face downward.

Seip, who was 25 years old, had been suffering from mental trouble for three or four years. A few years ago he was a student at Cornell University, where he is said to have had his first mental breakdown, following overstudy.

Mrs. Seip, the mother, went to the morgue several hours after the tragedy and made arrangements for the transfer of the body to an undertaking establishment. Mrs. Seip’s father is said to have been American Ambassador to France during the Hayes administration, while her late husband is reported to have been a wealthy Michigan lumberman.

Only once before has a death leap been made from the monument and that was down the elevator shaft in the interior and not from one of the windows. In February, 1915, Mrs. Mae Varney Cockrell, of Covington, Ky.. jumped into the elevator shaft from the third highest landing in the structure and was instantly killed by the fall of 500 feet. It also is said that a workman accidentally fell from the monument and was killed when it was about half completed.

Such a sad, sad story. You can also read about Mrs. Cockrell here.

Albert was born on July 17th, 1893 (so he was actually 30 years not, not 25 as reported) and was a soldier in World War I, inevitably being exposed to the horrors of war, likely causing PTSD, leading to his mental troubles. Below is his draft registration.

- click image for more -
Albert B. Seip's World War I draft registration
Albert B. Seip’s World War I draft registration

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Mindforms

    So, there are three landings in the last 4 feet of the monument’s height?

  • SHGTUS

    Looks like his father is buried in Arlington. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=76864132 Great tragedy. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kevin J. Connor

    If you read the registration card carefully, you will see that Seip had been in the DC National Guard for 2 years at that time. The registration was dated June 5, 1917, about 2 months after the US entry into WWI. It would be another 10 months before any US troops saw combat, in the spring of 1918. A very small percentage of US troops saw combat at all, with the war ending 6 months later in November 1918. Moreover, Seip was applying for an exemption from service, on account of “extreme nervous prostration”. Thus, it is not clear from the information presented, whether he actually was drafted at all, or served in the war, or whether he was exempted for mental issues. It certainly cannot be said that “he was a soldier in World War I, inevitably being exposed to the horrors of war, likely causing PTSD, leading to his mental troubles”. He already had mental troubles, and it is unclear whether he served in WWI at all. So, just nitpicking, but your 21st century assumption of PTSD being the cause of his problems is not supported by the facts you present.

    • ArrrB

      Good catch!