The Ironic Suicide

Item (direct transcription):

There was a legend, a tale, about a man who tried to commit suicide. And he tried to use three methods. Ironically, the three methods ended up canceling each other, and he ended up living. Here goes the tale. The tale goes like this:

He’s standing right at the edge of a bridge. [The informant uses a water bottle as a prop. He pushes it to the edge of a counter.] So already, you already know his first method of committing suicide: he’s going to hang himself. So he tries to hang himself. That’s method one. Method two is he wants to blow his brains out, so he has a pistol right by his side. And then in his other hand, he has a poison capsule. So, he has to do it very carefully.

First he puts the poison capsule inside his mouth, swallows it, waits a while, then he gets out the gun, then he jumps! And then, he tries to pull the trigger, but then, the rope yanks his head, and he ended up pulling the gun out of his mouth, but he still pulled the trigger. [He acts out all of these events.] The gun, the bullet breaks the rope, so he ends up not hanging himself and he ends up not shooting himself in the head. And because the water is so not-too-distant away from him, he doesn’t die from hitting the water. Now, the water is salty—it’s sea water, and he ends up—Ugh! [vomit noise]—swallowing a great gallon, half a gallon of salt water. And then he ends up throwing up the poison capsule that was in his stomach. So he ends up canceling out all his suicide methods, by using his suicide methods!

Background Information:

The informant first heard this tale in high school. He has remembered it and enjoys telling it because his audiences tend to respond well to it. In his opinion, the story has a captivating hook and a hilarious conclusion.

He does not believe that the story was true, because he finds it “outlandish.” Interestingly, the gender of the story’s character seems to influence that belief. The informant claims that men tend to kill themselves using simple and direct methods (e.g. jumping from a height or using a gun), whereas women are more likely to use complex and unreliable methods of suicide (e.g. inhaling carbon monoxide or overdosing on sleeping pills). Since the story’s character is a man, the informant finds it unlikely that he would use three methods of suicide, rather than just one.

Contextual Information:

The informant performs the tale in order to entertain an audience. He enhances the performance by acting out the story as he tells it.


The story uses the common Western storytelling motif of threes (i.e. three suicide methods).