In today’s digital world, a television host’s suicide on air would be highly publicized. However, Christine Chubbuck’s death in 1974 made only a few headlines before her story faded away.
Chubbuck’s death is considered the first televised suicide in history, according to one of two Sundance films about the tragic tale. She shot herself in the head on air at a Sarasota, Florida, news station.
Her family got an injunction preventing the release of the video of the incident, according an article published Thursday by People. After being seized by authorities, it was given to her mother, Peg.
"I don't know to this day where it is," her brother Greg told People in an interview published Thursday. "But I know no one knows where it is and no one ever will if I have anything to say about it."
The morning talkshow, titled “Suncoast Digest,” started off as normal on Monday, July 15, 1974, according to a profile written shortly after her suicide. Chubbuck began a segment about an officer involved shooting when the footage jammed. Then, she began to calmly read: “We bring you another first.”
Her voice was steady as she looked into the camera and said: “An attempted suicide.” It was at this point that she brought her right hand up from under her desk, according to the profile. In it was a .38 caliber revolver.
She pointed to the lower back of her head and pulled the trigger. After a loud crack, her hair flew in her face as if a gust of wind had passed over it, according to the profile. Her face made a contorted look, and her body fell forward onto the anchor desk and slipped out of sight. The 29-year-old died 15 hours later at a local hospital.
Chubbuck’s brother Greg told People Christine interviewed a deputy a few weeks before the incident.
"She asked him if someone were to kill themselves where they would put the gun to make sure it was effective," Greg said. "I learned this from the deputy sheriff. He was in tears."
Christine Chubbuck grew up in the suburb of Hudson, Ohio, located a half-hour away from Akron, Greg told People. She obtained a broadcasting degree from Boston University then worked at the Florida news station. He said his parents spent over $1 million on psychiatrists and psychologists over 20 years to "help Chrissie find peace."
Greg told People he believes his sister had bipolar disorder, though she was only treated with depression. Her emotions were also tested when her 23-year-old boyfriend was killed in a car accident when she was 16.
The tragic story of her life is the subject of two movies 40 years later that eerily debuted at Sundance Film Festival last month at the same time. One, entitled “Christine,” stars Rebecca Hall and follows the journalist’s downward spiral. The second film, “Kate Plays Christine,” is a documentary that follows “House of Cards” actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to play the journalist.
"My family adored my sister," Greg told People. "She was an interesting, gifted, flawed person."