June 21, 1930
New Haven, Connecticut
A man throws his wife and four children from a cliff before jumping to his own death
Raymond Sprang had been confined to the veteran’s hospital after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder (at the time referred to as “manic depression”). He escaped but explained to his family he had been cured and released. To celebrate, the family went on a picnic at a rocky summit.
Bystanders were first alerted to an issue when Mrs. Sprang began yelling and waving her arms to attract their attention. As they looked up, according to the Sunday News (New York, NY) June 22, 1930, “Sprang ran up behind her and kicked her. She plunged headforemost and landed on a ledge 300 feet below. Death was almost instantaneous.”
As the horrified witnesses watched, their cries brought more to the scene. Police and firefighters were called but, before they could arrive, Sprang “dragged Helen, his 12-year-old daughter screaming at the top of her voice up to the ledge. He lifted her above his head and held her screaming and kicking there for nearly three minutes. Then he hurled her over.” He repeated the process with Lorraine (7), Raymond Jr. (5), and Donald (3). The four children were not thrown as far as their mother and landed in some brush about 20 feet down. Each survived this attempt on their lives. One of the witnesses to the murder-suicide took a photograph of one of the victims being hurled over the side of the cliff (pictured, published in The Muncie Morning Star [Muncie, IN] June 25, 1930).
At this time, witnesses with access to guns began shooting at Sprang, but none hit their target. Sprang descended the cliff face to his injured children, and resumed throwing them. This time, they landed close to their mother. All died instantly or very shortly after except Raymond Jr. who died in the hospital approximately an hour later.
Sprang then jumped from the cliff, falling some 100 feet, though he was not killed. He threw rocks at the bystanders as a firefighter was lowered on a rope to apprehend Sprang. The rope was too short to reach the ledge Sprang was on. He leapt from the cliff again, this time successfully killing himself.