Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
Sept. 20, 1907
For weeks, Colorado mining investor John Geisel, 57, had confided in his diary as he felt his mind and his life coming unraveled “Good God,” he wrote, “for the first time today I began to fear that I could not control my thoughts.”
At last, he took a walk from the Natick Hotel, 108 W. 1st St. Crossing the Los Angeles River, Geisel found a large pepper tree on Pecan Street, and sat down. That’s where some neighborhood boys found him, sprawled next to a bottle of poison mixed with whisky. A note in his pocket said: “I wish my son Charles was here to comfort me, but he cannot know that I wish it. I hope everyone will forgive me. I would not tell what I was about to do for I knew they would interfere with me. I knew that I would never be right again and I could not stand that.”
Investigation showed that Geisel had lived a forthright life, but had recently become obsessed with the idea that he was dishonest and he brooded on it night and day. His diary, found in his room at the Natick, revealed his chronicle of mental collapse. “It seems a man can be off in the head and very few people know it,” he wrote.
Elsewhere, he wrote: “Everything is boiling and bubbling and I can’t think straight.”
He hid his troubles from everyone. “At times he would be unnaturally cheerful and again he would silently spend hours at a time in his room, scribbling away on scraps of paper,” The Times said.
“His failing mind began to force upon him the idea that he was dishonest. At points in his diary his sentences were pathetic. It was the fight of a man who had been honest all his life against what he considered a dishonest thing. He seemed to be horrified at the idea of being dishonest,” The Times said.
Less than a week before his suicide, Geisel came to Los Angeles from Denver with his son Charles to discuss some mining property and while they were in the desert, Geisel suffered from sunstroke, The Times said.
“If I made a mistake about those claims, I don’t want to live any more,” he wrote. “Why should a man bring his friends and even his son into the God-forsaken desert for nothing.”
His last entry: “I am sure I am going wrong and I will not stand for it.”
Contents of the Natick Hotel, built in 1883, were auctioned off in 1950, with marble-topped washstands and dressers selling for $15-$20. The building where Teddy Roosevelt and Enrico Caruso once stayed was demolished to make way for—a parking lot.