If any corrections appeared in the 1904 Press Democrat, they were small and well hidden. But here the editor almost admits that the paper got everything wrong.
With a rare, screaming two column headline, the dramatic suicide attempt and imminent death of Grant Moulton is reported with his pleading last words, “write to mother,” repeated no less than four times. Ahead, the grave yawns.
After pronouncing Mr. Moulton virtually dead, he awkwardly survives to contradict the paper. A followup the next day sucks the air out of the melodrama: “I guess I was drunk,” sheepishly explains the nearly departed.
The claim that he lived because he took too much poison is nuts (although records show people sometime survive large strychnine doses). It’s also unclear why the editor felt it was important to punch up the story by claiming that he miraculously recovered from a massive dose, and whether it’s the doctor or the editor saying “too much of a bad thing” is good. The treatment for strychnine at the time was diluted tannic acid.
MAN SEEKS DEATH BY THE GRIM STRYCHNINE ROUTE
TRAGIC AFFAIR IN TOWN LAST NIGHT
EMPTIED POISON INTO A GLASS AND WITH AGONIZING CRY DRANK THE DRUG
“Just Say Good-bye to Mother,” His Parting Instructions to a Companion — Son of Wealthy Woman
“Here’s to you, Henry, for the last time. Write to mother.”
With this farewell Grant Moulton drained a glass containing strychnine, in the Call saloon, across the Third street bridge, about half past eight o’clock Thursday night, threw the empty glass defiantly across the room and in a few minutes lay writhing on the floor.
It all happened so suddenly that Henry Buzzoni, the proprietor of the saloon and the man Moulton had addressed, was taken completely by surprise. He recovered from the shock quickly and sent a hurried telephone message to Dr. J. H. McLeod. The physician responded immediately and administered emetics. The doctor worked over the unconcious man for some time and finally he regained consciousness. He was put to bed in the room back of the saloon and it is a matter of doubt whether he will recover.
Prior to taking the poison Moulton ansked Buzzoni, who was seated in a room adjacent to the bar, to give him a glass of beer. Buzzoni advised him not to take beer. “Well, give me a glass of water then?” “All right,” was Buzzoni’s response and at the same time he told the barkeeper to give Moulton a glass of water. Moulton took the glass in hand, hesitated a few moments, then emptied the strychnine crystals into the water, and with the words, “Write to mother,” dashed it to his lips.
The motive for Moulton’s rash act is said to have been a love affair, and the girl in case resides in this county. The saloon man says Moulton in a conversation with him Thursday afternoon mentioned that he had been unjustly accused of having wronged the girl. At the conclusion of the conversation, so Buzzoni says, the young man pulled out his pocket book and memorandum book and handed them to him with the injunction: “If anything happens to me give this pocket book to mother. You will find some addresses in it. Be sure and write to mother.”
Buzzoni did not take the matter seriously. Moulton is said to have attended school in this city years ago. He is apparently thirty or thirty-five years of age now. His mother resides on Twenty-fifth street in Oakland and is reputed to be a wealthy woman. An effort was made Thursday night to reach her by telephone, but as the street number was not known she could not be apprised until morning. There is no doubt as to his having take strychnine as some of the poison adhered to the glass and was examined by the physician after he arrived at the saloon.– Press Democrat September 23, 1904
SAYS DRINK MUST HAVE NERVED HIM
MOULTON OFFERS AS EXPLANATION OF HIS SUICIDAL ACT THAT HE WAS INTOXICATED
His Statement Contradicted but Anyway He Was Feeling Better Yesterday and Was Wondering Why
“I guess I was drunk when I got the strychnine.” was the explanation Grant Moulton offered yesterday morning of his attempt to shuffle off this mortal coil by the strychnine route on Thursday night at the Call saloon. When Dr. McLeod called to see the man he was not surprised to find him somewhat better although still very sick. For one reason Moulton had taken too big a dose of strychnine to end his life — there is such a thing as taking too much of a bad thing you know — and the emetic administered was a strong one as after symptoms testified.
Anyway when the doctor called to see young Moulton yesterday morning he found his patient better and only able to explain his action by saying that he was drunk when he took it. This latter statement according to the saloonman’s version of the happening is not correct. He says that Moulton took the poison with a pretty steady nerve and with a determination that was surprising. Moulton’s mother came up from Oakland to see him yesterday. Unless unlooked for symptoms appear he will get better.– Press Democrat September 24, 1904