|The late Christine Chubbuck.|
On July 14, 1974, talk show host Christine Chubbuck was set to air her morning program, Suncoast Digest on Channel 40 (WWSB, formerly known as WXLT-TV). She confused staff by stating that she had to recite a newscast first, something that she never normally did before her program. The first 8 minutes of the newscast went ahead with complete normalcy, until Chnubbuck reported on a story that had happened the previous day; a shooting at a local restaurant.
When the news footage queued to play jammed and didn't run, Chubbuck (who we now know was suffering heavily from depression) nonchalantly turned to the camera and said "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first: attempted suicide". She drew a revolver, shot herself behind the right ear, and fell forward violently, at which point the camera faded quickly to black.
Many people who saw the live broadcast rang both the station and the police, many weren't sure if it was a morbid joke, or if it had actually happened. Some of the WXLT-TV staff even doubted its legitimacy at first. After Chubbuck was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, news director Mike Simmons discovered that the papers from which she had been reading her broadcast contained a followup story, written herself, describing her suicide attempt. The followup story read something to the effect of "TV 40 news personality Christine Chubbuck shot herself in a live broadcast this morning on a Channel 40 talk program. She was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital", (which she had accurately predicted), "where she remains in critical condition". Chubbuck was pronounced dead the day after. The network's master tape was subsequently seized as evidence by authorities, and was eventually returned to Chubbuck's family, who are said to have destroyed it.
As the broadcast aired in 1974, and several primitive forms of videocassette recorders were released in the early 1970s (such as the U-matic, which came out in 1971), it is entirely possible (albeit unlikely) that another recording exists elsewhere, although until proof of such a recording is unearthed, the video is generally accepted as being impossible to obtain. Having said that, there are some people who claim to have seen the footage via a variety of sources including early internet sites, FBI training videos, and Faces of Death knock-offs; however, until any solid proof surfaces, these claims remain nothing more than hearsay.
Update: 6/10/16 It has been confirmed that Mollie Nelson has the tape in her possession.
Update: 6/17/16 The tape was found in one of Mollie Nelson's drawers it will not be shown on any website or any media.
False release of tape
In February 2017, a false version of the tape appeared online on websites such as BestGore and YouTube (though was repeatedly taken down from YouTube due to their policies on disturbing content). The footage is in black and white with heavy distortion, and appears to be a direct setup of the original incident. However, there are several errors in this video that lead to the conclusion that it is fake.
- According to various records, the real incident occurred from a close-up shot of Christine's head and shoulders on-camera.
- The "NEWSWATCH" sign below Christine in the video is higher and of a larger font then what was seen in photos from the scene.
- Christine's actual line from a police report: "in keeping with the WXLT practice of presenting the most immediate and complete reports of local blood and guts news, TV 40 presents what is believed to be a television first. In living color, an exclusive coverage of an attempted suicide."
- The line used in the video is a popular misquote/shortening: ""In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in 'blood and guts', and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide."
- The woman's face in the video appears to have been initially obscured to make it hard for the viewer to be certain/uncertain it is Christine. Other details in the video, such as the "TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES" title card, are much easier to make out.
- Gordon Galbraith, news director for WXLT-TV at the time of Christine's suicide, exchanged emails with Dycaite on the video stating, "Lin (the production manager , says copies were made, but there was noi second camera, every one of those copies, which he said were later destroyed did not show the angle that the fake one being circulated shows.."