Skip to main content

The Suicide Feast of Ho Why

In the summer of 1913 a strange feast took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The culmination of the banquet resulted in six Chinese men being arrested, accused of playing a role in the bizarre suicide of Ho Why.

Ho Why had arrived in America twenty-six years earlier and opened a Chinese laundry at 200 Kentucky Avenue. It was a popular line of work among Chinese immigrants, who devotedly toiled over their washtubs to send money back to families in China. Ho Why was a hard worker, and his years of labor had caused him develop a chronic illness. He coughed all the time, he grew frail and dangerously thin, and everyone knew that his time in the mortal realm was drawing to a close. But to Ho Why, his greatest shame was the fact that he had no son and that the family name would die along with him.

In June of 1913 Ho Why sent invitations to all of his friends and relatives living in the United States to join him in a sumptuous feast. From New York came Shu Nan, Lee Don and Hong Jan; from New Jersey came Charlie Son, Ling Dope and Charlie Lee. Though the invitation was lacking in details, all of Ho Why's countrymen knew what this meant. They dressed in their finest clothes and spent hours grooming themselves to perfection.

At 6 o'clock on the appointed evening, all of the guests assembled themselves at Ho Why's laundry. Their host had carefully drawn the curtains of his shop and closed the laundry business early, and Ho Why's friends greeted him with smiles and warm embraces before retiring to the rear room. By all accounts it was a pleasant dinner and a very formal affair; the guests dined with ivory chopsticks.

After the feast, Ho Why arose and laid down his ornate fan and then hobbled to a tiny cabinet, returning with a revolver. The guests bowed to their host and lit their opium pipes with long, bamboo stems and tiny silver bowls. The attendees grew serene and watched their host as he sat himself stoically upon a wooden stool. Ho Why put the muzzle of the revolver against his right temple and, without a word, pulled the trigger. His friends puffed their pipes in silence and watched their host sink to the floor. Shu Nan put down his pipe and then retrieved the body of his dear friend.

According to the newspaper reports describing the suicide feast, Patrolman Marshall smashed down the door and arrested the guests, charging them with being accessories to murder. The Chinamen were confused; they had followed their customs and traditions to the letter. At the precinct house they explained to their captors that Ho Why had died with honor and, after much debate between the enforcers of Western law and the disciples of the Eastern traditions, it was decided that all charges would be dropped.

The story of Ho Why's suicide feast doesn't have anything to do with ghosts or monsters or the paranormal, of course. It is merely food for thought, a reminder that what is noble and honorable in one land is often viewed with disgust and disdain in another, and that what is considered a violent and ugly death to some people, is a most beautiful way to die to others.

Popular posts from this blog

The Hunt for the Osage River Monster

It's spring of 1844 in St. Clair County, Missouri. A mile or so from the banks of the muddy Osage River a pioneer settler named Matthew Arbuckle is plowing his field when he hears a banshee-like wail in the distance, coming from the direction of the river. Shrill and unearthly, the demonic howl fills the farmer with terror. Wasting no time, he unhitches his plow, jumps on the back of his horse and heads for the hills.

One hour later Arbuckle arrives in Papinville, a town fifteen miles from his farm. The exhausted horse is white with foam; its rider white with terror. In a gasping voice he tells of making an escape from an awful monster. Although he had not seen the beast, he had heard its voice, from which he could tell that it was a monster of immense proportions.

Those who heard Arbuckle's story were bewildered, and those who did not know the pioneer personally could tell, just by the bloodless pallor of his trembling skin, that the man was not telling a lie. Whatever terrify…

The Ticking Tombstone of Landenberg

If you look closely at a map of Pennsylvania, you'll see an anomalous semi-circular border at the extreme southeastern part of the state. This circle, known officially as the "Twelve Mile Circle", serves as the border between the Keystone State and Delaware. Much of the strange circle is surrounded by Chester County, one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created by William Penn in 1682. While there are many historical points of interest in Chester County, few are strange or as steeped in legend as the Ticking Tombstone.

Near the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg is an old graveyard which contains a tombstone which is said to make eerie ticking noises, much like the ticking of a pocketwatch. Landenberg locals claim that the ticking is the result of two very famous surveyors who arrived in town during the 1760s- Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.  A young child supposedly swallowed a valuable pocketwatch owned by Mason and later died, and the boy's head…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his b…