Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.
“Stabbed to Death in Office Frolic,” read the headline on the front page of the New York Times on February 16, 1909. “The Girls in His Department of Metropolitan Insurance Co. Were Trying to Kiss Him—One Arrested.”
The unfortunate young man in question was George Spencer Millet, who worked in the insurance company’s Department of Applications in New York’s Madison Square. Though he had only been there a few months, Millet had already made an impression on his co-workers. “He seemed to those accustomed to the usual run of office boys as perfect,” read the Times article. “His manners were good and his fair hair and fair complexion made him the pet of all the girl stenographers.”
On February 15, 1909, Millet’s 15th birthday, these “girl stenographers” promised that when the workday ended, they would kiss him once for every year of his age. At 4:30pm, they made good on their vow and descended on Millet to deliver the expected smooches. Millet tried to wriggle away, and in the ensuing rumpus was heard to exclaim, “I’m stabbed!”
According to the Times, 23-year-old Gertrude Robbins, one of the kiss-happy stenographers, rushed to his aid, but fainted at the sight of blood streaming from a wound in his chest. An ambulance was summoned and Millet transported to New York Hospital, but he died from his injuries on the way there.
Arrested on the charge of homicide, Robbins told police what had happened. Right before the office kissfest, Millet had been holding an ink eraser—not a rubber blob, but a six-inch-long metal tool that resembled a knife. When the stenographers surrounded him, Millet’s eraser was in his pocket. During the fracas, he fell forward, and the sharp point of the eraser drove into his heart.
When it became clear that Millet’s death was a terrible accident, the charge against Robbins was dropped. Millet was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His gravestone reads: “Lost life by stab in falling on ink eraser, evading six young women trying to give him birthday kisses in office Metropolitan Life Building.”
Visit Atlas Obscura for more on George Spencer Millet’s unfortunate demise.
Other gravestones that will make you do a double-take: