On May 26, 1937, 11-year-old Robert Hughes committed suicide with a shotgun at the orchard near his home at 424 Second Street in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. According to the police’s reconstruction of the scene, “he strung a piece of heavy twine between two limbs on a tree, one limb about eight feet from the ground and the other, three. Then, the boy lifted the double-barreled weapon and inserted the trigger under the loop of string. He held the gun in his hand, jerked it so that the string released the trigger and sent a bullet into the lower part of his body.” A neighbor named Joe Lucas heard screams after the shot went off and found him sobbing in the orchard. Robert pleaded, “Oh, Joe, help me!” but he was already dead when Joe returned with assistance.
Robert’s parents, who called him Bobby, could only explain his suicide as the result of an intense dislike for school. Within the past year, he had missed over 50 days, and his mother had written him an absence note that morning, which read “Please excuse Bobby’s absence because he was sent home by the doctor because of a cold.” The note was found next to his body with the message “This is Suicide” scrawled on the envelope.