"Advocacy" chain letter. Prank (?) invitation. Concurrent
suicide - Helen Kim Mont. "Make two copies ..." US, 1937.
You are cordially invited to a "mystery cocktail party" in honor
of someone you know. It will be a most unusual and amusing one ever held
in New York. Make two copies of this letter immediately and mail them to
Be sure that your friends will not recognize your handwriting
and that they are the type that will pass the letter on and thus keep
the chain going. Please do not mail any letters after April 22. Sign your
initials below those of others and above all, do not talk about sending
or receiving this letter.
This invitation is good only for you and a single friend. Have
it with you and present it for admission on Saturday, April 24, 1937, 5
PM at 480 Park Avenue.
P.S. In case you should be unable to attend please do not end
Published: Kingsport Times
(Kingsport, Tennessee), April 25, 1937, p. 1.
CHAIN LETTER HOSTESS TAKES LIFE WITH GAS. Guests Are Warned to Refrain
From Telling of Letters.
New York. April 24. (AP) - "A Park Avenue hostess who planned 'the
most unusual and amusing' cocktail party ever held in New York, died of
illuminating gas tonight in the kitchen of her swanky apartment as her
guests - invited by chain letters - arrived in the lobby below. ¶
The hostess, Mrs. Helen Mont, 25-year-old actress and bride of a month,
failed to answer the bell when the first of her 100 guests arrived, and
the apartment super-intendent unlocked the door. Guided by the odor of
gas, he walked past tables, already set for the cocktail party to the
kitchen. ¶ There he found Mrs. Mont, unconscious, a gas tube from
her mouth. She was clad only in a slip, silk stockings, and shoes. As
an emergency squad worked to revive her, and finally pronounced her dead,
the party guests waited in the apartment lobby. ¶ Police Detective
Frank McFarland, who said he was told Mrs. Mont had a spat over plans for
her party with her husband, James Mont, prominent interior decorator,
listed her death as suicide. ¶ Mont was in his studio when
his wife's body was found. ¶ Mrs. Mont had called her cocktail party
"a mystery cocktail party", and warned her guests "not to talk about sending
or receiving this letter." ¶ Here is an invitation she sent to one
friend:" [text] Entered by DWV, Aug. 10, 2014.
The Paper Chain
Letter Archive - contents Chain Letter Evolution
Additional details from The Sedalia Democrat
(Sedalia, Missouri), April 25, 1937, p. 6.
"Known on the stage as Helen Kim, Mrs. Mont appeared in 'Roar China',
a Broadway play of about six years ago, and 'The gilded Princess'. She was
widely known also as a radio entertainer, having had parts in various chain
productions. ¶ The party guests, scores more than could have been accommodated
in the Monts' three-room apartment, jammed the apartment house lobby until
doormen notified late comers that the party 'has been called off.' ¶
Many who received the strange letters of invitation left without learning
that their intended hostess was dead. ¶ The tall, chestnut haired actress,
popular among patrons of the Theater Guild, was married previously to Randolph
Joseph Thomson, an English playwright. A few minutes after annulment of
the first marriage on March 28 of this year, she married Mont, Turkish born
designer of furniture. ¶ She and the wealthy 33-year-old
creator of many popular fashions in home furnishings had planned a June
honeymoon in Paris. ¶ The Daily News said Mrs. Mont
was a graduate of the University of Southern California. While a student
there, the News said, she was the lone witness to the suicide of Robert
Pew, 35-year-old writer and poet. Lifting a glass of poison, said the News,
Pew drank a toast of death to her, dying at her feet. ¶ A few
months later, it reported, in the fall of 1930, she came to New York and
appeared on Broadway in the Guild production, "Roar China."
Additional information from The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson,
Kansas), April 26, 1937, p. 1.
ACTRESS, BRIDE OF ONLY MONTH, ENDS OWN LIFE. Helen Kim Mont Inhales
Gas As Unbid Guests Gather At Her Door.
"The simple label of 'coincidence' was placed by police today upon
the suicide of a 25-year-old actress and the gathering of about 100 party-bound
'mystery guests' in the lobby of her Park Avenue apartment house while
she was inhaling gas. ¶ The actress was Mrs. Helen Kim Mont, one-month
bride of James Mont, fashionable interior decorator. Police closed the
case which at first appeared to have elements of a mystery thriller, with
assertions that the phantom party and the suicide were unconnected. ¶
The party guests assembled in the lobby as the result of a chain-letter
hoax perpetrated by bored Park avenue funsters, police indicated. The
invitations were sent out merely naming the Park Avenue address, and not
Mrs. Mont's apartment, and no 'guests' were found who knew Mrs. Mont.
¶ The actress herself was unaware of the crowd in the lobby, police
said, and it was only coincidence she took her life as they gathered, wondering
when the festivities would begin. ¶ Police said Mr. Mont left a suicide
note, contents of which they did not reveal."
Comments by DWV: In the
first account above (Kingsport Times) it was claimed that the first
of the assembled guests had rung Mrs. Monts' bell. When she did not answer
the apartment supervisor was summoned and he unlocked her door. Why else
would he have done this unless a party guest was strongly expecting her to
be home? It was also stated that in her apartment, tables were set for the
party. Further, we read: "Police Detective Frank
McFarland, ... said he was told Mrs. Mont had a spat over plans for her
party with her husband ..." Just what party was that?
Many guests would have left as soon as they heard of the tragedy, before
the police arrived. The police would not have had a way to trace them down.
So the police could not (and did not) claim that none of the guests
knew Mrs. Mont. Probably many did not, since they would have not have been
first generation recipients of the chain letter invitation. The claim that
Mrs. Mont was not the hostess of the chain letter party is baseless, unless
the initial report was a total fabrication.
And how could the police claim that Helen was "unaware of the crowd in
the lobby"? Apparently she never regained consciousness after being discovered
by the apartment supervisor. One newspaper account states the police learned
that Helen did not distribute the chain invitation by examining her suicide
note. But if she mentioned it, she might have expected the crowd in the lobby.
And if she did not mention it in the suicide note, she still may have issued
the chain letter invitation as claimed in the first police report.
In the second account (The Sedalia Democrat), the eerie fact is
revealed that Mrs. Mont had been the sole witness of the bizarre suicide
of poet Robert Pew. He had toasted her with a glass of poison. Helen killed
herself by placing a hose to her mouth. The police did not release
Helen's suicide note. This may be routine procedure, but likely her husband,
James Mont, had good reason for it to be kept secret. He may have also
had a reason to persuade the police to deny their initial identification
of Mrs. Mont as the hostess of the chain letter party.
There is some additional information about Helen Mont on the WWW. She
was Korean-American. There is much information about James Mont. He definitely
had crime connections, and in 1940 was convicted for a brutal assault on
a woman who, as a result, committed suicide. Mont served a five year sentence
for the crime. Here is a link focussing on his design work but with some
details of his life.
It seems there is much we do not know about the death of Helen Mont. A picture
of her appears with the The Hutchinson News article.