Sunday, March 7, 2010

Unseen Influences: the sacrifice of the sons?

When I was very young, I was an avid reader of the works of such prolific novelists as Sir Henry Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rafael Sabatini. I knew at the time that both Rider Haggard and Kipling had a son who died young; it wasn’t until many years later that I learned about similar tragedies in the lives of Conan Doyle and Sabatini.

Rider Haggard’s only son died of measles aged 10 or 11. Rudyard Kipling’s only son was killed in the first World War at the age of 18. Rudyard Kipling had lobbied for his son’s conscription after the boy was declared unfit for military service. Sadly, Kipling’s elder daughter had earlier died of pneumonia at the age of seven.

Conan Doyle’s first born son died at the age of 25 in the flu epidemic in 1918. 

Rafael Sabatini’s son and only child died in a car accident at the age of 17 or so. Mrs Sabatini was in the car too but survived: she was thrown from the car, which reminds me of the fatal car accident involving Monaco's Princess Grace and Princess Stephanie. Rafael Sabatini’s young stepson died in a plane accident after joining the RAF. Something went wrong when he flew over the family home to demonstrate his new skills, and his plane crashed in flames nearby.

After discovering many more such deaths while reading biographical material for a variety of other people, I started to wonder whether something sinister could be at work.

When Kenneth Graham’s son, his only child, was found dead at the age of 20, it was believed to be suicide.

Both the husband and the son of children’s writer Alison Uttley killed themselves.

Sylvia Plath’s son killed himself in 2009.

There are also some examples involving self-made men who became rich and famous:

Dr Christiaan Barnard led the team that pioneered the first human-to-human heart transplant. When his eldest son died, Barnard said that it was suicide.

Freddie Laker, who pioneered cheap air travel, bought his oldest son a sports car for his 17th birthday. The son went out in it and was killed in an accident.

Aristotle Onassis lost his only son in a plane accident; Mohamed Al Fayed lost his eldest son Dodi in the much discussed car crash in Paris. It is said that Onassis would rather have believed that there was a curse on his family than admit that he had been too mean to have the helicopter regularly serviced, and Al Fayed would rather believe that the crash was the result of a conspiracy than admit that there was something wrong with his security arrangements.

The elder son of Bernard Madoff the investment fraudster was found dead in 2010, and it is believed to be suicide.

Did all this happen just by chance? Millions of parents lost sons in the Great War, and as many as 50 million people may have died in the flu epidemic; young men like speed, excitement and danger and they take many risks; depression claims many victims. On the other hand, the idea that people who want something very much - often power, money, position and fame - will sacrifice anything and anyone and sell their souls to the devil to get it has been around for a long time.

There may be no accidents; there may be a price for everything. Perhaps creative people channel, host or conduct energies that adversely affect the people around them.

It would be interesting to do a study of the occurrence of such incidents in the lives of self-made men and writers versus the occurrence in the general population.

More about sacrificed sons here.