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Matthäus Merian's impression of the 1618 Defenestration of Prague

Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window.[1] The term "defenestration" was coined around the time of an incident in Prague Castle in the year 1618. The word comes from the Latin de- (from) and fenestra (window or opening).[2]

The act carries the connotation of forcibly or peremptorily removing an adversary, and is sometimes used in just that sense[3]; it also suggests breaking the windows in the process (de- also means removal). Although defenestrations can be fatal due to the height of the window through which a person is thrown or throws oneself, or due to lacerations from broken glass, the act of defenestration need not carry the intent or result of death.

Contents

Origin of the term

The term originates from two incidents in history, both occurring in Prague. In 1419 seven town officials were thrown from the Town Hall, precipitating the Hussite War. In 1618 two Imperial governors and their secretary were thrown from Prague Castle, sparking the Thirty Years War. These incidents, particularly that of 1618, were referred to as the Defenestration of Prague and gave rise to the term and the concept.

Notable defenestrations in history

Historically, the word defenestration was used to refer to an act of political dissent. Notably, the defenestrations of Prague in 1419 and 1618 helped to trigger prolonged conflict within Bohemia and beyond. It is said that some Catholics ascribed the survival of those defenestrated at Prague Castle in 1618 to divine intervention.

Other notable events in Prague's history include the defenestration of the Old-Town portreeve along with the bodies of seven murdered New-Town aldermen in 1483, and the death in 1948 of politician Jan Masaryk, whose body was found in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry, below his bathroom window. A 2004 police investigation into his death concluded that, contrary to the initial ruling, he did not commit suicide, but was defenestrated, most likely by Czechoslovak Communists and their Soviet NKVD advisers for opposing the February 1948 Communist putsch.

  • As recorded in the book of Kings II in the Bible, Jezebel was defenestrated by her own servants at the urging of Jehu. (2 Kings 9: 33)
  • It has been suggested by several chronicles (notably the Annals of Westhide Abbey) that King John killed his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, by throwing him from a window in the castle at Rouen, France, in 1203.
  • In 1378 the crafts and their leader Wouter van der Leyden occupied the Leuven city hall. They took over the Leuven government. Most of the patricians left the city and fled to Aarschot. After negotiations between the parties, they agreed to share the government. The patricians did not accept this easily, as they lost their absolute power. Trying to turn the tide, they had Wouter van der Leyden assassinated in Brussels. The crafts wanted revenge. They handed over the patrician to a furious crowd. The crowd stormed the city hall and threw the patricians out of the window. At least 15 patricians were killed during this defenestration of Leuven.
  • In 1383, Bishop Dom Martinho was defenestrated by the citizens of Lisbon, having been suspected of conspiring with the enemy when Lisbon was besieged by the Castilians.
  • in 1452, King James II of Scotland murdered William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, with his own hands and threw him out the window at Stirling Castle
  • On April 26, 1478, after the failure of the "Pazzi conspiracy" to murder the ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de' Medici, Jacopo de' Pazzi was defenestrated.
  • In 1572, French King Charles IX's friend, the Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligny, was killed in accordance with the wishes of Charles' mother, Catherine de' Medici. Charles had allegedly said "then kill them all that no man be left to reproach me." Thousands of Protestants were killed in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre after soldiers attacked Coligny in his house, stabbed him, and threw him out the window.
  • On the morning of December 1, 1640 in Lisbon, a group of supporters of the Duke of Braganza party found Miguel de Vasconcelos, the hated Portuguese Secretary of State of the Habsburg Philip III, hidden in a closet, killed him and defenestrated him. His corpse was left to the public outrage.
  • During the Polish January 1863 Uprising, Russian troops threw Frédéric Chopin's piano out of a second-story apartment. The incident was famously memorialized in Polish poet Cyprian Norwid's poem, "Chopin's Piano." The composer had left Warsaw and Poland forever shortly before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising.
  • On June 11. 1903 a group of Serbian army officers murdered and defenestrated King Alexander and Queen Draga.
  • In 1922, Italian politician and writer Gabriele d'Annunzio was temporarily crippled after being pushed out a window by an unknown assailant.
  • In 1941, Murder, Inc informant Abe "Kid Twist" Reles fell to his death from a window on the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island, on the eve of his scheduled testimony. The angle of trajectory suggests that he was defenestrated rather than trying to flee.[citation needed]
  • On March 10, 1948 the Czechoslovakian minister of foreign affairs Jan Masaryk was found dead, dressed in his pajamas, in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry below his bathroom window. The initial investigation stated that he committed suicide by jumping out of the window, although some believe that he was murdered by the ascendant Communists (see Czech coup). The newest criminal investigation deducated from trajectory of Masaryk's fall that he was thrown out of the window.
  • In 1968, the son of China's former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, Deng Pufang, was thrown from a window by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.
  • Shortly before midnight on December 15, 1969, the Italian anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli was seen falling to his death from a fourth floor window of the Milan police station.
  • On February 2, 1970, Time magazine reported that Odie R. Seagraves, the "big-time wheeler-dealer" Texan businessman, had died aged 83 by "defenestration from an eighth floor hotel room, in Dallas." At the time of his death, it is said that he was completely broke having made and lost $20 million in natural gas speculation.[4]
  • The 2000 Ramallah lynching included throwing the (already-dead) body of either Vadim Nurzhitz or Yossi Avrahami out of a second-floor window, after those two Israeli soldiers had been lynched.
  • On March 2, 2007 Russian investigative journalist Ivan Safronov, who was researching the Kremlin's covert arms deals, fell to his death from a fifth floor window. Friends and colleagues discount suicide as a reason and an investigation was opened looking into possible "incitement to suicide".[5]
  • In 2007 in Gaza, Hamas killed two Fatah supporters by defenestration.[6]

Defenestrations in fiction

  • In 18th century fictional works of the Marquis de Sade, defenestrations are a common event. They are less gruesome than many of the atrocities in his works, but they are typically lethal.
  • In 1926, American writer Nella Larsen ended her novel Passing with a person leaving a building via a window; whether this is a defenestration depends on one's interpretation of the novel's characters and events.
  • In the 1954 Hitchcock film, Rear Window, James Stewart, who plays the wheelchair-bound LB Jeffries, is defenestrated by the villain. The plunge itself, it has been suggested, is an exponential zoom with the camera shooting straight up in the air while zooming in on Stewart. Looking at it again, it might rather be a matte shot, a pretty good one that works partly because it takes the audience by surprise. The window ledge in the foreground, which wobbles very slightly in relation to the ground below, suggests that there's more than one optical layer.
  • In the 1973 movie, The Exorcist, Father Karras defenestrates himself after being possessed by a demon.
  • In the 2002 movie, The Bourne Identity, an assassin throws himself out of the window once beaten in combat, in order to stop himself from divulging information to the main character.
  • In the 1992 movie, Batman Returns, Max Shreck shoves Selina Kyle out of his company window after she discovers his plan to build a power station and drain Gotham of its electriciy.
  • In the 1994 movie, Timecop TEC (Time Enforcement Commission) Agent Max Walker travels back to 1929 to arrest an ex-TEC agent and former partner Lyle Atwood for illegally making money from the stock market crash for a corrupt Senator McComb to fund his presidential campaign who then attempts to commit suicide by self-defenestration in which Walker follows him out the window and captures Atwood to travel him and Atwood back to 2004 to face justice. When Atwood refuses to testify against Senator McComb as punishment he was sent back to the point where he fell out the window and falls to his death.
  • In 1997, Brian Goggin and a team of artists create an absurdist site-specific art installation on two sides of an empty four-story building at the corner of Sixth and Howard Streets in San Francisco entitled Defenestration, which depicted seemingly animated furniture apparently leaping out the windows and off the parapet.
  • In the 2006 film The Departed, Captain Queenan is defenstrated by Frank Costello's men as he's trying to cover the escape of undercover officer Billy Costigan. Costigan is horrified when Queenan lands right next to him.
  • In the 2004 film I,Robot, a scientist named Alfred Lanning has been thrown out the window. People, however have claimed that it was suicide. The truth was revealed later in the film.
  • In the television show Dark Angel, Duvalier comments to a man he is about to throw out a window, "Know what the word "defenestration" means?", to which the man haplessly replies, "Isn't that when you cut all the trees down?".
  • In the television show Lost, Locke is defenestrated by his father out of a window 80 ft above ground. He survives but his back is broken, leaving him paraplegic. His ability to walk is miraculously regained when he arrives on the mysterious island.[7][8]
  • In the 1995 movie Braveheart, Edward Longshanks throws his son's homosexual lover out of the castle window.
  • The 1986-1987 Graphic Novel Watchmen opens soon after the superhero 'The Comedian' has been thrown out of his highrise apartment window. The 2009 movie of the same name features this as the opening scene.
  • In the 1984 action comedy film Beverly Hills Cop, main character Axel Foley, played by Eddie Murphy is defenestrated by a group of men out of a ground floor window for trespassing.
  • In the episode "Catalysts" of The Spectacular Spider-Man, the opening starts with voice-over narration from Spider-Man saying, "The dictionary defines defenestration as the act of throwing a person or thing out a window." We then see Spider-Man flung out a window, to which the narration picks up again, "Really not my favorite word."
  • In The Simpsons episode "Double, Double, Boy in Trouble", Bart switches places with a rich boy who looks just like him. Lisa figures it all out because the new Bart is too nice and intelligent. She slaps the impostor and makes the claim that the real Bart would have thrown her out the window, to which the fake Bart says "He would have defenestrated you?"
  • In the television show Heroes, Peter Petrelli is defenestrated by Sylar in episode "Eris Quod Sum". Also, in episode "It's Coming", Claire Bennet defenestrates herself to escape from Knox and Flint Gordon from Peter Petrelli's apartment. In episode "Jump, Push, Fall", Claire Bennet's friend Gretchen Berg asks Claire "Don't you want to prove your roommate was defenestrated?", and Claire notes "And yes I know what defenestrated means."
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, the titular emperor has an old man defenestrated for "throwing off his groove." The victim survives, apparently unharmed.
  • In NUMB3RS Season 2 episode "Assassin", defenestration was brought up as a possible assassination tool.
  • In the Calvin and Hobbes treasury "The Essential Calvin and Hobbes", Calvin recites a poem entitled "A Nauseous Nocturne," which describes the attempt by his nighttime monster to eat him. The poem ends: The monster, in his consternation, Demonstrates defenestration, And runs and runs and runs and runs away. Rid of the pest, I can now rest, Thanks to my best friend, who saved the day."
  • Science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke wrote a comic short story entitled "The Defenstration of Ermintrude Inch," though he never tells the reader the definition of the word "Defenestrate."
  • In the video game Def Jam: Fight for NY the protagonist is locked in a final battle with Crow (played by Snoop Dog) and has the option of defeating the final boss by an act of defenestration.
  • In the 1991 film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Friar Tuck defenestrates the Bishop of Nottingham after weighing him down with bags of coin.
  • In the season five episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled "I Was Made To Love You", a robot named April throws Spike out of a window when he tries to flirt with her. This is a rather unusual case of defenestration because the window is on the ground floor and Spike is not hurt.
  • In the season one (pilot) episode of Angel entitled "City Of", the protagonist Angel confronts his first villain of the series, Russell Winters. Winters, a vampire who has just killed a young woman, tells Angel that since he's got money and power, he can do anything he wants. Asking if Winters can fly, Angel kicks the chair he is seated in through a plate glass window, plunging Winters and the chair down several stories. Winters bursts into flames and disintegrated in the sun.
  • In a Bud Light television commercial that first aired February 1, 2009 during Super Bowl XLIII, an employee at the company's budget meeting is thrown through a 4th story window of an office building when he suggests to the group that to save money they stop buying Bud Light for every meeting.
  • Death metal band Cryptopsy has a song called "Defenestration".
  • Super-hero The Defenestrator, from the Hitman comic book series, carries around a window through which he throws criminals (and occasionally policemen as well).
  • In PC Magazine's dictionary of computer-related terms, the word "defenestration" is tongue-in-cheekily defined as "removing Microsoft Windows from a computer".[9]
  • In the tv series Chuck, FULCRUM agent Phil Burghee is defenestrated when he attacks Chuck while the latter executes The Morgan.
  • In the film PCU, a group of Port Chester University students ambushes a vegan protest by defenestrating tubs of raw meat.
  • In the HBO Series The Sopranos, Christopher defenestrates Little Paulie out a window of a three-story apartment building as retribution for extorting his father-in-law's hardware store, which breaks Little Paulie's back, though he survived.
  • In the Steven Spielberg cartoon, Freakazoid, Guitierrez often removes unfavorable, underperforming, or dissenting employees by defenestration from the top window of his company building. Rodney is defenestrated when he explains the flaw in the Pinnacle chip and suggests a recall.

Scientific studies

In 1942 safety pioneer Hugh De Haven published the classic Mechanical analysis of survival in falls from heights of fifty to one hundred and fifty feet.[10] De Haven's work on survival in defenestrations was instrumental in the development of the seat belt.

Self-defenestration (jumping from height)

Self-defenestration (autodefenestration) or jumping from height is the act of jumping, propelling oneself, or causing oneself to fall, from high attitude such as a high rise building, cliff, dam or bridge). This phenomenon played a notable role in such events as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, 9/11, and other disasters; it is also a method of suicide.

There is also an urban legend that Wall Street investors jumped out of windows during the 1929 stock market crash.[11]

In United States, self-defenestration is among the least common methods of committing suicide (typically less than 2% of all reported suicides in the United States for 2005).[12]

A particularly gruesome case of a defenestration, was Toronto lawyer Garry Hoy, who jumped to his death, while attempting to demonstrate the strength of his office tower's windows.

In Hong Kong, jumping is the most common method (from any location) of committing suicide, accounting for 52.1% of all reported suicide cases in 2006, and similar rates for the years prior to that.[13] Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of the University of Hong Kong believes that it may be due to the abundance of easily accessible high rise buildings in Hong Kong (implying that much of the jumping is out of windows).[14]

Jumping from cliff has lower mortality rate compare to jumping from high rise building, The Complete Manual of Suicide has a dedicated chapter on self-defenestration, pointing out that some cliffs, despite appear to be straight and perpendicular to the ground, are in fact slightly sloped. This decreases jumper's chance of having deadly direct impact and consequently increase the chance of causing injuries and permanent disabilities instead of death. [15] There are reports show that cliff jumper survived with broken spine, multiple bones fracture and permanent paralysis, instead of death. [16]

Notable self-defenestrations in history

  • The Revolutions of 1848 led to unrest in the German states. When an agitated crowd forced their way into the town hall in Cologne on March 3, two city councillors panicked and jumped out of the window; one of them broke both his legs. The event went down in the city’s history as the "Cologne Defenestration"[citation needed].
  • In 1911, during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, numerous fatalities were people who leapt or fell out of windows to their death.
  • In 1941, Murder, Inc informant Abe "Kid Twist" Reles fell to his death from a window on the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island, on the eve of his scheduled testimony. The angle of trajectory suggests that he was defenestrated rather than trying to flee.[citation needed]
  • On March 10, 1948 the Czechoslovakian minister of foreign affairs Jan Masaryk was found dead, dressed in his pajamas, in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry below his bathroom window. The initial investigation stated that he committed suicide by jumping out of the window, although some believe that he was murdered by the ascendant Communists (see Czech coup).
  • In 1995, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze committed suicide by throwing himself from the window of his apartment.
  • On September 11, 2001, the September 11 attacks caused over 200 people to jump or fall from windows, choosing to die by falling rather than from the fires inside the World Trade Center buildings. Some of the falls were broadcast on the news (see The Falling Man).

Self-defenestration in fiction

  • In 1926, American writer Nella Larsen ended her novel Passing with a person leaving a building via a window; whether this is a defenestration and/or an act of jumping out of a window depends on one's interpretation of the novel's characters and events.
  • In the novel Vineland, the opening chapters detail Zoyd Wheeler's self-defenestration, an annual event he re-enacts to retain his public benefit.
  • In the 1994 film The Hudsucker Proxy, Waring Hudsucker, the founder and president of Hudsucker Industries commits suicide by running across the boardroom table and jumping through a window. Another board member tries to do the same later on in the movie, but by that point a sturdier window has been put in to prevent jumping.
  • In 1997, Brian Goggin and a team of artists create an absurdist site-specific art installation on two sides of an empty four-story building at the corner of Sixth and Howard Streets in San Francisco entitled Defenestration, which depicted seemingly animated furniture apparently leaping out the windows and off the parapet.
  • In the Original English-language manga Series Miki Falls in the 4th, and final book entitled "Miki Falls: Winter" the main character, Miki, throws herself out a 3rd story window. The scene is also shown in the beginning of the 1st book "Miki Falls: Spring" but the reason why she is jumping is not given, only that she blacks out and has a flashback, from which most of the story is told.
  • In the film and book, the Exorcist, a priest commits self-defenestration after being possessed by the demon Pazuzu.
  • In the film and book "The Brothers Lionheart" by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, the oldest brother takes his sibling on his back and jumps out of a burning building.

References

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001). "defenestration". Online Etymological Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=defenestration. 
  3. ^ Caracas Metromayor’s ‘Political Defenestration’
  4. ^ Time, Sec: Milestones, February 2, 1970. p.71.
  5. ^ Claims of 'incitement to suicide' after journalist falls to his death
  6. ^ Palestinian gunmen target Haniyeh's home in Gaza, Associated Press, 11/06/2007 [1]
  7. ^ Defenestration site
  8. ^ news article about Defenestration
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ De Haven H (March 2000). "Mechanical analysis of survival in falls from heights of fifty to one hundred and fifty feet. 1942". Inj. Prev. 6 (1): 62–8. doi:10.1136/ip.6.1.62-b. PMID 10728546. PMC 1730592. http://ip.bmj.com/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=10728546. 
  11. ^ http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2412/after-the-1929-stock-market-crash-did-investors-really-jump-out-of-windows
  12. ^ "WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports". http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  13. ^ "Method Used in Completed Suicide". HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, University of Hong Kong. 2006. http://csrp.hku.hk/WEB/eng/statistics.asp#3. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  14. ^ "遭家人責罵:掛住上網媾女唔讀書 成績跌出三甲 中四生跳樓亡". Apple Daily. 9th August. http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/template/apple/art_main.php?iss_id=20090809&sec_id=4104&subsec=12731&art_id=13078710. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  15. ^ Tsurumi, Wataru (1993). The Complete Manual of Suicide, Chapter 3. Japan. ISBN 978-4872331264. 
  16. ^ http://www.suicide.org/attempted-suicide-horrors.html

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