On December 22, I wrote about the tragic death of Fr. Misael Karydis, longtime pastor of the Greek church in New Orleans. You’ll want to read that article first, to follow what I’m talking about today.
After I published that piece, I unconvered several more reports on Karydis’ death, from the New York Sun, Tribune, and Evening World. Those newspapers make it apparent that Karydis’ death was a suicide.
The Sun (6/7/1901) spoke with Captain Nicholas Theodore, the oldest member of the New Orleans parish. Here is what Theodore said:
Ever since Sunday I had known that something was going to happen. I was sitting out in the yard when Father Misael came running to the gate. He said he wanted to see me quick. His shirt was open in the front and his face was very pale. A lot of little boys were following him and calling him Santa Claus. I told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves, and made them stop. Then the father came in and talked to me.
He was pale and trembling all over. He did not look right. I don’t think he was quite right in his head. He had been working so hard and for so long on some kind of a thing to make a bicycle go that he was tired out. “I am tired of living,” he told me. “My father is dead in Bulgaria and I want to go there. I think I will kill myself.”
I told him that he ought not to talk of suicide, but that he should think of his congregation and the people for whom he had worked so long, and did my best to quiet him.
According to the Sun, the invention was less a flying machine than a kind of motorcycle: “a bicycle that would be a sort of automobile, the rider only guiding it. He made several applications for a patent, but could never perfect the invention.” Of course, it’s entirely possible — likely, even — that Karydis was working on multiple inventions.
Karydis came to New York and visited Demetrius Botassi, the Greek consul. Botassi was the son-in-law of Nicolas Benachi, the founder of the New Orleans church. Karydis told Botassi that he was on his way to Bulgaria, to claim an inheritance. Considering his statement to Capt. Theodore — “My father is dead in Bulgaria and I want to go there” — it seems likely that the elder Karydis had just died, and that the inheritance was from him. It could be, then, that something in Karydis snapped when he learned of the death of his father.
Then again, it could be something else. From the Sun: “Not long before he died at the Hudson street hospital here the priest told Policeman Durr that he had been accused of an assault on a boy in New Orleans.”
Karydis checked into the Eastern Hotel in the morning, and spent most of the day in the hotel’s cafe. A little after 4:00 PM, he went to his room and ordered some dinner. According to the World, when the waiter brought the food, he saw Karydis sitting at a table, writing something. Soon thereafter, a shot was heard. The hotel staff broke down the door to Karydis’ room, and saw that the priest was wounded. The newspapers differ on where the wound was — the Times and Tribune say that Karydis was wounded in his right side, but the World says that he was shot “over the heart,” which sounds more plausible. Karydis reportedly told the hotel manager, “Let me finish my work. I want to die.”
He did die, a few minutes before 11:00 PM. May God have mercy on his soul.