Gloomy Sunday is an urban legend about an old song written by Hungarian composer, Rezso Seress. They say that many people have killed themselves after listening to this song and it is often called “The Hungarian Suicide Song”.
Rezso Seress was born in Hungary. In 1933, he was a struggling composer who had never written a hit song. After his girlfriend left him, he was so depressed that he wrote the song that made him famous. Originally, the title was “Vége a világnak” which is Hungarian for “The End of the world”. The song was later retitled “Szomorú vasárnap” which means “Gloomy Sunday”.
At first, music publishers would have nothing to do with the song, saying it was too depressing. Eventually, it was released and became a huge success.
Delighted that he had finally written a hit, Seress contacted the ex-girlfriend who inspired the song and attempted to get back together with her. The next day, she killed herself by swallowing poison, leaving behind a note with just two words written on it: “Gloomy Sunday”.
As time went on, Gloomy Sunday was connected to a rash of suicides in Hungary. In all, seventeen people died. Two people shot themselves while listening to a band playing the tune. Several others drowned themselves in a river while clutching the sheet music of “Gloomy Sunday”.
People began to refer to it as “The Suicide Song” and there were rumors that it was cursed. The Hungarian authorities banned the song from being played in public. However, this did not stop the rash of suicides.
In Berlin, a young shopkeeper hung herself. Beneath her feet, they found a copy of “Gloomy Sunday”. In New York, a pretty secretary gassed herself, leaving behind her a request that “Gloomy Sunday” be played at her funeral. In Vienna, a teenage girl drowned herself while clutching the sheet music. In Budapest, a shopkeeper killed himself and left a note containing the lyrics of the song. In London, a woman took an overdose of pills while listening to the record over and over.
The song’s eerie reputation quickly spread around the world and music publishers from America decided to cash in on its notoriety. They released an English translation of the song and it soon caught on. More deaths followed.
One man reportedly walked into a nightclub, asked the band to play “The Suicide Song”, then took out a gun and blew his brains out. An 82-year old man put “Gloomy Sunday” on his record player, then jumped to his death from his seventh story window. In Rome, an errand boy was cycling down the street when he heard a beggar humming the tune. The boy parked his bicycle, walked over to the beggar and gave him all his money. Then, he jumped off a nearby bridge and drowned in the icy waters.
In the early 1940s, the song was banned in England because it was deemed “too upsetting” for the public. The ban was only recently lifted, in 2002.
Even the song’s composer could not escape the curse. Rezso Seress was haunted by the all the death and destruction his music had caused, saying, “I stand in the midst of this deadly success as an accused man. This fatal fame hurts me. I cried all of the disappointments of my heart into this song, and it seems that others with feelings like mine have found their own hurt in it.” In 1968, he committed suicide by jumping out the window of his Budapest apartment building and falling to his death.
Over the years, the song has been recorded by a number of artists, including Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Sinéad O’Connor, Elvis Costello, Sarah McLachlan, Sarah Brightman, Heather Nova and Bjork.
If you decide to listen to the song, be very careful…