September 16, 1927 Laguna Beach
Jerome Shaffer, 35, may have been the first case of suicide by car ever reported in California. A resident of Laguna Beach and professional entertainer, Shaffer had been ill and in financial difficulties when he drove his car to Laguna Beach Grammar School to end his life.
Jerome parked his car on the playground of the school and crawled underneath leaving the engine running. He then wrapped himself in a blanket and held one end of a rubber hose in the self-made shroud with him, and thrust the other end into the car’s exhaust pipe so that the deadly gas would propel him into oblivion. His body was found by the school principal, George K. Bingham.
According to his roommate, Jack West, Jerome had slipped quietly from their shared dwelling sometime during the pre-dawn hours of the morning. Shaffer and West had performed at the Masonic Hall in South Pasadena and returned home at 1 am. Jack told police that he hadn’t heard Jerome leave and only learned of his roommate’s fate when he found the letter which had been left for him.
Shaffer also left a letter addressed to Judge Raymond Thompson of Pasadena. In that letter he gave instructions for the disposition of his automobile and said that he regretted that he had no money to bequeath West. He asked that his body be cremated by the Charles Lamb Company of Pasadena, and requested that his ashes be given a public funeral in the Laguna Beach open air theater. His final wish was that his remains be scattered over the Pacific by his longtime friend and pilot, Joe Skidmore.