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Shoots Child, Kills Self (Variations on a theme)

September 8, 2011

The tragic story of  Raffelle Richetti, who shot his daughter then himself a little over 100 years ago was reported in newspapers across the nation. Tucked away in little information blurbs these stories implicitly blamed the movies for enticement to violence — though they couldn’t seem to agree whether it was conscious or not. Neither did anyone name the film that supposedly put the idea into Richetti’s head. The two versions of the story, re-typed below, were reprinted and circulated in a number of national newspapers, beginning Sept. 5th. You might think that one version of the story replaced the other, as new information came out, but this was not the case. The two ran parallel each other in various publications through November.

Anyone have any guesses as to which film they saw?

Version 1:

Shoots Child, Kills Self
Tragedy at New York Results from Man Dreaming of Scene Witnessed in Picture Show.
Brooklyn, N. Y. Sept. 8

Following the shooting of his favorite daughter, while he was walking in his sleep, Raffelle Richetti, a carpenter, died from a self-inflicted bullet wound. The girl Rosa, who is nineteen, is in critical condition.
Richetti shot his daughter, it is believed, while walking in his sleep and dreaming of a scene he had witnessed at a moving picture show a few hours before. The girl was asleep in her room when she was shot.

–  “Shoots Child, Kills Self” Logansport Semi-Weekly Reporter (8 September 1911)

Version 2:

Father Shoots Girl and Self After Seeing Picture of Similar Crime.
New York, Sept. 5

At a moving picture show last night Raffaelo Richetti and his 18 year old daughter, Rosa, saw the story of a tragedy in which a father killed his daughter and then himself. “I’ll do that to you some day,” Rosa says her father told her. Early today Richetti crept to his daughter’s bedside and shot her, then fired a bullet into his head. Both probably will die.

“Picture Tragedy in Life” Muscatine Iowa Journal (5 September 1911): 5

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. pmarasa permalink
    September 9, 2011 9:49 am

    I have no idea what the film might be–I even cheated and looked through plots of 1910-11 films.

    • Naïve Spectator permalink*
      September 9, 2011 5:56 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no such film — these stories became quite frequent, and I know that the National Board of Review in 1916 made an effort to debunk them. They sent out a social worker to interview the juvenile delinquents whose bad behavior was blamed on the movies, and found that many times the kids couldn’t name the films they claimed influenced them. The social worker concludes that most of them invented these stories. I can’t remember the exact conclusion she draws (maybe the kids thought they’d get lighter sentences if they blamed an external factor, or maybe adults were putting words in their mouths. I stumbled upon the report doing research in the NBR archives at the NYC public library. Fascinating stuff.

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