In the early 1930s, struggling Hungarian songwriter Rezso Seress found himself depressed one cloudy Sunday afternoon. His work was largely ignored by the music industry, his career was dying, and the woman he loved had walked out on him. And so he sat at his piano, alone. Then, lost in despair and idly plinking away at the keys, he stumbled upon the melody that would become his unwanted masterpiece.
“Szomoru Vasarnap,” or “Gloomy Sunday,” became an overnight success. It was played nonstop the world over, and Seress finally had the fame he’d been chasing for years. But then the suicides started. Corpses were found clutching the song’s sheet music. Suicide notes containing lyrics were left. One body was found with the tune skipping endlessly on a record player. A man even shot himself after complaining that he couldn’t get the song out of his head.
It’s believed that the number of suicides linked to “Gloomy Sunday” measure in the hundreds. It became known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song,” and it was even banned on English radio. And, as if the song was tying up loose ends, both Seress and his girlfriend, the song’s muse, ended up dying by their dying by their own hands.