John Russell: Merton died in circumstances that many still see as mysterious. John Howard Griffin, journalist and author of the award-winning Black Like Me and Merton's close friend and designated official biographer, described the circumstances...

John Howard Griffin: When he got to Bangkok, he gave his talk on the morning of the 10th, the anniversary of his entry into the monastery. And he was very tired, the heat was oppressive and he hadn't had a nap the day before so since he was going to have to answer the questions in the evening, he went to his cabin and took a shower and he was never a very practical man about things, he put on a pair of either shorts or short pajamas, and barefoot and still damp, walked across the terrazzo floor and they had these very tall fans, and he reached for the fan to turn it on to the palette where he was going to take his nap on the floor.

It was DC current and it went into him and he was staying in a cabin with three other people, but it wasn't until about an hour later that they went, and the door was locked from the inside, it was a double kind of door, and there was a little curtain in the upper part and they saw him lying on the floor on his back with this big fan crosswise across his body. The blades had stopped rotating but the current was still alive and it was still burning. He was very deeply burnt, in that angle across the body.

There was a Benedictine nun superior from Korea at that meeting who was, before she became a religious, she was an Austrian physician and a specialist in internal medicine, and a very, very fine one. The word spread immediately, something happened in my research, and she came immediately, thinking that she might be of some help. He was already dead, but she gave him an immediate examination, and she determined that he died from the effects of electric shock.

--- Transcript of an interview
with John Russell on the CBC, 1980.
Go to a review of
Choosing to Love the World
by Thomas Merton

Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH