"Advocacy" chain letter.  Prank (?) invitation. Concurrent suicide - Helen Kim Mont.   "Make two copies ..."  US, 1937.
Dear Grace:
  You are cordially invited to a "mystery cocktail party" in honor of someone you know. It will be a most unusual and amusing one ever held in New York. Make two copies of this letter immediately and mail them to two friends.
  Be sure that your friends will not recognize your handwriting and that they are the type that will pass the letter on and thus keep the chain going. Please do not mail any letters after April 22. Sign your initials below those of others and above all, do not talk about sending or receiving this letter.
  This invitation is good only for you and a single friend. Have it with you and present it for admission on Saturday, April 24, 1937, 5 PM at 480 Park Avenue.
  P.S. In case you should be unable to attend please do not end the chain.

Published: Kingsport Times (Kingsport, Tennessee), April 25, 1937, p. 1.  
CHAIN LETTER HOSTESS TAKES LIFE WITH GAS. Guests Are Warned to Refrain From Telling of Letters.

New York. April 24. (AP) - "A Park Avenue hostess who planned 'the most unusual and amusing' cocktail party ever held in New York, died of illuminating gas tonight in the kitchen of her swanky apartment as her guests - invited by chain letters - arrived in the lobby below. ¶ The hostess, Mrs. Helen Mont, 25-year-old actress and bride of a month, failed to answer the bell when the first of her 100 guests arrived, and the apartment super-intendent unlocked the door. Guided by the odor of gas, he walked past tables, already set for the cocktail party to the kitchen. ¶ There he found Mrs. Mont, unconscious, a gas tube from her mouth. She was clad only in a slip, silk stockings, and shoes. As an emergency squad worked to revive her, and finally pronounced her dead, the party guests waited in the apartment lobby. ¶ Police Detective Frank McFarland, who said he was told Mrs. Mont had a spat over plans for her party with her husband, James Mont, prominent interior decorator, listed her death as suicide.  ¶ Mont was in his studio when his wife's body was found. ¶ Mrs. Mont had called her cocktail party "a mystery cocktail party", and warned her guests "not to talk about sending or receiving this letter." ¶ Here is an invitation she sent to one friend:"  [text]   Entered by DWV, Aug. 10, 2014.


The Paper Chain Letter Archive - contents        Chain Letter Evolution

Additional details from The Sedalia Democrat (Sedalia, Missouri), April 25, 1937, p. 6.
"Known on the stage as Helen Kim, Mrs. Mont appeared in 'Roar China', a Broadway play of about six years ago, and 'The gilded Princess'. She was widely known also as a radio entertainer, having had parts in various chain productions. ¶ The party guests, scores more than could have been accommodated in the Monts' three-room apartment, jammed the apartment house lobby until doormen notified late comers that the party 'has been called off.' ¶ Many who received the strange letters of invitation left without learning that their intended hostess was dead. ¶ The tall, chestnut haired actress, popular among patrons of the Theater Guild, was married previously to Randolph Joseph Thomson, an English playwright. A few minutes after annulment of the first marriage on March 28 of this year, she married Mont, Turkish born designer of furniture.
¶ She and the wealthy 33-year-old creator of many popular fashions in home furnishings had planned a June honeymoon in Paris. ¶  The Daily News said Mrs. Mont was a graduate of the University of Southern California. While a student there, the News said, she was the lone witness to the suicide of Robert Pew, 35-year-old writer and poet. Lifting a glass of poison, said the News, Pew drank a toast of death to her, dying at her feet. ¶  A few months later, it reported, in the fall of 1930, she came to New York and appeared on Broadway in the Guild production, "Roar China."

Additional information from The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas), April 26, 1937, p. 1.
ACTRESS, BRIDE OF ONLY MONTH, ENDS OWN LIFE. Helen Kim Mont Inhales Gas As Unbid Guests Gather At Her Door.
"The simple label of 'coincidence' was placed by police today upon the suicide of a 25-year-old actress and the gathering of about 100 party-bound 'mystery guests' in the lobby of her Park Avenue apartment house while she was inhaling gas. ¶ The actress was Mrs. Helen Kim Mont, one-month bride of James Mont, fashionable interior decorator. Police closed the case which at first appeared to have elements of a mystery thriller, with assertions that the phantom party and the suicide were unconnected. ¶ The party guests assembled in the lobby as the result of a chain-letter hoax perpetrated by bored Park avenue funsters, police indicated. The invitations were sent out merely naming the Park Avenue address, and not Mrs. Mont's apartment, and no 'guests' were found who knew Mrs. Mont. ¶ The actress herself was unaware of the crowd in the lobby, police said, and it was only coincidence she took her life as they gathered, wondering when the festivities would begin. ¶ Police said Mr. Mont left a suicide note, contents of which they did not reveal.

Comments by DWV:  In the first account above (Kingsport Times) it was claimed that the first of the assembled guests had rung Mrs. Monts' bell. When she did not answer the apartment supervisor was summoned and he unlocked her door. Why else would he have done this unless a party guest was strongly expecting her to be home? It was also stated that in her apartment, tables were set for the party. Further, we read: "Police Detective Frank McFarland, ... said he was told Mrs. Mont had a spat over plans for her party with her husband ..." Just what party was that?

Many guests would have left as soon as they heard of the tragedy, before the police arrived. The police would not have had a way to trace them down. So the police could not (and did not) claim that none of the guests knew Mrs. Mont. Probably many did not, since they would have not have been first generation recipients of the chain letter invitation. The claim that Mrs. Mont was not the hostess of the chain letter party is baseless, unless the initial report was a total fabrication.

And how could the police claim that Helen was "unaware of the crowd in the lobby"? Apparently she never regained consciousness after being discovered by the apartment supervisor. One newspaper account states the police learned that Helen did not distribute the chain invitation by examining her suicide note. But if she mentioned it, she might have expected the crowd in the lobby. And if she did not mention it in the suicide note, she still may have issued the chain letter invitation as claimed in the first police report.

In the second account (The Sedalia Democrat), the eerie fact is revealed that Mrs. Mont had been the sole witness of the bizarre suicide of poet Robert Pew. He had toasted her with a glass of poison. Helen killed herself by placing a hose to her mouth.  The police did not release Helen's suicide note. This may be routine procedure, but likely her husband, James Mont,  had good reason for it to be kept secret. He may have also had a reason to persuade the police to deny their initial identification of Mrs. Mont as the hostess of the chain letter party.

There is some additional information about Helen Mont on the WWW. She was Korean-American. There is much information about James Mont. He definitely had crime connections, and in 1940 was convicted for a brutal assault on a woman who, as a result, committed suicide. Mont served a five year sentence for the crime. Here is a link focussing on his design work but with some details of his life.


It seems there is much we do not know about the death of Helen Mont. A picture of her appears with the The Hutchinson News article.