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How did Ernest Hemingway die? Tragic story of suicide attempts after multiple plane crashes and ill-health

To cope with the unbearable pain caused by the life-threatening accidents, Hemingway allegedly resorted to drinking alcohol heavily 
American novelist Ernest Hemingway suffered a lot of mental and physical pain (Getty Images)
American novelist Ernest Hemingway suffered a lot of mental and physical pain (Getty Images)

Ernest Hemingway is remembered for his brilliant work in literature and a life filled with pain that ended tragically. Documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are bringing to you their latest project ‘Hemingway’, which is expected to shed light on the lesser-known and less explored aspects of Papa’s life. Among many sensitive topics pertaining to Hemingway’s personal and professional life, his death due to a self-inflicted wound is most devastating. 

However, life was riddled with both mental and physical difficulties and for Hemingway, that made him finally pull the trigger. Even though he survived multiple plane crashes and tackled their consequences, Hemingway took his own life when he couldn’t battle the “demons” within. 


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Ernest Hemingway (Getty Images)

How Hemingway survived two back-to-back plane crashes

Years before he died of suicide, Hemingway was almost fatally injured in two different plane crashes in Africa in 1954. It reportedly ruptured his organs and left him with sprained limbs and dislocated shoulder. He is also said to have suffered first-degree burns on much of his body and cracked his skull, which gave him concussions. He was on his way to Murchison falls with wife Mary Welsh when the plane struck a utility pole and “crash-landed in heavy brush”.

The next day, the second plane that was used to reach a medical care center exploded as well, causing leakage of cerebral fluid in the author. After the plane crashes, in order to cope with the unbearable pain caused by the life-threatening accidents, Hemingway reportedly resorted to drinking alcohol more heavily.

Author and journalist Ernest Miller Hemingway with his wife Mary on holiday in Stresa, Italy (Getty Images)

Hemochromatosis and depression bogged him down 

The author was diagnosed with hemochromatosis in early 1961. His father reportedly suffered from hereditary hemochromatosis and he also killed himself. The condition is believed to “create an overload of iron in the blood, causing painful damage to joints and organs, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.” Besides the physical pain, Hemingway’s functioning was further deteriorated by his declining mental health when he plunged into depression. When Welsh couldn’t handle his behavior, he was moved to the hospital for psychiatric treatment where he underwent 20 grueling rounds of electroconvulsive therapy. 

Multiple suicide attempts before death 

The writer allegedly attempted suicide several times before he took his own life. It is said that he was once stopped by a friend from shooting himself in the head with a shotgun. His friend had to physically tackle him. He was constantly monitored by a nurse, a doctor and friends as he had the tendency to hurt himself. 

Two days after returning from his ECT treatment, Hemingway shot himself with his “favorite” shotgun in his basement in the early hours of July 2, 1961.