A decades-old urban legend states that a woman attempted to commit suicide by jumping off of the Eiffel Tower, but survived after landing on a car, and married the car’s owner. Is this true or false?
The tale is at least partially true
While this urban legend has been circulating online for well over a decade, finding a reliable corroborating source has proven fruitless to those who have attempted to confirm or debunk the tale.
1965 News Report
We managed to dig up a March 17, 1965 news report entitled “Eiffel Tower Suicides” that recounted a tale that appears to be the basis of this urban legend.
In a story by Alain de Lyrot, Chief of the European Bureau, Copley News Service (Lodi News-Sentinal, March 17, 1965, page 6), we read growing concerns at that time about suicides from the tower. “Too many people are jumping off the Eiffel Tower,” the story begins.
The author then recounted two tales of people who actually survived falls from the monument.
The most spectacular case was that of a lonely heartbroken young lady of 17, identified only as Christiane, who made the 338th jump in November, 1964
Christiane had come to Paris several months before from Normandy. She wanted to sell perfumes. Instead she only found a job as a maid. She had met a young man. They had planned to marry but the young man broke the engagement.
That day she went to the Eiffel Tower, took the elevator to the second landing but found the guard rail too high. She then came down to the first landing platform. After walking about for an hour and a half she suddenly jumped over the balustrade.
She landed 182 feet below on top of a Renault Dauphine car which caved in. Six weeks later she was back in her own town of Cernay. She had only broken a leg. The automobile had saved her life.
“I felt nothing after I had jumped,” she said recently.
While the author is clearly describing the same tale which has circulated in recent years by fact pages, there was no mention of the car owner at all.
A series of Getty images entitled “The Survivor of the Eiffel Tower“ dated December 22, 1964 shows Christiane Coquentin celebrating Christmas the month after her jump from the tower. It notes that she survived her jump, but also does not mention the car owner. Descriptions of the photo collection note that she spent the holidays with her sister and friends. None of the captions mentions a husband, fiancee, or boyfriend.
A search for follow-up news reports yields little. It would appear that the part of the tale regarding Coquentin marrying the owner of the car either received little media coverage – or may have simply been added later to the story to include a happy, ironic twist.
In late 1964, a young woman named Christiane Coquentin attempted to commit suicide by jumping off of the Eiffel Tower. The teenager survived when she landed on a car, which caved in and softened her fall. There is, however, no mention in limited news accounts in the ensuing months that the woman married or had any connection to the owner of the car. Even armed with the woman’s name, age, and location, we could find no media reports of the alleged marriage. While it is possible that such a series of events ensued, we could find no evidence to support that assertion. It is possible that this detail, which was not present in contemporary news accounts, may have been an embellishment added years later to the story of Christiane Coquentin.
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Updated November 25, 2015
Originally published November 2014