Photo Of The Day

Photographer Paul Goresh John Lennon signs an autograph for Mark Chapman, his murderer.

Photographer Paul Goresh
John Lennon signs an autograph for Mark Chapman, his murderer.

John Lennon Signs An Autograph for Mark Chapman, His Murderer

According to Chapman he actually had the gun in his pocket when this photo was taken, but he chickened out. He hung around in front of the Dakota getting his nerves up until John and Yoko came home later that night.

Chapman waited outside Lennon’s apartment beginning in the afternoon. Lennon and Yoko walked outside to go somewhere and Chapman asked him to sign his record (it was a special edition record, somewhat rare for one reason or another). After Lennon signed the record he asked Chapman “Is that all?” Basically asking if Chapman wanted anything else signed to which Chapman replied “No”. Chapman then waited outside of Lennon’s apartment for Lennon to return.

He waited several hours and spent some of the time waiting reading The Catcher in The Rye (a book he was infatuated with). Lennon was returning from the recording studio that night. He was carrying tapes from the studio under his arm when he was shot. Chapman then read more of his book while waiting for the police to come. The first to respond after the shooting was a security guard from The Dakotas (the apartments John and Yoko lived in) who approached Chapman as he sat reading. Apparently the all the security guard could do was sob and kept asking Chapman “Do you know what you did?”

Mark Chapman was an individual who had experienced many problems, that were left unchecked and allowed to escalate. He heard voices and had obsessive thoughts about things, including Catcher of the Rye by J. D Salinger. He had grown up idolizing Lennon, but after becoming a born-again Christian he was angered at the singer’s claim that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus,” an instead turned on him.

He had intended to kill John Lennon in October 1980, after he had made the trip to New York with the intention of carrying out his plan, he was delayed and instead went to Atlanta to purchase ammunition from a friend. He returned to New York again in the November, again fully intending to kill Lennon, however changed his mind after seeing the film Ordinary People. After he returned home to his wife in Hawaii, and he told her that he had been obsessed with killing Lennon, and the matter again went unchecked by psychiatrists and other such professionals.

Chapman would return to New York one last time on December 6, with his plan to kill John Lennon firmly back on schedule. He checked into the Sheraton Hotel, staging his hotel room with several personal items for the police to find after he killed Lennon. He purchased a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, and wrote inside the cover, “This is my statement” and signed it Holden Caulfield.

Around 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left The Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they walked toward their limousine, Chapman shook hands with Lennon and asked for him to sign a copy of his album, Double Fantasy. Photographer Paul Goresh took a photo of Lennon signing Chapman’s album. Chapman reported that, “At that point my big part won and I wanted to go back to my hotel, but I couldn’t. I waited until he came back. He knew where the ducks went in winter, and I needed to know this” (a reference to The Catcher in the Rye).

Around 10:49 p.m., the Lennons’ limousine returned to the Dakota. Lennon and Ono got out, passed Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building. From the street behind them, Chapman fired five shots from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back and left shoulder. The death certificate gives the following description: “Multiple gunshot wounds of left shoulder and chest; Left lung and left subclavian artery; External and internal hemorrhage. Shock”

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  • Damon Mudgway

    The only thing Mark Chapman was, is, and will be remembered for, is being a monumental WOMBAT (waste of money, breath and taxes).

  • NotGandalf

    I was 12 years old, it is still one of the saddest days of my life. I heard somewhere that only one bullet was actually fatal, the one that nicked the artery. Lennon probably stood a fair chance with the other four bullets. Still this ranks as one of those surreal moments in history that never should have happened, like the worlds timeline changed in a monumental way (of course our fates change every day through big and small events, and who is to say JL wouldnt have caught a flu the following year and died anyway?) and perhaps if it hadnt been Lennon, it might have been someone else, all it takes is one crazy person with a gun out of a relatively small number of crazy people.

  • Tom McKechnie

    I lived in Wellington at the time and arriving home from work turned the radio on to hear Phil O’Brien say that JL had been shot. A little later Phil announced that JL was DOA and for the rest of the night he played Beatles & JL songs.
    I met Phil some 10 years later & thanked him for his tribute that night. He told me that he was sacked by ZMFM the following day for going off script.

    • jude

      I remember listening to Phil O’Brien’s tribute .A sad time and such a waste of a talented life.