Or You May Have Heard One Or Two…
Celebrities are victims of seemingly unrestricted access to their private lives since they are always spied on and documented by the media. In some cases though, their fame and popularity proved to be insufficient in saving them from dying or even in finding the true cause of their death.
Of course, homicide cases frequently go unsolved not only for decades, sometimes even longer, yet one would expect the police would have an easier job in discovering the killer when the victim is famous. However, many of the celebrity murder and mysterious death cases end up closed after years of fruitless searching.
From Brian Jones to Natalie Wood to Jayne Mansfield, here are bizarre celebrity deaths that are more tragic, mysterious and too weird for words…
1. Brian Jones
The Rolling Stones guitarist and founder member was found at the bottom of a swimming pool at his home in Cotchford Farm, East Sussex, in July 1969. He was 27. While an inquest recorded a verdict of “death by misadventure”, speculation abounded that he had been murdered.
A builder who had been working on the farm at the time of his death is said to have made a deathbed confession to a former Stones driver, Tom Keylock, although Mr Keylock denied later denied this.
In August 2009, Sussex Police announced they would be reviewing the case after an investigative journalist unearthed new documents about Jones’s death.
2. Elvis Presley
In 1977, the singer was found in the bathroom of his Graceland home. The cause of death has been disputed – a drug overdose, an allergic reaction to codeine, or a heart attack have all been suggested.
More interesting than the cause of death, however, are the conspiracy theories that sprang up around it, claiming that he faked his own death. There have been thousands of reported sightings since the King’s death, and two tabloid newspapers covered the continuing “life” of Presley after his death.
Among the details of his posthumous life was a broken leg in a motorcycle accident. According to this version, his “real” death came in the mid-1990s, when he would have been in his sixties.
3. Marilyn Monroe
Shortly before Monroe’s death in August 1962, aged 36, she made her final major public appearance: singing “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to President John F Kennedy. It was rumoured that the two had an affair.
Her death was recorded as a “probable suicide” from barbiturate poisoning, although various conspiracy theories, including murder organised by the Mafia, CIA or the Kennedys themselves, were put forward.
4. Jimi Hendrix
The guitarist died in 1970 in Notting Hill, west London. He is said to have asphyxiated on his own vomit after accidentally overdosing on sleeping pills.
However, there were rumors of foul play. A former roadie claimed that Hendrix’s manager had him killed to stop him ending his record contract.
5. Richey Edwards
The Manic Street Preachers’ rhythm guitarist and lyricist went missing in 1995 after withdrawing £2,800 from his bank account. His car was found by the Severn Bridge.
He has never been found, and his family refused for several years to declare him legally dead. He was officially “presumed dead” in November 2008, despite “sightings” in Goa and Lanzarote.
Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was shot on set during the filming of The Crow in an accident in March 1993: an attempt to create fake bullets out of live ones that went horribly wrong. Lee was fatally wounded in the last days of filming and died in hospital.
It is not known who made the error that left a real bullet in the barrel when the fake cartridge went off. It has led to wild conspiracy theories about Lee’s death, especially since his father also died in strange circumstances.
7. Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams is considered one of the greatest American playwrights in history, yet he often struggled with depression. Found dead in an New York hotel suite in February 1983, many suspected the cause to be drug and alcohol abuse related, and while both played a role, the main contributor to his death was asphyxiation.
According to medical professionals, Williams died from choking on a bottle cap that was lodged in his throat. (The cap was from a bottle for eye drops that he often used.) Examiners believed the drugs and alcohol in his system subdued his gag reflex, preventing him from releasing the cap from his throat.
8. Natalie Wood
Known for her roles in Miracle on 34th Street and Rebel Without a Cause, Natalie Wood was considered a successful Hollywood actress. On November 29, 1981, while on break from filming her last movie, Brainstorm, Wood drowned on a boating trip on the way to Santa Catalina Island, off the California coast.
Details surrounding her drowning were mysterious, considering neither her husband, Robert Wagner, nor the captain saw Wood fall into the water. Wagner claimed that following a fight, Wood went to bed. Her body was found less than a mile away from the boat with bruises and scratches on her body. Examiners ultimately changed her cause of death from accidental to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” Many have speculated that Wagner could have potentially played a role in Wood’s drowning.
9. Jayne Mansfield
Mother of Mariska Hargitay, known as the “Working Man’s Marilyn Monroe,” Jayne Mansfield was the blonde bombshell of Hollywood’s 1950s. While driving with her children, lover, and driver in 1967, Mansfield’s Buick crashed into the rear of a tractor that had suddenly stopped due to a fog being emitted from a truck’s mosquito fogger. The impact instantly killed Mansfield, her lover, and driver, but her children were miraculously nearly unscathed – including Hargitay.
Rumors circled that Mansfield was decapitated by the crash largely because of the appearance of the car, which looked as if the top had been sliced off. However, the rumors were proven false, and only began because Mansfield’s wig flew from her head to the windshield following the crash.
10. George Reeves
Cast as the original Superman, George Reeves was never able to escape the infamy of his trademark role. His career essentially flopped after playing the hero, and he often struggled to find work. Many believe that this led to Reeves’s severe depression and his subsequent suicide.
After a night of debauchery, Reeves retired to his room, where his guests and fiancée heard a single gunshot between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. on June 16, 1959. Reeves’s suicide ultimately spawned “the Superman curse,” used to describe the strange deaths of actors with those who have taken on the daunting superhero role.
11. Bob Crane
Bob Crane was an American disc jockey and actor, best known for his performance as Colonel Robert E. Hogan in the television sitcom Hogan’s Heroes from 1965 to 1971, and for his unsolved death.
On the night of June 28, 1978, Crane is alleged to have called John Henry Carpenter to tell him that their friendship was over. The following day, Crane was discovered bludgeoned to death with a weapon that was never found (but was believed to be a camera tripod) at the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Arizona. In Robert Graysmith’s book The Murder of Bob Crane, he notes that investigators found semen on Crane’s dead body and assumes the murderer may have ejaculated on him after killing him.
More info on the night of his death: Someone bludgeoned the sleeping actor with a tire iron, smashing in his skull. The assailant then cut an electric cord from a motel lamp with a pocketknife and tied a tight knot around Crane’s neck. The suspect was acquitted due to lack of evidence and maintained his innocence for the rest of his life.
12. Lana Clarkson
Lana Clarkson, a famous 1980s actress and model, was found dead inside the home of acclaimed record producer Phil Spector. Both lauded and despised for his tyrannical and conveyor belt approach to record producing, Spector was a controversial, albeit successful, figure in the music industry.
Shot dead after a night out at the House of Blues with Spector, the murder led to the producer’s arrest and trial. Following a mistrial, Spector was eventually convicted of second degree murder. His driver noted that after hearing the gunshots, Spector stated, “I think I just shot her.” During his trial, Spector tried to argue that Clarkson’s death was an accidental suicide and that she had “kissed the gun.”