Everybody dies, but not everybody dies an unnatural death. And fewer still die famous.
Those criteria combined make for some interesting headlines, and even more interesting history. These 20 celebrities died unusual, even bizarre, deaths under equally strange circumstances.
Few famous deaths are so hotly contested as that of Miss Monroe. At 36-years-old, Marylin may not have been young anymore, but this blonde bombshell showed little signs of stopping. That’s partly the reason so many people were confused by her sudden death, which was ruled “probable suicide.” She was found dead in her bedroom on August 5th, 1962, and the cause was quickly ruled as an overdose. Conspiracy theorists have gone rabid over this ever since. Rumors about her and then President Kennedy abounded at the time, even though the guy was married to the foxy Jackie O.
People get injured in wrestling stunts all the time, but rarely is there ever an episode like that of poor Owen Hart, whose claim to fame quickly went from being “beloved pro-wrestler” to the wrestler who fell 78 feet to his death. To make matters worse, this happened on Pay-Per-View in front of millions, during a 1999 Over the Edge event. As an odd twist of fate, plans for him to perform the stunt with a midget-wrestler between his legs were canceled just hours before the fight. That little person would surely not have survived the fall either.
What kind of wood doesn’t float? If you laughed, you’re not a horrible person, you’re just old. That joke’s been floating around ever since Natalie Wood’s accidental drowning in 1981, when she fell overboard a yacht drunk one sad night after partying with the likes of Christopher Walken. Some say she was a little too flirty with the Walkman, and that her husband may have thrown her over the side.
In 1982 the great and lovable John Belushi met his match in a “speedball” shot of heroine and cocaine. He had been partying that night with friends, including Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, but when they left, they couldn’t have known they’d never see him again. He was 33 years old when he died. The room he died in, called Bungalow #3 at the Chateau Marmont, in LA, is now famous, but Guy Ritchie was so spooked by the idea that he had his room changed as soon as he found out he was staying in it.
Most of us have probably forgotten what this star looked like, with Jennifer Lopez stealing all her fame and multiplying it for herself (many times over). But those who do remember the songstress remember, that when she was still alive Selena was one hot commodity. At the tender age of 23 she was gunned down in a hotel room in 1995 by a seriously deranged former employee.
The Crow was a dark movie, both literally and figuratively, that centered around death itself. That was only expanded by the fact that its star, a young Brandon Lee, died while making it, becoming the victim of possibly the strangest random act of fate ever to befall the movie industry. A prop-gun used in an earlier action scene had apparently gotten a bullet lodged in the barrel when a cheaply made, impromptu dummy round came apart. When a blank round was loaded later, nobody noticed the lead stuck in the gun, and the force of the new blank caused the equivalent of a low-powered gunshot in a later scene, which struck Lee in the abdomen. The bullet lodged itself in his spine, and he died in the hospital after hours of surgery. The incident caused urban legends to be born, as his father had died twenty years earlier under mysterious circumstances as well.
Causing a worldwide wave of mourning, Princess Diana died shortly after being critically injured in a serious car wreck while leaving Paris just after midnight August 31st, 1997. The driver of the car had been drinking while on antidepressants. These were the glory days of the new-world Paparazzi, who were viciously hated for their actions after the crash. As Diana lay dying, the photographers continued to take pictures. The father of her companion at the time claimed that the British Secret Intelligence Service had been dispatched to cause the accident, which kicked off a slew of investigations into the accident. French emergency medical procedures also came under fire during the ensuing blame-game.
In 1998 Sonny Bono, the man who was with Cher when she was young, was taken out by a tree while skiing in Nevada. They had originally thought the accident was caused by his addiction to Vicodin, but later found that he was clean when it happened, showing that Nature must have been holding an envious grudge. His wife, Mary, took his place in Congress afterwards, and his headstone reads “And the Beat Goes On…”
A memorial sign sits at the junction of Highways 46 and 41 outside Cholame, CA, where James Dean died in his Porsche 955 Spyder on his way to a race in Salinas. A truck crossed lanes when its driver apparently didn’t see him, and they hit head-on. Dean was pronounced dead when the ambulance got him to the nearest hospital. Despite his penchant for speeding, investigations afterward showed nobody was going over 55 mph, and that it was simply a freak accident.
On April Fool’s Day in 1984 Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his own father with a gun he gave him. After going through months of depression and suicide attempts, Marvin tried to get between his parents during a heated argument. Instead of helping things, he only made them worse, and in the end his father was sentenced to six years of probation since doctors found that he had a brain tumor. He later died in 1989, in a nursing home.
While Johnny Depp was in The Viper Room up on stage with Flea, River Phoenix was overdosing on the sidewalk outside. Apparently he had taken a mixture of meth and opiates, called Persian Brown, and it was just too much for the young actor. Just before 2 a.m. at Cedar-Sinai, Phoenix was pronounced dead, with his buddy Flea in the waiting room. The piece of sidewalk he died on has become as famous as the Hollywood Stars, and is a popular tour location to this day. Depp, being a partial-owner, closed the club every year on the anniversary of Phoenix’s death until he quit the business.
The legendary Bruce Lee, who sparred with Chuck Norris himself, died laying down in his Hong Kong apartment after taking headache medicine. Doctors said the medicine, which was pretty good stuff, had the unfortunate effect of swelling his brain because of a pre-existing condition. Not all doctors agreed though, and a conspiracy theory was born that day, which inevitably morphed through urban legends into a full-blown “curse” when his son, Brandon Lee, died during the making of The Crow.
The subject of seemingly endless post-mortem ridicule, Steve Irwin (the guy who wrestled crocodiles) died after being stabbed through the heart by a stingray. The irony of this ridiculous death was too great for most mature people to handle, and most had to mourn him while silently stifling a chuckle.
On January 22nd, 2008, Heath Ledger was found dead in his SoHo apartment by his housekeeper and masseuse, kicking off controversy, mourning, vigils and scandal. Heath was a popular actor, a popular guy, and a popular topic for tabloids as well, with plenty of drama in his life to feed their editorial fodder. The masseuse, instead of simply calling the police, or even checking to see if he was dead or not, decided the best course of action was to call Mary-Kate Olson. This one bone-head move completely changed the circumstances of the entire event. After lengthy investigations his death was ruled accidental, though due to the abuse of prescription medications.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
The only fatality out of ten people who were riding in the Mitsubishi Pajero she was driving, “Left Eye” died in Honduras in 2002. Afterwards, her mother tried to sue Mistubishi because the vehicle rolled over so many times, down a hill, after Lisa swerved off the road to avoid oncoming traffic. A tragic accident, to be sure, but the circumstances were tempting fate a bit too much.
Showing that the speedball is Hollywood’s arch-nemesis of drug overdoses, Chris Farley joined his compatriot John Belushi in the afterlife at the same age, 33. Having not only death in common, both comedians got their start on SNL too, leading many to conjure up yet another urban-legend style connection between the two.
Much like her music-industry contemporary “Left Eye”, Aaliyah and her party also seemed to think vehicles could be severely over-loaded and still operate safely. That’s why they insisted that all their heavy equipment from filming a music video be stowed onboard their twin-prop Cessna along with themselves, as they left the Bahamas. Not but 200 feet past the runway the plane nose-dived into a marsh. There were no survivors.
John Kennedy Jr.
Another plane crash, though under much more mysterious circumstances, took the life of John Kennedy Jr. along with his wife and sister-in-law. They took off the night of July 16th from Jersey on their way to Martha’s Vineyard in a single-engine Piper, but they never got there. The plane crashed into the Atlantic instead, but only conjecture from the NTSB ever really got close to explaining just what went wrong. They think that, despite decent visibility that night, John got visually disoriented in the night and accidentally dove the plane into the sea, not having a good handle on his instruments. It’s a good explanation, but we’ll never really know.
On June 4th, 2009 the Legend himself was found dead in a Bangkok hotel room, hanging naked in a closet. The local police said he died of autoerotic asphyxiation, which, believe it or not, they termed an “autoerotic fatality” and apparent suicide. Conflicting reports about the state of his body when discovered led his family to claim foul-play, but the police denied any possibility of it. His family hired a lawyer, Mark Geragos, who proceeded to go on Larry King Live and explain that David wouldn’t have committed suicide, and was probably killed by a secret sect of kung fu assassins, who wanted to stop him from investigating them.
Buddy Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper all died on February 3rd, 1959 on what would be known as “the Day the Music Died.” Much like John Jr., 40 years later, the pilot of the plane wasn’t yet rated on his instruments, and in the poor winter weather lost control of the plane and crashed. All on board died on impact, along with The Music. Holly’s style of eye wear, however, would later be resurrected.