For some of the most gruesome and shocking celebrity deaths, the truth is even stranger than anything anyone could have written into a Hollywood script. Still, somehow, all of these cases have gone unsolved for years, even decades, and the world may never know who actually was responsible. So what clues and theories exist? Read on and decide for yourself.
1. Brittany Murphy
In 2009, actress Brittany Murphy was at the top of her game when she died suddenly at just 32 years old. Her death at the time was said to have been caused by a deadly mix of pneumonia combined with anemia, which doctors ruled to have caused the heart failure that ultimately took her life. But her family is not so convinced.
Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack, died as well just six months later of the same causes. This sparked suspicion. And in 2013, Murphy’s father commissioned his own toxicology report on his daughter, which reported a high number of heavy metals in her blood. “I have a feeling that there was a definite murder situation here,” her father said. “It’s poison, yes, I know that.”
On April 21, 2016, the world received the sad news that one of its most beloved performers, Prince, had died suddenly in his famous Minnesota home, Paisley Park. And at the time, it seemed like another rock star had fallen tragically due to heavy drug use. But then the story got more complicated.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office on June 2 reported that the “Purple Rain” singer had died after overdosing on fentanyl. But those deadly pills were actually found disguised in a bottle of the painkiller Vicodin. So did Prince mean to take the pills that killed him? Had someone planted them? And who provided those pills? The world still has no answers to any of these upsetting questions.
3. Natalie Wood
It was a tale of Hollywood glamour turned mystery that seemed like it was taken out of the pages of a movie script. In November of 1981, actor Robert Wagner reported his wife, Oscar-nominated actress Natalie Wood, missing while on vacation in California’s Catalina Island. Police later found Wood’s remains floating in the Pacific. She was found wearing a nightgown, socks, and a jacket.
At first, her death was ruled an accidental drowning, despite the fact that the West Side Story actress had been covered in bruises. Plenty of people suspected Wagner’s involvement, but he went on with his life until 2011, when the case was reopened. Wood’s cause of death is now officially ruled “drowning and other undetermined factors”, and while Wagner was named a person of interest, he has never been charged.
4. The Notorious B.I.G.
Christoper Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls, was one of the most famous rappers to have ever lived, reaching international fame and acclaim in his short lifetime. What’s more, his death at just 24 is also one of the most famous murder mysteries in history. Biggie was leaving an industry party when he was killed by a drive-by shooter in Los Angeles.
Despite all of the attention surrounding his death, police were never able to identify the rapper’s assailants. Many suspect the drive-by shooters were linked to LA-based rapper Tupac Shakur, who had been slain six months earlier in a similar drive-by shooting. To this day, decades have passed, yet no one knows who killed this Brooklyn-born rapper.
5. Bruce Lee
Actor and martial artist Bruce Lee’s rise to fame also sparked a spike in interest in martial arts across the United States. But at age 32, the man who seemed at the peak of his career and the picture of physical fitness died of a cerebral edema, a swelling of the brain. Quickly, questions began circulating as to whether that was the full story.
How could someone in such good shape succumb to such a fate? “Almost immediately, the rumor mill began running overtime: Hong Kong triads, a family curse, and even a poisoning were all blamed for his death,” Newsweek wrote. “That the married star had died in the house of his secret girlfriend, Betty Ting, fueled more rumors.”
6. Bobbi Kristina Brown
Despite the fact that the world may never know the real story of what happened to Bobbi Kristina Brown, everyone can agree that it was a massive tragedy. The daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston and her husband, performer Bobby Brown, was found unconscious in a bathtub at the age of just 22 years old.
Brown spent six months in a coma before she was pronounced dead, and never regained consciousness in order to tell her side of the story. While some grew suspicious of her longtime boyfriend, he was never charged. Brown’s cause of death was ruled “undetermined” and there is no way to tell if it was accidental or caused by something, or someone, else.
7. Jimi Hendrix
On September 18, 1970, the world mourned as rock star Jimi Hendrix was said to have died at age 27 from choking on his own vomit in a London hotel after a night of partying. But what started as a story of yet another celebrity death that was blamed on drug and alcohol use took a more sinister turn.
Despite the coroner’s report, questions still lingered on whether Hendrix was actually murdered. Then, in 2009, a man named Michael Jeffrey wrote that Hendrix’s manager, James “Tappy” Wright, had killed the rock star. How did he know? Jeffrey said that Wright told him about the ordeal himself, and claimed he benefited from Hendrix’s insurance policy and was worried the star was about to drop him as a manager.
8. Marilyn Monroe
It is no secret that Marilyn Monroe continues to be considered the absolute epitome of Hollywood glamour, even after her death. But the circumstances surrounding her legendary death are still said by some to be shrouded in secret. Did Monroe die from overdosing on sleeping pills, or was there more involved than met the eye?
Monroe’s official cause of death was ruled as a probable suicide after she was found in her Brentwood home on August 5, 1962. However, some theorize that her rumored affairs with Robert F. Kennedy and his older brother, then-President John F. Kennedy, might have played a role, and that her death was an effort to keep her quiet. The CIA is even said to have kept files on Monroe’s untimely passing.
9. David Carradine
If anyone thought that David Carradine’s role in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 was violent, the real life story of Carradine’s death is comparable. The actor and martial artist had traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, to shoot his latest role in a film called Stretch. The last anyone saw of him, he was left alone in his hotel room.
The next day, on June 3, 2009, Carradine’s body was discovered hanging in the hotel closet. An autopsy declared that Carradine died of asphyxiation, which might have been accidental but was not related to suicide. No one knows what happened that night, and who, if anyone, was involved. Carradine’s widow later sued the film company for leaving her late husband without protection.
10. Bob Crane
Actor Bob Crane’s well-known character in the comedy series Hogan’s Heroes was almost synonymous with happiness and laughter — and that made the gruesome way in which he was killed so much more shocking to fans. In 1978, Crane was found brutally beaten and asphyxiated.
As police began to collect evidence about his murder, the public began to learn about Crane’s colorful off-screen life, which was much darker than the roles he played on television. In 1994, Crane’s friend, John Carpenter, stood trial for Crane’s death, but was cleared due to insufficient evidence. After Carpenter died in 1998, so did the belief that the world may ever learn what actually happened to Crane.
11. Elizabeth Short a.k.a The Black Dahlia
The sad story of Elizabeth Short’s death is one of the most well-known celebrity deaths in history. Known as The Black Dahlia, the aspiring actress’ body was found in an empty parking lot. Her body had been cut in half at the waist, and that was not even the most horrifying part.
Her remains had been completely drained of blood, and washed so that no evidence was left for police to discover. Her face had also been cut from ear to ear. There was one witness who had seen a black sedan parked in the lot, but the driver was never identified. While this story is one of the most well-known and high-profile murder cases in modern American history, it somehow remains completely unsolved.
12. Princess Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales died tragically when her car crashed in a tunnel in Paris while it was reportedly speeding away from pushy paparazzi. The world was shocked and grief-stricken by her sudden death, but it seemed that Princess Diana may have seen it coming, and warned friends that she might be killed.
Following her divorce from Prince Charles, Princess Diana was said to have voiced concerns that she might be killed, and specifically mentioned a possible staged car crash. The suspicions around her death were only fueled after one of the drivers in the crash was never found. Some even question whether her own driver, who was also killed, was involved in a plot to take her life.
13. Tupac Shakur
Two years after surviving a drive-by shooting, Tupac Shakur was killed in yet another drive-by while in Las Vegas. The iconic West Coast poet-rapper, said by some to be the best to have ever lived, was in a high-profile feud with East Coast rapper Notorious B.I.G. After Shakur’s death, many quickly assumed that Biggie and his crew had played a role.
As the world mourned, the police carried out investigations to try to find the shooters. Whoever was responsible for Shakur’s death was never found, and Biggie Smalls died in similar circumstances six months later. Even years after, there are rumors that persist about whether Shakur is even dead, or if his death was staged.
14. Dolores O’Riordan
At age 46, iconic Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan was planning to meet with record label executives in hopes of releasing yet another album with her famous rock band, The Cranberries. Then one morning, O’Riordan was suddenly discovered dead in her London hotel room.
At first, the cause of O’Riordan’s passing seemed straight forward. The Westminster Coroner’s Office said that the singer had died from accidental drowning in her bathtub. They even cited the discovery of miniature bottles of alcohol and prescription drugs in her hotel room. But a toxicology report found that there were only “therapeutic” levels of medications in her body, leading many to question if the story of her drowning is to be believed.
15. Jason Mizell a.k.a Jam Master Jay
Jason Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay from the 1980s rap group Run-D.M.C., died in 2002 in a place where he felt the most at home: the recording studio. The DJ was recording in Jamaica, Queens, when an unnamed shooter came into the room and shot Mizell dead.
Reports after his death said that Mizell might have known his assailant, and possibly even greeted him as he walked into the room. Still, no witnesses were able to identify the killer. In 2007, a man named Ronald Washington was suspected of the murder, but he was never convicted. No other suspects have been named, and Mizell was added to the tragic list of unsolved celebrity deaths.
16. George Reeves
George Reeves was an actor with a super successful career ahead of him, in no small part because he played Superman in the television series Adventures of Superman. But even the real-life superhero was not able to escape his tragic fate. It all started in the morning hours of June 16, 1959.
What exactly occurred that morning is what is up for debate. Reeves’ friends and fiancée called the police after he had reportedly shot himself in the head following a night of drinking. But the stories they told police just did not add up, leaving some to question whether he was accidentally shot or if he was, in fact, murdered by those closest to him.
17. Jack Nance
Circumstances surrounding actor Jack Nance’s death began to get pretty suspicious even on the day before he actually died. The cult-favorite actor from Twin Peaks and Eraserhead showed up to a café to meet with friends, and they noticed he had a black eye.
“I told off some kid, I guess I got what I deserved,” Nance told his friends to explain his bruise. But the next day, Nance was discovered dead in his apartment. He had died from blunt-force trauma to his head. Did this have to do with whoever had given Nance his black eye just a day earlier? For now, the world might never know.
18. Jill Dando
At the time of Jill Dando’s death, she was one of the most well-known and prominent journalists in the United Kingdom. She was hosting the popular BBC show Crimewatch. But her own story became one that is now known as one of Britain’s most infamous unsolved murders.
Dando was visiting one of her homes in April of 1999 when someone approached her and shot her in the head. A witness had heard Dando’s screams and saw a man leaving the scene. Police arrested one man, but he was later acquitted of her murder, leaving the question worthy of any prime time crime series: who killed Jill Dando?
19. William Desmond Taylor
The story of silent film star William Desmond Taylor’s murder will make anyone happy that police protocols have changed since the 1920s. On February 2, 1922, the 27-time actor and 59-time director was found dead in his Los Angeles home. A crowd quickly gathered inside of the crime scene, and a man claiming to be a doctor said that he had died of a stomach hemorrhage.
That doctor quickly disappeared, and by the time the police actually arrived, they turned over his body, where they discovered a gaping gun shot wound. The weapon used was found at the scene, but no one was ever held responsible for killing Taylor.
20. Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd, nicknamed “The Ice Cream Blonde” and “Hot Toddy”, was a well-regarded actress who starred in 120 films in the late 1920s and early 1930s. But her acting career was cut short when she was found dead in her lover’s parking garage. Immediately, there were some strange things to be noticed about the scene.
Firstly, police said that Todd had died from carbon monoxide poisoning, even though her car was not even running when police showed up. Her autopsy found that something had been forced into her throat shortly before or during her death. Suspects included her ex-husband, her current lover, and even gangsters from the mafia, but no one was ever found responsible.
21. Johnny Stompanato
Johnny Stompanato was famous as a bodyguard for gangster Mickey Cohen and his family, but his name became more well-known when he began dating famous screen actress Lana Turner. The pair’s relationship, however, was definitely not a Hollywood love story. Those closest to Turner knew that Stompanato had a history of being abusive towards his starlet girlfriend.
On April 4, 1958, Stompanato was found stabbed to death. Turner’s 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, took responsibility, saying that she was defending her mother from abuse. The killing was later deemed justifiable. Because of this, some believe that Turner herself may have killed Stompanato, but agreed to let her young daughter take the fall, as she knew she would be given a lesser punishment.
22. Peter Ivers
Peter Ivers was a musician and a television personality. Ivers was called “the best harp player” by the near-mythical blues performer Muddy Waters himself, wrote the music for the film Eraserhead, and was the host of the alternative music television show New Wave Theater. And on March 3, 1983, Ivers also joined the list of strange and unsolved celebrity deaths.
That is when Ivers’ body was found severely beaten to death on the floor of his own apartment. If police had ever had any hopes of solving this mysterious celebrity death, those hopes were over as soon as the LAPD let Ivers’ family and friends enter the apartment. The crime scene was then contaminated and evidence was destroyed. Police never found Ivers’ murderer.
23. Virginia Rappe
On September 6, 1921, silent film actress Virginia Rappe was drinking at a party — despite the fact that it was during Prohibition times — at a hotel in San Francisco. The festivities were abruptly cut short when guests heard a scream. When they followed the noise, they found Rappe shrieking in pain next to Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, one of the biggest celebrities at the time.
Three days later, Rappe died of a ruptured bladder. Despite the fact that she had suffered from this condition before, Arbuckle was arrested and charged with playing a role in her death. He was tried three times, two of which resulted in a hung jury and one resulted in his acquittal. But it was too late. Arbuckle’s career was ruined and no one ever learned what exactly happened to Rappe.
24. Albert Dekker
Actor Albert Dekker starred in more than a few films from the 1940s to the 1960s, but it was in his death that the actor’s wildest scene unfolded. In May of 1968, Dekker’s fiancée, Jeraldine Saunders (who would go on to create the series Love Boat) came home to find a grisly scene.
Dekker was found dead kneeling in their bathtub. The actor had been blindfolded, gagged, and positioned with a noose around his neck. He was also covered in explicit phrases written in red lipstick. There were no signs of forced entry, and only a few items were taken from the home. To this day, no one knows who was responsible for the horrifying scene.
25. Peg Entwistle
Peg Entwistle’s infamous Hollywood death has continued to captivate fans, partly because of the Netflix series centered around her demise. The starlet died after starring in the 1932 film Thirteen Women, but when the movie received poor reviews, her character was cut from almost every scene.
According to reports, Entwistle was so upset by the newly-edited film that she took her own life. Entwistle climbed to the famed Hollywood sign and jumped from the letter ‘H’. But the mystery surrounding Entwistle’s death comes mostly with mysterious news of her possible afterlife. Hikers have claimed to see a blonde-haired, blue-eyed ghost near the sign even 100 years after her death.
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