Celebrities live most of their lives in the public eye and often remain in the spotlight long after their deaths. Over the past few decades, some of the world’s most glamorous and famous stars have notoriously passed away from natural causes and illnesses, drug overdoses, car crashes, suicides and even murders.
Thanks to the media, the public is usually privy to the intimate details surrounding the passing of a celebrity. Often a deceased star’s most devoted fans struggle to deal with the fact that their idol is gone. The high profile deaths of some – and the abundance of details that often flood the media after they pass away – can lead to the rise of rampant public speculation and even conspiracy theories about the circumstances of the celebrity’s death.
That’s not to say there isn’t good reason for conspiracy theories to flourish: time and time again, the circumstances surrounding a celebrity’s death have indeed been mysterious (or at least not made completely transparent to the public). For instance, rap star Tupac’s apparent 1996 murder has gone unsolved, and the artist has released 6 albums posthumously. Such stories give hope to some fans that perhaps their favorite celebrity is – as many like to believe is the case with Elvis – actually alive and well, and just lying low somewhere out in the world.
Let’s take a look at 10 mysterious celebrity deaths and why some of those stars’ family members, friends or fans believe the circumstances surrounding the deaths are still unsolved.
10. Biggie Smalls “Notorious B.I.G.” – Died: March 9, 1997
Biggie Smalls was part of an emerging hip-hop scene in the 1990s and had many hits. He was also a part of a tense “East Coast” versus “West Coast” hip-hop rivalry, which some speculate might have played a part in his death. B.I.G. was shot after leaving a party in Los Angeles in 1997 and pronounced dead soon after. His murder remains unsolved.
9. Tupac – Died: September 13, 1996
Tupac was murdered in 1996 in Las Vegas while he was waiting in a car with the co-founder and owner of his record label at a red light. There have been theories and conspiracies that the murder of Biggie Smalls was somehow related to his murder because both artists had been a part of the “East Coast” vs. “West Coast” hip hop rivalry. Other theories have suggested that Tupac may in fact be alive, but hiding, since six albums have been released after his death. No one has ever been charged in his death.
8. Natalie Wood- Died November 29, 1981
The Hollywood starlet died in 1981 during a weekend on Catalina Island, California, with her husband, Robert Wagner. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning. However, many facts about her death are unknown because no one admitted to seeing how she entered the water. She went missing one night and her body was found floating a mile away from the island the next day. The coroner said that Wood had been drinking and might have slipped. In 2011, authorities reopened the investigation into her death following new information and changed the cause of her death from accidental drowning to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”
7. Marilyn Monroe – Died: August 5, 1962
When the legendary actress was pronounced dead in 1962 at the age of 36, it was ruled as a drug overdose and probable suicide. Interestingly, however, it has been rumored that the first LAPD officer on the scene believed she was murdered. Over the years, speculation as to whether she was murdered has continued to run rampant. Numerous books have been published that are filled with conspiracy theories that claim her death was a possible murder to cover up the alleged affairs she had had with high profile individuals, including President Kennedy. However, the case about her death has never been reopened.
6. Bruce Lee – Died: July 20, 1973
In 1973 the famous martial arts actor took a painkiller for a headache and laid down for a nap and never woke up. Doctors called his death a “death by misadventure” caused by a reaction to the medicine. However, scientists and doctors disputed the circumstances surrounding his death, and his celebrity status combined with his untimely death (he was working on a movie at the time) fueled many theories about his passing. Some even called it a curse, especially after the accidental death of his son Brandon Lee in 1993 while Brandon was filming a scene for the movie “The Crow.”
5. Elvis Presley – Died: August 16, 1977
Elvis’ death was ruled as a drug overdose when he famously died on the toilet in 1977. However, his staggering celebrity status has fueled much speculation about the demise of The King. Conspiracy theories surrounding his death also have roots in questions concerning the ethics of the medical professionals who performed the autopsy. Popular myth states that he might actually be alive and well somewhere. Such legends are fueled by supposed sightings of the rock star. As a result of pressure surrounding the star’s death, in 1994 the investigation was reopened and the coroner stated that none of the data supports drugs as cause of death; instead, he suffered a heart attack.
4. Elizabeth Short – Died: January 15, 1947
The 1947 murder of an aspiring actress was both chilling and is one of Los Angeles’ oldest unsolved mysteries. The body of the beautiful 22 year old Short was found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles, horrifyingly mutilated. The terrifying details of her death generated a sensational story in the media.
Ultimately, the media painted her as a femme fatale and they spread rumors that her lifestyle had made her “victim material.” The story inspired the 2006 movie “The Black Dahlia” starring Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson. Despite the decades-long interest in the story, her death has yet to be solved.
3. Jimi Hendrix – Died: September 18, 1970
The legendary musician died in London in 1970 after choking on his own vomit while intoxicated with sedatives, according to the coroner. However, conspiracy theories emerged as a result of unclear accounts of the night of Hendrix‘s death. Scotland Yard opened an inquiry over 20 years after his death, but it ended inconclusively.
2. Kurt Cobain – Died: April 1994
In 1994, Cobain was found dead with a shotgun pointed at his chin. He’d been dead for days by the time he was found by an electrician who had been scheduled to install a security system. The death was ruled a suicide. (It is said that the rocker had attempted suicide before). However, some fans have refused to believe that he could have died and speculate that he might have been murdered instead.
1. Brittany Murphy – Died: December 20, 2009
The 2009 death of the 32 year old movie star was declared a result of pneumonia, iron deficiency and drug overdose. However, her father and friends have publicly spoken up about concerns that there was something stranger about her death. Her father commissioned an independent lab to do tests on a strand of hair, which revealed that the presence of heavy metals in her body at the time of death were up to nine times higher than what is deemed “high” by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, her husband also tragically died only 5 months after her death from similar causes.