Unsolved mysteries are fascinating in almost every way. For us at home, these mysteries give us a chance to play detective. We read about the case, examine the details, and consider the suspects. Each of these cases we’re about to breakdown are extremely high profile. Not only did they involve well-known celebrity victims, but some of the suspects were celebrities as well. Obviously, since these cases are still unsolved or remain mysteries in some ways, the celebrity suspects were cleared of any wrongdoing or were never proven guilty. We’re not saying that the investigators were wrong. We’re simply highlighting how and why these celebrities were caught up in the investigation. You can play sleuth at home and determine if they still should be considered suspects or if it was all just a misunderstanding.
Whenever we hear about a celebrity getting caught doing something illegal, we tend to think negatively about the justice system. Over the years, it’s proven to be a rare thing indeed that a celeb ever actually receives proper punishment for his/her crimes. Money and fame has always been the best defense and it probably always will be. But the crimes we’re here to discuss aren’t DUIs or simple assaults, these crimes are some of the biggest unsolved mysteries around. Now, we understand that celebrities are often accused of crimes that they had nothing to do with. Whenever a huge case is broadcast far and wide, the people at home try to play detective, pointing their fingers at the only suspects they know by name, usually celebrities. But we’re not just pointing fingers and playing detectives here. The celebrities on this list were actually named as suspects in these mega-mysteries. You decide if they’re hiding something. Here are 15 Celebrity Suspects in Famous Unsolved Mysteries.
15. Howard Hughes – David Bacon
On September 13, 1943, a car was seen driving all over the road and crashed over a curb. Then, out ran actor David Bacon wearing only a bathing suit. He staggered and then fell to the ground where he died from a knife wound in his back. In the car, his wallet was found with its contents untouched and a camera with one photo on it—a nude Bacon smiling at the beach. Bacon was married to singer Greta Keller. The relationship was thought to be a lavender marriage, covering up the s*xualities of both Bacon and Keller. Talk of the involvement of director and businessman Howard Hughes in Bacon’s death probably came about because of the rumors of their relationship. Earlier that year, Hughes signed Bacon to an exclusive film contract. The plan was to cast him as Billy the Kid in The Outlaws, but Bacon was not given the role. Keller blamed this on a failed s*xual relationship between Hughes and Bacon. Some witnesses say that they saw a man in a suit in the car with Bacon before he died. Many also believe that whoever took the photo of Bacon at the beach was the murderer, but no one was ever arrested for the crime.
14. William Randolph Hearst – Thomas Ince
Thomas Ince is not only considered to be the “father of the Western,” but he was also the man behind the first movie studio, helped create the role of the film producer, and introduced the concept of assembly line filmmaking. In November of 1924, William Randolph Hearst, the American newspaper mogul, invited Ince on a weekend cruise on his yacht. The two men had a major deal they were working on and it was Ince’s birthday. On November 15, a number of stars boarded the Oneida, including Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, and many others. Ince, however, was late and met the yacht in San Diego. After dinner on that night, Ince reportedly suffered from severe indigestion. The story says that Ince then traveled home by train where he died of heart failure. However, the rumors went wild. Some tales tell that Ince was killed by Hearst after their deal was signed. Others say that Hearst tried to kill Charlie Chaplin, who was sleeping with Hearst’s mistress, Davies, but missed and shot Ince instead. Reports even suggest that the morning front page of the Los Angeles Times on November 24 read “Movie Producer Shot on Hearst Yacht!” But there was nothing to be found about the death in the paper later that evening. Were they hushed by the newspaper giant Hearst or was this just sensationalism to begin with?
13. Fatty Arbuckle – Virginia Rappe
Roscoe Arbuckle was a silent film star and one of the highest paid actors in the industry. He was partly responsible for fostering the careers of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Bob Hope. His career came to a grinding halt in 1921, however, when actress Virginia Rappe died of mysterious circumstances and Arbuckle was accused of her r*pe and manslaughter. On September 5, 1921, Arbuckle and two friends rented three hotel rooms and invited guests to party. Among the guests was Rappe who, at some point during the party, became extremely ill. A doctor came by and said she was just wasted, giving her a morphine to chill. It was known that Rappe had chronic cystitis, a condition that alcohol made worse. She also had received several shady abortions and was drinking bootleg liquor, a bad recipe. Later, after being brought to the hospital, Rappe died. It was believed to be from peritonitis, caused by a ruptured bladder. Her friend then claimed that Arbuckle r*ped Rappe and his heavy weight caused the ruptured bladder. Arbuckle denied the claims saying he found Rappe in the room vomiting. He put her in a cool bath and rubbed ice on her to ease the pain. After two trials with hung juries, a third trial finally brought about Arbuckle’s acquittal. He was apologized to by the jury, but his career never recovered.
12. Lana Turner – Johnny Stompanato
In the 1940’s and ’50s, Lana Turner was one of Hollywood’s biggest names. In the late ’50s, Turner entered into a relationship with Johnny Stompanato, a gangster and bodyguard for legendary mobster Mickey Cohen. The two had a troublesome relationship which got even worse when Turner was filming Another Time, Another Place with Sean Connery. Apparently, Stompanato choked Turner one night and caused her to miss three weeks of filming. When Turner called the police, Stompanato showed up on set and threatened her and Connery with a gun. It was allegedly Connery who disarmed him and made him leave. Police then had Stompanato leave the country and return home. The next spring, on April 4, 1958, Stompanato showed up to Turner’s home. Turner reports that she broke it off with him that night and things escalated to a long and drawn-out fight that got physical. During the fight, Turner’s 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl, entered the room and ran toward Stompanato. When they parted, it was revealed that she had stabbed him with a butcher knife. He died and the murder was deemed justifiable. But many still believe that it was Turner who did the killing and the underage Cheryl took the blame knowing she would be acquitted.
11. Robert Hathaway – Karyn Kupcinet
Actress Karyn Kupcinet wasn’t the biggest name in the industry, but she did have plenty of small parts in well-received shows and films. It was her death that made her most famous, however, after she was found nude and dead in her apartment on November 28, 1963. On the night of her death, Kupcinet was at her apartment spending time with a friend, Edward Rubin, when a mutual friend, actor Robert Hathaway (Troll, Battlestar Galactica and When the Girls Take Over), came by. The three watched TV as Kupcinet fell asleep. When she woke, she went to bed and the two men left and went to Hathaway’s place down the hall. Kupcinet was apparently never seen alive again. Later, Kupcinet’s boyfriend, Andrew Prine, showed up at Hathaway’s place and they all watched TV together until the early morning hours. A couple of days later, Kupcinet was found dead and naked on the couch with a broken hyoid bone in her throat, a result of strangulation. Hathaway, Prine, and Rubin were all suspects right away. Rumors also swirled about a possible connection to the JFK assassination, but none of that seems remotely accurate. No one was ever arrested for the murder.
10. Allen Klein – Sam Cooke
The death of Sam Cooke, the famed musician, got a lot of attention because of the strange circumstance around it. However, people still overlook it as a mystery. On December 11, 1964, Cooke was shot and killed in a hotel by Bertha Franklin, the hotel’s manager. Franklin’s story was that Cooke barged in her office wearing nothing but a sports jacket and an altercation broke out between them. Cooke was allegedly asking Franklin where the woman he was with went and attacked her. Franklin grabbed a gun, shot Cooke in the chest, and then hit him with a broom handle until he died. The owner of the hotel, Evelyn Carr, was on the phone with Franklin when this happened. She called police after hearing the gunshot. Another call went into police at the same time, this one from a payphone outside the hotel. The woman caller was Elisa Boyer who accused Cooke of kidnapping her. She was in the hotel room when Cooke went to the bathroom. She scooped up her clothes (and Cooke’s accidentally) and left. These stories are disputed, though. Some say that Cooke was carrying much more than the $108 found in his clothes and that Boyer was robbing him. Others blame Cooke’s manager, Allen Klein, who had rights to all Cooke’s music. Singer Etta James questioned the reports, saying that Cooke’s face and hands were broken beyond belief. She questioned how Franklin did this damage all on her own. Conspiracy theorists believe Klein had him killed and the women were in on the murder.
9. Toni And Eddie Mannix – George Reeves
On June 16, 1959, George Reeves, the legendary actor best known for playing Superman, was found dead in his bedroom of a gunshot wound to the head. The death was ruled a suicide, but some reports suggest curious findings. The story says Reeves and his fiancé, Leonore Lemmon, had been arguing that night. After going to bed, Reeves awoke to a party in his house. He came downstairs angry, had a couple of drinks with his guests, and returned to bed angry. Lemmon allegedly joked that he was going to shoot himself. Then, there was a shot heard and Reeves was dead. There were no fingerprints recovered from the gun, no discharge burns, and no gunpowder residue found on Reeves’ hands. The killing bullet was found in the ceiling but the shell casing was under Reeves’ body. There were also two other bullets found in the bedroom floor. For those who consider the possibility of murder, two prominent suspects were Toni and Eddie Mannix, MGM vice president and mobster. Reeves was involved in an affair with Toni prior to getting engaged to Lemmon. Some say Eddie had Reeves killed for this affair. Some blame Lemmon. Many others just say it was suicide.
8. Tony Sirico – Christa Helm
Christa Helm wasn’t a giant film star, but she did have small roles in Starsky & Hutch and Wonder Woman. Her big claim to fame was that she was a socialite. She was known for being surrounded by plenty of famous people and even reportedly had a secret diary that told of all the s*xual escapades she had with various stars. Some say she even recorded these encounters on tapes. On February 12, 1977, Helm was stabbed numerous times outside of her agent’s home. The reason her death was so publicized is because the murderer was never found. Before she was murdered, Helm also allegedly sent her friend a postcard that read: “I am in way over my head here. I’m into something I can’t get out of.” There is a story that, on the following day, Tony Sirico, the actor best known as Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri from The Sopranos, who was also said to be a gangster in his early days with more than 20 arrests on his record, showed up at Helm’s home, which she shared with a roommate and took away some of Helm’s belongings. These items were said to be the diary, some clothes and the tapes. Sirico has refused to comment on this.
7. The Kennedys – Marilyn Monroe
The death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 was declared a suicide from the get-go and this was accepted by all. It wasn’t until 1964 that any other rumors started. In that year, anti-communist activist Frank A. Capell published a pamphlet called The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe. In this, he introduced the idea that Monroe had an affair with Robert F. Kennedy and threatened to expose it. Added to this was the talk of Monroe and President John F. Kennedy having extramarital relations. This latter encounter was backed up by Monroe’s biographer Donald Spoto who said it was only a one-time thing and took place at Bing Crosby’s house in March of 1962. With the knowledge that Monroe had slept with two Kennedys, talk of a conspiracy went wild and still lasts to this day.
6. Mabel Normand And Friends – William Desmond Taylor
The murder of director and actor William Desmond Taylor is one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in Hollywood. On February 2, 1922, Taylor’s body was found in his bungalow with a bullet in his back. He still had money and jewelry on, which indicates it was not a robbery, though there was some cash missing that was apparently never accounted for. On his person, Taylor was carrying a locket with a photograph of actress Mabel Normand, one of the prime suspects in the murder because she was the last to see Taylor alive. Normand, who admitted to having a relationship with Taylor, told the police that Taylor had been trying in vain to stop her cocaine habits. He even tried to have her drug suppliers arrested. She declared that her suppliers may have hired an assassin. Actress Mary Miles Minter was also a suspect. Many letters were found in Taylor’s house that were sent from the much younger Minter. It was thought that her unrequited love may have stirred her to murder Taylor. Finally, actress Margaret Gibson is another suspect. In 1964, the year of her death, Gibson suffered a heart attack and had a priest come by to hear her confession. She then admitted to killing Desmond Taylor in 1922. The two were co-stars in the 1914 film, The Kiss.
5. Roland West – Thelma Todd
The death of actress Thelma Todd on December 16, 1935 drummed up conspiracy theories right away. Prior to her death, Todd spoke of extortion and death threats. The fact that she was found dead in her own car that was parked in the garage of actor (and lover) Roland West wasn’t lost on anyone either. Todd had a contusion on her lip, but there were no other signs of foul play. Investigators called it an accidental suicide, stating that running the car in the garage led to carbon monoxide poisoning. The official report states that Todd was locked out of her home, so she went to her car parked at West’s house to warm up. There, she probably fell asleep with the car running. But, why didn’t West investigate the fact that his dogs were barking? Why didn’t Todd knock on the door of West’s house to wake him up? Or did she wake him up and something happened to her?
4. Hal Roach – Patricia Douglas
The rape of Patricia Douglas is a horrible and forgotten story in Hollywood. In 1937, famed producer Hal Roach, best known for Laurel and Hardy, threw a gigantic party at his ranch. More than 300 men from the industry were invited, 500 cases of scotch were ordered, and 120 women were brought in for a fake casting call. One of these women, Patricia Douglas, an actress and dancer, thought it would be for a movie, but she soon found that she was to be the entertainment at this party. This was a stag party, only men except for the dancers and hostesses. The men treated the women as party favors. The females had no means of escaping either. During the night, David Ross, an MGM salesman, asked Douglas to dance. She obliged. Later that night, Ross and another man forced Douglas into a car and raped her. Douglas went to the police, but nothing was done to her attackers. She then took her case to the Los Angeles Superior Court accusing Hal Roach (and other Hollywood bigwigs like Eddie Mannix) of intentional debauchery. When that case was thrown out, she took filed suit in federal court, but that too went nowhere. Even after numerous reports of s*xual assaults from other women at the party, not one man was charged.
3. Dominick Brascia – Corey Haim
For many years, the pedophilia that allegedly exists in Hollywood circles has been discussed. It gained a lot of press when child stars Corey Haim and Corey Feldman discussed their own experiences openly. This particular mystery comes about because Corey dropped hints about their assaulters, their ages, the films it happened on, and who the suspects were friends with, but they never named names. The most glaring accusation came on The Two Coreys when Haim accused Feldman of befriending the guy who r*ped Haim. Later, a self-professed friend of Haim, Greg Harrison, released accusations about the assaulter. In an open post, Harrison named actor and director Dominick Brascia as the man who r*ped Haim. Brascia is best known for his part in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, which also starred Corey Feldman. Years later, Haim and Brascia worked on Busted together. But, Brascia has rebutted these accusations. He also states that he knows who r*ped Haim. Some sleuths point the finger at Charlie Sheen because of comments by Feldman that Haim was r*ped by a big-name actor on the set of Lucas, which Sheen starred in.
2. Robert Wagner And Christopher Walken – Natalie Wood
Sometime during the night of November 28, 1981, actress Natalie Wood drowned during an evening boat trip. How she got into the water was never determined. On the boat with her that night was the captain of the boat, her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and friend and co-star, actor Christopher Walken. Though the death was ruled accidental drowning, the details are interesting. That night, the reports say that Walken and Wagner got into an argument about Wood’s acting career. She got involved in the fight, but walked away from it and was believed to go to bed. Later, when Wagner went to bed himself, Wood was not there. Her body was discovered the next morning with several marks on it. These marks were determined to have been received while in the water. The boat’s dinghy was also found beached nearby. Some believe that Wood tried to leave the boat on the dinghy but slipped into the water and drowned. Others believe that Wagner had something to do with it. Maybe Walken knows something more than he’s letting on? Years after the case was closed, it was reopened because the captain said he originally lied and Wagner was responsible. Was this just an attempt at selling his story?
1. Kirk Douglas – Jean Spangler
Jean Spangler was a young and up-and-coming actress in Hollywood when she disappeared in 1949. On the day she vanished, Spangler left her daughter with her sister-in-law and said she was going to speak with her ex-husband and then had to do some film work. A store clerk, the last person to see her, reported that she was waiting for someone. Her ex-husband also said he never saw her that night. The next day, Spangler’s purse was found with the straps ripped. In the purse was an unfinished note addressed to a mystery “Kirk.”
It read, “Can’t wait any longer, Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away.”
The apparently unfinished note sparked great interest in the disappearance. One of Spangler’s friends reported that Jean was three months pregnant and was planning on having an abortion. When the details of the case were released publicly, actor Kirk Douglas called police. He read the reports and wanted to clear his name stating, “I didn’t remember the girl until a friend recalled that it was she who worked as an extra in…one of my pictures.” It wasn’t just any picture, though. It was the last picture either of them had done, Young Man with a Horn.