Is the limelight so terrible that some celebs have to fake their deaths to escape it? Conspiracy theorists think so, which is why they’ve hyper-focused on the deaths of these celebrities and presented flimsy evidence to prove they’re still alive and kicking. In most of these cases, the conspiracies have arisen because the celeb was so popular. Fans can’t seem to let go and move on, so they don tinfoil hats and concoct elaborate conspiracies.
The following celebs, beginning with the most recently deceased, certainly had the financial resources to fake their deaths, but why would they want to? And, could they really afford to pay off doctors, witnesses, and investigators? Some could, such as Elvis, but not all. It’s unlikely Jimi Hendrix would have the means to pay off every person who claimed to see his lifeless body inside his casket. These details don’t stop crazy people from inventing fake death scenarios; although, in a couple cases (see: Andy Kaufman) the evidence will leave you wondering.
Keep in mind, faking a death isn’t an easy undertaking. It requires careful planning, and colluding with trusted parties who will take your secret to the grave with them. The real question isn’t if these celebs could afford it, but rather did they really sacrifice contact with their friends and family members, including children, simply to escape the harsher realities of fame and fortune?
Probably not, but it’s fun to speculate. It’s unlikely any of the following people are alive today, but at least the conspiracies are entertaining. Too bad they lack sufficient evidence to convince rational people that their favorite dead celebrities are still alive.
15 Ryan Dunn 1977 – 2011
At just 34 years old, Ryan Dunn was arguably too young to die; perhaps that’s why there’s a group of people who think he faked his death? During the wee morning hours of June 20th, 2011, Dunn crashed his Porsche into a tree killing himself and his passenger, Zachary Hartwell. Hartwell was a production assistant for the movie they were filming, Jackass Number Two. Dunn was drunk-driving (toxicology reports show him with a blood alcohol level more than twice the state’s legal limit), and he was speeding somewhere between 132 and 140 mph.
Although the coroner’s report was released and there’s more than enough evidence to prove his death wasn’t faked, there are still people (wackos) who vehemently disagree. They believe Dunn has faked his death as an elaborate prank, and will eventually rise from the grave in the greatest (worst) Jackass stunt ever. They seem to forget that it’s illegal to fake one’s death, so if true he wouldn’t be headed to the box office, but rather he’d be handcuffed and taken to jail.
14 Notorious B.I.G. 1972 – 1997
Apparently Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls aka Big Poppa aka the Notorious B.I.G. (and the list goes on), was a big ole softie on the inside. Underneath his hardened, street smart exterior was a young man craving to get away from all the fame, riches, beautiful women, violence, and crime that permeated the rap industry in the late 1990s.
He faked his death and moved to Cuba to be with Tupac, who isn’t dead either. See, the industry was forcing the beef between Biggie and Pac, so the two rappers couldn’t bury the hatchet which is all they ever really wanted. No amount of fame and fortune can replace a best friend, so they faked their deaths and are living out their relationship in obscurity.
The power of friendship isn’t that strong, and Biggie is definitely dead. He died enroute to his hotel. Details are murky, but supposedly he was shot by a member of the South Side Compton Crips. Biggie had employed the Crips as security detail, but there was a financial dispute that reportedly led to the shooting. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, and he’d need to be far richer to convince hospital staff members to take part in the staging of his death.
13 Michael Jackson 1958 – 2009
Michael Jackson died in 2009 after overdosing on Propofol and Benzodiazepine. Yet, there are countless websites dedicated to Jackson sightings because an unprecedented amount of people believe he faked his death. He staged his death, and since then he’s been popping up in YouTube videos taken across the globe. In case you’re wondering, it’s surprisingly easy to travel when you’re supposed to be dead, as long as you have one of the most recognizable faces in history.
If you’re one of those who think Jackson may be alive, consider that his doctor was brought up on manslaughter charges. His doctor was the only one present at the moment he passed, which means his doctor would have to be in on it. Telling authorities that Jackson faked his death would have exonerated him from all the charges. Look at the picture and tell me that's the face of a man about to receive a few million dollars of hush money.
Imagine spending a couple weeks in jail knowing that you’re facing a long prison sentence. His lack of freedom prevented him from spending any bribe money; therefore, he could not have been bribed. Jackson didn’t stage his death. He died and his doctor did four years for manslaughter and had his medical license revoked because he supplied the weapon that killed the King of Pop.
12 Joan Rivers 1933 – 2014
Is Joan Rivers hiding from the Obamas? Some people on the Internet seem to think so. Before her untimely death in September 2014, Rivers made some jokes in poor taste. She claimed President Obama was a homosexual and First Lady Michelle Obama was his transsexual wife. Many conspiracy theorists believe Rivers was forced to stage her death in order to join the witness protection program. She feared the Obamas retaliating against her, and the FBI decided to help her and not tell the president they did. The whole thing makes total sense (please note this statement is dripping in sarcasm).
Supposedly Rivers was caught on camera with her friend Clive Davis in early 2015, which prompted suspicions. Conspiracists also note that Rivers wouldn’t have died from a heart attack while undergoing plastic surgery because she had so many other surgeries without complication. The final nail in the proverbial coffin (in this case the coffin is empty) was that Rivers’ name was left out of the Oscars' ‘In Memoriam’ list.
11 Paul Walker 1973 – 2013
Immediately following his death, the Internet was alive with suspicions that Paul Walker and the driver Roger Rodas faked their deaths in order to appease Universal Studios. Apparently the production company believed the death of the Fast and Furious actor would benefit the film, that legions of sad fans would flock to the box office to say goodbye to the handsome actor. Makes total sense that Universal would want to kill off a popular actor because one big payoff was better than using his star power in other films.
So, Paul Walker isn’t really dead, he’s just living it up on an island somewhere. Conspiracy theorists never claimed to be sensitive people. The evidence they cite is pretty shoddy, and includes photos of the scene which may or may not be doctored. They claim you can see a pyro technician in the flames of the burning vehicle (noted by the green arrow), and that there’s a fire extinguisher nearby. According to them, the entire crew of Fast and Furious participated in the cover up.
10 Princess Diana 1961 – 1997
It’s no secret that Princess Diana wasn’t exactly comfortable with her fame toward the end of her life. That being said, she was comfortable in front of the cameras she wanted around. She did interviews and posed for magazines. She was known as the “People’s Princess” because she was accessible and made herself that way. That isn’t to say she wanted the paparazzi to chase her or for scandal rags to post negative things about her personal life, but she wasn’t exactly a woman shying from the limelight. It just doesn’t make sense that she faked her death to escape all the attention.
It’s widely believed that she alluded to her plans in an interview with Daily Mail reporter Richard Kray. She told Kray she was soon to withdraw from public life, which is a lot different than saying: I’m going to fake a car crash and abandon my children. Yet, so many haven taken it that way. Those people are dumb.
9 Tupac 1971 – 1996
Tupac Shakur died in a 1996 drive-by. He was shot four times, spent a week in critical care in a Las Vegas hospital, died, and then was cremated. There are many who believe this was all an elaborate set-up and that the rapper is still very much alive. In fact, some have pinpointed him to be hiding in a small New Zealand resort town, of all places; because, if there’s one place Tupac fits in, it’s a rural New Zealand resort town.
So, what’s the evidence to back up claims that Pac is still alive? One piece is that he nicknamed himself Machiavelli after the Italian war strategist who encouraged faking your death to fool your enemies. He also seemed to predict his own demise with these lyrics: “I heard a rumor that I died, murdered in cold blood traumatized…” “Brothers getting shot, coming back resurrected...” And “I’m having visions of leaving here in a hearse…” Who can dispute that is rock solid evidence? Everyone. That’s who.
The one thing that does leave a lot of rational people scratching their heads is that Tupac continues to pop up on new albums. Except, he’d just started a record company around the time of his death: Makaveli Records. It’s likely he just worked his ass off to produce tracks for the company, but lost his life before he could release them himself.
8 Richey Edwards 1967 – 1995
Admittedly, the circumstances surrounding Richey Edwards’ death are a bit mystifying. To this day, the guitarist for The Manic Street Preachers’ body has not been found. His car was found abandoned on the Severn Bridge in Wales in early 1995. The bridge is an infamous suicide location, but it was odd a body was never discovered despite exhaustive searches. The Severn tide is likely to blame, but many believe Edwards staged the whole thing.
The conspiracy theorists who believe Edwards staged his death cite his bank withdrawals in the weeks prior. Edwards took out large sums of money totaling 2800 pounds, which isn’t exactly enough money to pay for a new identity along with all the other starting over costs. It should be noted that Edwards had a history of self-harming, and was committed multiple times for drinking, anorexia, and other afflictions.
7 Kurt Cobain 1967 – 1994
On April 5th 1994, Kurt Cobain shot himself…Or did he? Conspiracy theorists insist he couldn’t have shot himself because he had 1.52 milligrams per liter of heroin in his system. That amount of heroin is extremely debilitating; however, Cobain was a long-time heroin addict, and likely had built up a tolerance.
Theorists also cite police photographs when coming up with evidence to support their claims that Cobain faked his death. Released photos feature Cobain’s body from the neck down. The head is left out, and some would say conveniently left out. No picture of his head because Cobain never shot himself?
So, if Cobain is still alive and kicking, where the heck is he? He started a new band… Maybe you’ve heard of them? Weezer? Cobain’s new identity is River Cuomo, the front man for Weezer. Because when you’re sick of fame and consumerism, so much so that you fake your own death, it makes perfect sense that your new identity would helm an equally famous band.
6 Andy Kaufman 1949- 1984
Comedy legend Andy Kaufman was a master of ruses. He’s most famous for his deep method acting and tricking his audience into believing he was other people. Perhaps his death was not a death at all, but his last great performance?
Unlike others on this list, there’s actually some evidence to suggest Kaufman maybe staged his death. He died of lung cancer at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in LA, which is coincidentally (or not) the same exact death he wrote for a character of his in an unfilmed screenplay. The character, Tony Clifton, dies of lung cancer at Cedar Sinai.
Kaufman told a lot of people he would fake his death. He told a costar, Mimi Lambert, “If I go through with my plan, I will do so by pretending to have cancer.” It’s believed he swapped identities with a terminally ill cancer patient. His brother, who claims to have been at Kaufman’s side when he passed, isn’t entirely sure his brother is dead. He supposedly received a letter from Kaufman, which includes an apology for causing them grief when he’s still very much alive.
5 Elvis Presley 1935 – 1977
More people think Elvis is alive than any other celebrity. He’s more famous for faking his death than he is for liking peanut butter and banana sandwiches and he ate those all the time. The authorities, who were obviously in on it, say he died of a heart attack because he was overweight with high blood pressure, which is very true, but who pays attention to medical records?
Elvis has been sighted everywhere – from South America to Graceland, TN (because when you’ve faked your death to avoid people, you show up in the town you personally made famous). There are tons of pictures and videos claiming to be of the king, who now lives under the assumed name Jon Burrows. It’s said that following his “death,” Jon Burrows purchased a plane ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He eventually returned to the States, and has been spotted in fast food restaurants all over the country ever since.
4 Bruce Lee 1940 – 1973
Martial arts legend, Bruce Lee, died at only 32 years old of acute cerebral edema. Conspiracy theorists have trouble accepting that Lee could have died of brain swelling because he was in such great shape. Except the brain isn’t really a muscle that’s exercised by lifting weights…
The idea that Lee faked his death began when The Game of Death was released. Using movie magic, such as body doubles and voiceovers, Lee starred in the film posthumously. The film included actual scenes from Lee’s real funeral, and insisted that the character had faked his death, which spurned rumors that Lee had faked his death.
One of the more interesting aspects of this conspiracy is that theorists don’t believe Lee used a body double. He somehow convinced doctors he was dead, and was placed into a coffin. The coffin’s lid needed replacing, and they believe that Lee kicked it off and that’s why it needed replacing.
3 Jim Morrison 1943 – 1971
Jim Morrison overdosed back in 1971 in Paris in a bathtub, but there are those who believe the whole thing was staged. In this case, there’s little in the way of Morrison’s motivations; there’s no real reason as to why he’d stage his death, which is crucial if you think about it. Why would the rich and popular lead singer of The Doors want to fake his death when he was at the height of his career and only 27 years old?
There’s little evidence to back up conspiracy claims. French investigators never conducted an autopsy, and Morrison was facing jail time for flashing his member to a crowd in Miami. So, he faked his own death to avoid indecent exposure charges? It makes total sense that someone to forgo a lifetime of fame and fortune to avoid a short jail sentence.
The real story is actually very sad. Morrison didn’t cleverly plot staging his death and somehow travel back to America to live out his days in obscurity. His girlfriend supplied him with drugs she said were downers and cocaine, but truly she’d given him a large dose of heroin. She went to sleep after drawing him a bath, only to wake up later and find him dead in the tub.
2 Jimi Hendrix 1942 – 1970
Although a large number of people have reported seeing Hendrix’s dead body, this hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theorists from claiming he faked his death. This is yet another case of a celebrity growing weary of fame and fortune, so he faked his death to escape the spotlight. Who knew fame and riches were so abysmal the only way to escape their dreaded plague was to spend all your money plotting your own demise?
The only evidence to back up these claims are the lyrics from Hendrix’s songs, “The Story Of Life” and “The Ballad of Jimi.” In “The Ballad of Jimi,” he sings: “Now Jimi’s gone…He’s not gone, he’s just dead.” The song also references a period of five years, and oddly Hendrix did die five years later. It’s an interesting coincidence, but not enough to make me believe he faked his death.
Supposedly, Hendrix is living out his twilight years in his hometown Seattle, Washington. Some online websites claim that Jimi Hendrix is actually Morgan Freeman. Arguably, the two men do look a bit similar but Freeman is covered in freckles and Hendrix isn’t. Or, maybe Hendrix added the freckles to appear less likely himself? But, if he hated fame so much why would he go on to be one of the most celebrated actors of our time?
1 James Dean 1931 – 1955
Porsches seem to be the go-to choice for celebs looking to fake their deaths via car crashes. In this case, James Dean’s Porsche was hit in a near head-on collision by another vehicle. Conspiracy theorists don’t believe the crash was significant enough to result in fatalities, and that Dean faked his death.
You may be wondering: just why would the handsome young actor do such a thing? Apparently being one of the most desired men in the world wasn’t something he could handle. Like so many after him, Dean reportedly faked his death to escape the pressures of fame and fortune.
Today Dean would be 85 years old, but arguably still hotter than a lot of men half his age. His blue eyes and smoldering stare have been spotted all over the world, including in a restaurant in his hometown. Because when you fake your death, you’re inexplicably drawn to the places you’ll be most easily recognized. I don’t make the rules, that’s just how it is.