In 1981 actress Natalie Wood drowned in the waters off Southern California, resulting in one of the most known celebrity deaths of all time. The death of the West Side Story actress became a high-profile story because it was shrouded in mystery. For example, the yacht’s captain Dennis Davern claimed that he heard the Oscar-nominated actress fighting on the deck with her husband Robert Wagner earlier in the night. Davern also stated that Wagner refused to turn on the lights or call for help. And, people have long wondered why Wagner and gust Christopher Walken didn’t do more to locate Wood.
30 years later, in 2011, the LA County coroner reopened her case, adding more intrigue to the case. On January 14, 2013, officials released a 10-page addendum to Wood’s 1981 autopsy that explained why the cause of death was changed from a drowning to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” The change was based on “bruises on Wood’s arms, a scratch on her neck, and superficial abrasions to the actress’ face” that may have occurred before Wood drowned. However, the case still remains a mystery.
Natalie Wood’s death, however, isn’t the only strange and mysterious celebrity death. Throughout its history, Hollywood has seen its share of bizarre deaths. And, here are ten of them.
10. Brittany Murphy
The death of the 32-year-old actress was sudden and shocking. It was accepted that her death was the result of prescription drug abuse. However, the autopsy found the cause of death to be pneumonia, which her husband, Simon Monjack, died from less than five months later.
9. Anna Nicole Smith
The death of the former Playboy Playmate was just a bit coincidental. Three days after giving birth to her daughter, her son Daniel Smith died in the same hospital, allegedly from a prescription drug overdose. Five months later, Smith passed away due to what was ultimately ruled as an ‘accidental overdose.’
8. Bob Crane
On June 29, 1978, the Hogan’s Hero lead was found murdered, allegedly bludgeoned to death with what might have been a camera tripod. It’s no secret that Crane had a strong sexual appetite, which he often filmed. Police suspected John Henry Carpenter, who filmed most of the sexual escapades, but were unable to convict him on lack of evidence. Carpenter died in 1998 and the murder remains unsolved. Their relationship was captured in the 2002 film ‘Auto Focus.’
7. Bruce and Brandon Lee
On July 20, 1973, Bruce died “by misadventure.” The martial arts legend suffered from seizures, and it’s believed that he had an allergic reaction to a painkiller. Conspiracy theorists, however, feel that he was murdered by the Triads, a delayed reaction from Dim Mak strike (called the “Touch of Death”), or from a curse on his family. Some of this could be dismissed if it wasn’t for that fact that his son Brandon died on March 31, 1993. While filming The Crow, he was shot in the abdomen by a prop gun that accidentally contained a fragment of a real bullet.
6. George Reeves
George Reeves played Superman in the 1950s TV series, which is said to have ruined his acting career. Distraught over not being able to shake the role of Superman, Reeves took his own life on June 16, 1959. But, the actor was found lying naked on his bed, face up, with a gun between his feet on the floor, leading some to believe it was either an accidental shooting or foul play. Some have argued that his former girlfriend, Toni Mannix, ordered a hit on him after he broke up with her, which she apparently confessed to before her death in 1983. The 2006 movie Hollywoodland starring Ben Affleck focused on on Reeves’ life and death.
5. Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.
The bloodiest hip-hop rivalry in history began when Tupac was shot five times in November of 2004, and blamed rappers from New York, mainly Biggie and Sean Combs. On September 7, 1996, Tupac was shot four times while sitting at a stoplight in Las Vegas, leaving many to believe that Biggie was involved. Not even six months later, Biggie was also shot four times while sitting at a stoplight in L.A. Many believe that this was revenge for Shakur’s death. Regardless, the similarities between the shootings, the fact that both remain unsolved, and the belief that Tupac is still alive, make these cases very suspicious.
4. Heath Ledger
No one is saying that the actor’s death on January 22, 2008 is some sort of conspiracy. It is speculated though that his method acting process may have damaged his psyche. Take for example how he prepared for his role of The Joker in The Dark Knight. “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices – it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts.” This could have lead to the actor’s overdose of medications that treat insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
3. Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd may not sound familiar, but the actress appeared in over 120 films, including the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers and Monkey Business. She was found in the garage of actress Jewel Carmen, the former wife of Todd’s lover and business partner, on December 16, 1935. While her death was ruled carbon monoxide poisoning, some speculate that the actress was actually murdered. The night before, she had an argument with her ex-husband, and there was blood found on her head and dress. In an interesting twist, her ex-husband was murdered two years later.
2. Thomas H. Ince
The name may not sound familiar, but Thomas Ince was a silent film actor, producer, writer, and director in the 1910s and early 1920s. In fact, he’s been called the “The Father of the Western.” On November 15, 1924, Ince fell ill while on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht. On November 19, he passed away from heart failure, however, the newspapers reported that Ince was shot on the yacht. Here is what it gets interesting.
Some believe that Hearst caught Charlie Chaplin with his love interest Marion Davies having some fun, and in the ensuing fight, Ince was accidentally shot. Others believe that Hearst shot Ince, mistaking him for Chaplin. Regardless, the death was strange enough to be the subject for the 2001 film The Cat’s Meow.
1. Marilyn Monroe
The iconic actress was found dead in her home on August 5, 1962. Her death was ruled as “acute barbiturate poisoning,” and as “probable suicide.” But, that hasn’t stopped theories that Monroe was murdered. Skeptics state that there were no drugs in her stomach and she had bruises on her body. And, she didn’t have signs that are typically found in suicide victims, like her purchasing a chest of drawers on the day she died.
It’s no secret that Monroe was involved with JFK, and his brother Robert, which could have lead to her demise. It’s believed that she was considered a security risk after cavorting with known communists during a vacation in Mexico. Besides the President, there are also other theories that the CIA or Mafia killed the 36-year-old.
Images via Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise stated.