Mysterious Celebrity Deaths That Remain Unsolved to This Day

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:29:40 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Frank Powolny/Wikimedia Commons

We often think of celebrities as being larger than life, but they are as human as anyone else. That fact becomes painfully clear when you start exploring some of the horrific, untimely deaths certain celebrities have suffered. Even with paparazzi hounding them around the clock, some stars have fallen prey to malicious plots and mysterious deaths. Sometimes, the monster within led to their demise; other times, known or unknown enemies played a part. Were these mysterious Hollywood deaths accidents, suicides or cold-blooded murders? Take a look and decide for yourself what transpired.

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Peg Entwistle

The story of Peg Entwistle is one that many Hollywood fans have heard. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed actress was working on her building her acting career when she got a part starring in a film named Thirteen Women. At first, this was great news.

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After filming, however, the movie received brutal reviews from critics. The studio decided to re-edit the film, and Entwistle was almost completely cut from scenes. She was reportedly so upset by the news that she left her uncle’s house in a desperate state and wandered to the famed Hollywood sign, where she jumped to her death from the top of the letter "H."

A Hollywood Haunting?

Entwistle's suicide was big news — especially after a letter arrived for her just days after her death, offering her a big part playing a character who commits suicide. Creepy, right? The ominous details surrounding her death are only heightened by the numerous "sightings" of her ghost near the Hollywood sign.

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Many visiting hikers claim to have seen a blonde, sad-looking girl walking the trails in a daze, as if under the influence of some substance. Is this how she looked that night? They say if you want to find Entwistle's ghost, follow the scent of gardenias.

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The Black Dahlia

The story of the Black Dahlia, a.k.a. Elizabeth Short, is one that any true crime fanatic knows quite well. Her story is a gruesome one, and her murder remains unsolved to this day. In 1947, the aspiring actress was found mutilated in an empty Los Angeles lot. In a gruesome twist, the top and bottom halves of her body were cut apart.

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Reports claim that her body had been scrubbed clean before being posed in the spot where she was found. The only lead? A witness who saw a black sedan in the area.

What Happened?

The investigation was in-depth, and many leads were followed over the years. Sadly, due to a lack of any real forensic evidence, the investigators were never able to pinpoint a culprit. The most recent development came in 2013, courtesy of an author who accused his own father.

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Steve Hodel isn’t the only one who believes he found the answer to who killed Elizabeth Short, but his evidence is certainly compelling. He found photos resembling Short in his father's things, and his father's handwriting resembles that of the killer. Unequivocal guilt, however, is still out of range.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe needs no introduction — her successful acting career and bubbly personality made her a hit in the 1950s. She is mostly remembered for her beauty, but what about her mysterious death? When Monroe was found dead in 1962, the cause was listed as "probable suicide" due to drugs.

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Many experts theorize, however, that Monroe's death was not suicide but murder. It has long been rumored that her involvement with both John and Robert Kennedy could have landed her in trouble, resulting in a forced overdose to keep her quiet. Quiet about more than the affairs? We may never know.

Prince

In 2016, Prince's death was thought to be an accidental overdose, much like what had happened to many stars before him who were taking multiple prescription medications. The truth wasn’t so simple, however. An extensive investigation uncovered that Prince only intended to take the painkiller Vicodin. Unbeknownst to him, the pills contained lethal levels of fentanyl.

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How and why did a lethal dose end up in Prince's painkillers? That question remains unanswered, leaving adoring fans and heartbroken family members to wonder what really happened. The only thing that is certain is that Prince left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.

Natalie Wood

The death of glamorous 1970's actress Natalie Wood is overflowing with suspicious circumstances. She was on a boating trip with actor-husband Robert Wagner and their friend, Christopher Walken. At 1:30 a.m., Wagner phoned the police to report his wife missing. Later, her body was found floating in the water — covered in mysterious bruises.

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Despite this, her death was considered an accident at the time, and her husband went on with his life. Years later, the police named him a person of interest, but concrete answers were never found to explain Wood’s death.

Virginia Rappe

Virginia Rappe was a budding silent-film star when she died at a young age in 1921. Her death came after a night of rowdy partying — yes, alcohol was involved, even though it was the Prohibition era. The incident occurred while Rappe was with another actor, Roscoe Arbuckle, in a bedroom. Apparently, guests clearly heard her screams.

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They ran into the room to find Rappe, completely clothed and screaming in pain. Many thought Arbuckle was to blame when Rappe died days later of a bladder rupture, but he was exonerated by police, presumably because Rappe had suffered from bladder infections throughout her life.

Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur was on top of the world when he died in 1996. He had achieved fame as a rapper, despite the resistance of his rival, Notorious B.I.G. Many considered him to be the best rapper of all time. In the end, he was killed by a drive-by shooter that authorities have never managed to identify.

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Given that he survived an assassination attempt two years earlier, his death certainly appeared to be a calculated attack. Who perpetrated it? The world may never know — although many theorize it was Notorious B.I.G.

Notorious B.I.G.

Interestingly, Notorious B.I.G. — also known as Christopher Wallace and Biggie Smalls — was killed by drive-by shooters a year later. Just like in Tupac's case, the identities of the shooters remain unknown. Could it have been a retaliation attack for Tupac's death? Or was it simply a coincidence?

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Both rappers were 25 when they died, and both had reached impressive levels of success. To this day, hearing their voices on the radio brings back questions from the late '90s. Whether we will ever have answers to those questions remains to be seen.

Peter Ivers

Peter Ivers was a celebrity who did a little bit of everything. He was a singer/songwriter in the pop genre and then a leader of New Wave music. He made movies, studied at Harvard — there seemed to be no end to the projects he took on. Ivers even provided music for the classic film Eraserhead.

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These details make the nature of his death that much more perplexing. In 1983, authorities found him beaten to death in his apartment. To make matters worse, family and friends were allowed access to the crime scene, effectively contaminating it.

Bob Crane

If you know the show Hogan's Heroes, you know Bob Crane. Crane played a funny ladies’ man and was a hit with the audience, which is why fans were shocked at his gruesome death. He was found terribly beaten — almost to the point of being unrecognizable — and with a cord around his neck.

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Following his death, secrets related to the actor's hidden obsession with pornography were revealed. It was evident he was living a very different life off-screen. Despite media attention and prolonged investigations, Crane's death remains another Hollywood mystery that fans struggle to comprehend.

William Desmond Taylor

In the 1910s, silent films were all the rage. William Desmond Taylor was a director and actor in many of these films, and he lived a privileged life in Los Angeles. His death was poorly handled, partly because police procedures weren't as developed as they are today.

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A crowd formed inside Taylor's apartment after the body was discovered. Apparently, someone claiming to be a doctor checked Taylor's body and declared he died from a stomach hemorrhage. The "doctor" disappeared, and police later rolled Taylor over to find a gunshot wound in his back.

Jason Mizell

Better known as Jam Master Jay, Jason Mizell was the D.J. in Run-D.M.C., a highly influential group in the early days of the hip-hop scene. Mizell's death was big news at the time. He was at the studio one night with several other people, including the receptionist, when visitors opened fire and killed him.

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According to police reports, Mizell greeted the shooter like a friend before he was shot. On top of that, no one at the scene could provide any details about the shooter, inspiring theories of a cover-up.

Mary Meyer

Unlike other celebrities on our list, Mary Meyer did not spend her time in front of a camera. Instead, she earned her living painting. She was also married to a member of the C.I.A. — they eventually divorced — before becoming romantically involved with President John F. Kennedy.

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When the Warren Commission Report came out (official report on JFK's assassination), Meyer didn't like the findings. Three weeks later, she was shot and killed. Her long, contentious history with the C.I.A. caused many to wonder if the organization was involved in her murder.

Thelma Todd

Thelma Todd was 29 when she was found dead in her Lincoln automobile. The official cause of death was listed as carbon monoxide poisoning, but investigators found evidence that something had been forced down her throat — oh, and her car wasn't even running. Nice detective work, right?

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The movie star had received threats demanding money in exchange for her life, but most people suspect she was killed by one of the men in her life. She had an ex-husband, a current boyfriend and a relationship with the gangster Lucky Luciano. Her tragic death occurred in 1935.

Johnny Stompanato

Johnny Stompanato was no angel. He was believed to be a mobster, and rumors circulated that he abused his girlfriend, Lana Turner. One fateful day, Stompanato was stabbed to death in their home. Turner's daughter took the blame, but many believe it was truly Mrs. Turner herself who did the deed.

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Some believe Turner had her daughter take the fall in order to protect her career, but there isn't concrete evidence to prove this. Either way, the killing was ruled justifiable, based on the daughter's claim that Stompanato was attacking Turner at the time.

George Reeves

A strapping man with a thriving career playing Superman supposedly killed himself in the early morning hours of June 16, 1959. He also apparently did so with his wife and three friends downstairs. One glaring issue is that these friends delayed contacting the police — and when they did call them, their stories weren't very coherent.

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At the time, the individuals present were very inebriated, which only complicated their stories. Reeves had reportedly argued with the others throughout the night. Needless to say, the suicide story was met with doubt from the community.

Bobbi Kristina Brown

Bobbi Brown was the daughter of the incredibly famous and talented Whitney Houston. Her death wasn’t instantaneous — she was found unconscious in her bathtub at home and spent six months in a coma. In the end, however, she passed away, and the medical examiner couldn't determine whether she had died accidentally or not.

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Her family had suspicions about Brown's boyfriend, but there was nothing to prove he was responsible. The manner of her death was simply listed as "undetermined," and her loved ones have to live without knowing the true nature of her death.

Dolores O'Riordan

Dolores O'Riordan was the highly admired lead singer of the band The Cranberries. Her death doesn't necessarily have malicious undertones to it, but it is a curious story. She was in the middle of planning a new album and developing a project with Martin Glover when she was found dead in her bathtub.

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It was ruled an "accidental drowning" due to excessive alcohol consumption. The circumstances may have resembled suicide, but toxicology found her drug levels to be in normal therapeutic ranges. Sadly, her death appeared to be a tragic accident.

David Carradine

David Carradine starred in the violent yet popular Kill Bill films, and his death lived up to this role. While visiting Thailand to make a new film, he was found unclothed in his hotel closet, dead from asphyxiation. The investigation found that it wasn't suicide but was likely an accidental death.

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Carradine's wife refused to believe it and sued the company that was making his film. She believed they should have taken better care of him on his trip to Thailand, claiming his assistant left him to fend for himself.

Jack Nance

Fans of Twin Peaks and Eraserhead likely know all about Jack Nance's fate. Indeed, the events leading up to his death are certainly suspicious. It all started when he met friends at a coffee shop sporting a black eye. He told them he had gotten into a scuffle with "some kid."

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The next day, Nance was found dead in his apartment. Examiners determined blunt force trauma to the head was the cause of death, and further investigation found he had fought with two individuals the day before. Was it a random fight, or could the assailants have been people he knew?

Nicole Brown Simpson

Nicole Brown Simpson's death was so extensively covered by the media that many people have resolute opinions on what happened, even though they weren't there to witness it. Her murderer was clearly fueled by rage — a deep wound to her neck almost decapitated her.

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Famous ex-husband O.J. Simpson was put on trial but acquitted. Even so, many consider him guilty, primarily because there was evidence of domestic abuse in their marriage and Brown had once called the police claiming to fear him. Simpson has always maintained his innocence, while a convicted serial killer has claimed responsibility. Who do you believe?

Thomas Ince

It seems that many mysterious Hollywood deaths happened during the silent-film era, and Thomas Ince was unfortunately part of that phenomenon. Leading up to his death, he went on a cruise with business colleagues and celebrated his birthday. It was during this time that he showed signs of being unwell.

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Shortly after, Ince died of "heart failure," but witness accounts vary greatly. Some people claimed they saw him being wheeled away bleeding from the head. In fact, some newspapers published a story that he had been shot. Chaotic media coverage mainly indicated his death was viewed as foul play.

Princess Diana

It would be impossible to cover all the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana. She was a widely beloved figure who expressed her fears to those around her after her divorce from Prince Charles. She even allegedly worried she might die in a staged car crash.

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In 1997, the thing she feared most came to pass. Princess Diana, along with her driver and friend, crashed in a tunnel in Paris and died. Many blamed the reckless driver and the relentless pursuing paparazzi, but many others point to a top-level conspiracy designed to solve a "queen-sized" problem.

Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy's death started out as an illness. She exhibited flu-like symptoms for a couple of days, but then suddenly collapsed from heart failure. They thought her death was the result of pneumonia combined with anemia, but then her husband died in a similar way six months later.

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Her husband’s death was also ruled natural, but Murphy's family has never been able to accept these conclusions. Some believe she could have been poisoned — maybe even by a husband who later took his own life the same way — or that toxic mold killed the unsuspecting couple. The young star was only 32 years old.

Albert Dekker

Albert Dekker's (pictured left) death overshadowed his successful career as a character actor. In 1968, his soon-to-be-wife found him dead in their bathtub in a kneeling position. The terrifying part? He was blindfolded, handcuffed and had a noose tied around his neck. Dekker's body was desecrated in other ways, including inappropriate phrases smeared on him in lipstick.

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His death was ruled "autoerotic asphyxiation." If we hadn't already learned our lesson, Dekker's death proves that Hollywood isn't as shiny and perfect as it seems. A lot goes on behind closed doors that fans are better off not knowing.

Jill Dando

This celebrity hails from another part of the world: the United Kingdom. Her unsolved death is one of the most well-known in her country, partly because of her position as a journalist and television presenter at the BBC. She was visiting a residence of hers — one she rarely frequented — when an unknown man shot her in the temple.

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A neighbor heard Dando cry out and saw the perpetrator walking away from the scene. Regardless, law enforcement only pinpointed one suspect who was acquitted, leaving the public to wonder who really killed Jill Dando.

Jimi Hendrix

No one argues about the status of Jimi Hendrix as a guitar legend, but many people argue about the facts surrounding his death. Hendrix spent his last hours with alleged girlfriend Monika Dannemann — her claims of a relationship are widely disputed — drinking wine and partying. The next morning, Hendrix was unconscious in bed next to Dannemann, and he later died at the hospital.

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The coroner determined Hendrix aspirated on his own vomit due to barbiturate intoxication. While Hendrix battled drug addiction throughout his life, some fans are determined to cast doubt on the circumstances of his death.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee led the way for modern martial arts, inspiring people everywhere with his talent. His films were widely successful and remain classics to this day. His unfortunate fate was foreshadowed in May 1973, when Lee suffered seizures and headaches as a result of cerebral edema (excess fluid in the brain).

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Months later, these symptoms of a swollen brain occurred again and resulted in his death. Many speculated about the reason his brain became swollen. His wife believed it was due to an allergic reaction, while others thought it was murder or even a family curse.