15 Bizarre Details of Celebrity Deaths
Celebrities live unusual lives, so it makes a tragic sort of sense when they die unusual deaths -- and too often, they do. You know what they say: Live by the weird, die by the weird.
Steve Irwin’s Death Was Mathematically Outrageous
One wildlife expert characterized such an unprovoked stingray attack as “a one-in-a-million thing.” Stingrays usually only attack when they’re directly threatened, like when somebody steps on them, and their stings are rarely fatal. Irwin had only accidentally cornered the guy, and it happened to get him right in the chest, just like the only other two people who have died from stingray attacks in Australia since 1945.
One thing they don’t tell you about partying like a rock star is that all those drugs make you super constipated. Elvis’s personal doctor recently claimed it’s what killed the King, and while that’s probably not entirely true, his autopsy did reveal 30 lbs. of burning love in his colon, which was twice as wide and long as a normal one as a result of chronic constipation.
Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen
The pathologist who performed the brilliant physicist’s autopsy helped himself to his brain, hoping to find out what made it so good. The brain was considered missing for more than 20 years until the pathologist revealed it to a journalist, whipping out two mason jars full of brain from a cider box in his office.
Brittany Murphy and Her Husband Died of the Same Mysterious Ailment
Usually when hot young celebrities die, it’s something cool like drugs or violence, which is why it was so weird that 32-year-old Brittany Murphy died of plain old pneumonia, complicated by anemia and perfectly legal and/or over-the-counter drugs. Then her husband died of the same thing five months later. There’s never been a satisfactory explanation for the coincidence.
Princess Diana Predicted Her Death
In 2003, her butler revealed a note she wrote to him that The Guardian ruled apparently genuine, discussing her fears that someone was “planning 'an accident' in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry.” There’s no evidence that death was indeed anything other than an accident, but it might have worked out really well for that unnamed person.
Sonny Bono’s Wife Insists He Was on Drugs
Congressman and Cher accessory Sonny Bono was killed in a 1998 ski accident, which his widow blamed on a prescription drug habit of “15-20 pills a day.” That was pretty odd, because the sheriff said his autopsy showed “no indication of any substances or alcohol,” but his wife insisted therapeutic levels of Vicodin and Valium were found. Incidentally, she won his Congressional seat after his death.
John Barrymore’s Body Was Used to Prank Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn was obsessed with John Barrymore, so the late actor’s friend, director Raoul Walsh, claimed he thought it would be funny to bribe a morgue employee $200 to surprise Flynn with his recently departed idol. According to Flynn, he later came home, turned on the lights, and found Barrymore sitting in his favorite chair. He fled screaming, at which point his friends jumped out from the bushes, explained that he’d been Punk’d, and took Barrymore back home.
Tennessee Williams Was Taking Drugs With a Bottle Cap?
The dark playwright was a connoisseur of sleeping pills, so everyone was surprised when he died choking on the cap of a bottle of eye drops and not all the drugs and booze in his system at the time. It was so outlandish that some of his friends speculated it was a cover-up, but the medical examiner later theorized that he was trying to take pills from the bottle cap somehow, so it wasn’t a very good one.
Sam Cooke Was Killed in a Mostly Naked Rage
According to the official story, the soul singer was with a girl in a motel room when she panicked and accidentally grabbed his clothes as well as her own before fleeing, leaving him with nothing but a blazer and one shoe. Dressed in his only remaining clothing, he approached the motel manager, demanding to know where the girl was and physically threatening her until she shot him. This doesn’t add up to Cooke’s loved ones, and theories range from a setup to a body dump, but whatever the case, he was found in a truly sorry state.
Gram Parsons’s Botched Cremation
The singer’s manager claims he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered at Joshua Tree but his family instead planned a traditional burial in Louisiana, so he kidnapped his former client from the airport, drove him to Joshua Tree, and lit his body on fire. He only succeeded in alarming nearby police.
Tupac’s Fitting Last Words
The controversial rapper, wherever he is, is almost certainly proud of using his last breath to curse a cop. In 2014, a retired Las Vegas police sergeant revealed he was the one to pull Tupac out of the BMW and, perhaps unaware of the Notorious B.I.G. diss track, asked “Who shot you?” Tupac took a deep breath, said “Fuck you,” and lost consciousness.
Eva Peron’s Body Went Missing For 20 Years
After the Broadway icon’s death from cervical cancer, her body was displayed for the public, which might have been a mistake, because then there was a coup and she wasn’t seen for a good few decades. Then, one day, it showed up on the doorstep of her former husband and his new wife. A surprising number of rom-coms start that way.
A Thwarted Threesome (Kind Of) Killed Janis Joplin
To be clear, it’s almost impossible to murder someone with your sexual choices, but it’s true that the night before she died, Joplin had planned a threesome with her fiance and ex-girlfriend and they both bailed on her. She got bored and sad, bought some heroin, and overdosed (allegedly -- the ex thinks she got too high and hit her head).
According to legend, the mad monk’s impressive unit was either cut off by his killers or stolen from the morgue by an old flame. Somehow, a group of Russian women living in Paris believed the sacred dong had made its way to them, and they worshiped whatever it was they had until his daughter supposedly showed up to reclaim it. Eventually -- the proprietors aren’t saying how -- it completed its trip around the continent and ended up back in Russia at the Museum of Russian Erotica, where “it” remains on display.
The LA Times Publicly Accused a Mortgage Broker of Biggie’s Murder
In 1999, the LA Times announced that police had identified a suspect in the murder of Christopher Wallace A.K.A. the Notorious B.I.G., going so far as to publish his name and photo. The only problem was that he wasn’t a suspect at all. Police later confirmed that they weren’t “pursuing that theory,” the man insisted police never even spoke to him, and the Times was forced to print a retraction full of quotes like "I'm not a murderer, I'm a mortgage broker" and "How can something so completely false end up on the front page of a major newspaper?" How, indeed.
Top image: Ferdinand Schmutzer/Wikimedia Commons