The Strange Fates of 15 Celebrity Graves
Of course, any attempt at immortality is little more than a shout into the void, but making a movie everyone shames you for not having seen is about as close as it gets. When you’re remembered long after your death, though, every symbol of your life takes on special meaning and attracts weirdos, especially your body. That means some celebrity graves have seen some shit, from routine vandalism to full-blown riots.
The Poe Toaster
An unknown, fancy-dressed person poured one out at Edgar Allan Poe’s grave every year on his birthday for 75 years. The Maryland Historical Society was so distraught when the Poe Toaster stopped showing up to raise a glass of cognac to old Eddie P. in 2010 that they appointed their own anonymous Poe Toaster to carry on the tradition.
Valentino’s Lady in Black
The Poe Toaster may have been inspired by the Lady in Black, a mysterious woman draped in a black veil who regularly left roses on the grave of Rudolph Valentino for 50 years after his death. In 1990, after an antiques dealer found a trunk full of diaries and a black veil, it was revealed that she was probably a vaudeville dancer named Ditra Flamé, who was deeply unhappy that Valentino considered her a “little sister,” but Paramount Studios was so pleased with the mystery that they started sending out their own Ladies in Black for the publicity.
The Jim Morrison Cemetery Riot
No trip to Paris is complete without swinging by Jim Morrison’s grave, at least for a certain type of person, which is exactly why the Pere Lachaise cemetery is constantly cleaning up after tourists’ mini Woodstocks. On the 20th anniversary of his death in 1991, they decided they weren’t dealing with it and refused to let over 1,000 fans into the cemetery, which made their day the opposite of easier. Twenty-one fans were arrested after driving a car through the cemetery gates, setting it on fire, and throwing beer bottles at police. It was just what Jim would have wanted.
Belushi Got Evicted
Meanwhile, the partying at John Belushi’s unmarked grave on Martha’s Vineyard got so out of hand that it had to be moved to an isolated corner of the cemetery, with big signs that amounted to “Leave your bottles and used condoms here,” to protect the other gravesites. Yeah, Belushi was such a legend that they had to un-unmark his grave.
Oscar Wilde’s Stolen (Stone) Penis
The most common method of vandalizing Oscar Wilde’s grave is leaving lipstick kisses on his tomb, but in the ‘60s, someone hacked the genitals off its sculpture of an anatomically correct angel. Whoever it was has such a conversation piece on their mantel
Ian Curtis’s Stolen Gravestone
If hacking off a penis wasn’t, ahem, ballsy enough, someone stole Ian Curtis’s entire gravestone in 2008. It turns out no one had bothered to actually cement it down. They fixed that but continued taking no security measures to keep an eye on the thing, so 11 years later, someone stole a different piece. It turns out love would tear it apart.
Columbus Had a Wild Ride
Christopher Columbus was initially buried in Valladolid, Spain, where he died, but as befitting a voyager, he didn’t stay there for long, ironically often because of colonialism. First, his son had him dug up and reburied in Seville, then a few decades later, his body was sent to Santo Domingo for some reason. Then France took the island from Spain, so his body was moved to Cuba, then Cuba liberated itself, so it was back to Spain with Columbus -- at least in part. A worker at the cathedral in Santo Domingo later found a box of bones implied to belong to Columbus, so they might have accidentally left part of him behind. The bones in Spain definitely belong to Columbus, but Santo Domingo refuses to let their be tested, probably they they built a tourist attraction around them.
Charlie Chaplin Was Body-Snatched
Chaplin’s body is currently encased in concrete after he became the victim of one of the most notorious grave-robbing incidents in history, when two would-be extortionists dug him up and reburied him in a cornfield while they attempted to negotiate. They were caught pretty quickly, but you can never be too careful.
Simon Bolivar’s Fanboy Was Too Powerful
In 2010, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez demanded the exhumation of Simon Bolivar, ostensibly to prove he was poisoned, but it kinda sounds like he just wanted to see them bones. "What impressive moments we have lived tonight. We have seen the bones of the Great Bolivar!" he tweeted from the event. "That glorious skeleton must be Bolivar, because his flame can be felt. Bolivar lives!" Bolivar did not, in fact, live, and he almost certainly wasn’t poisoned, either, but at least Chavez got to hang with his hero for a minute.
Roy Orbison and Frank Zappa: Resting Besties
Roy Orbison and Frank Zappa are buried near each other in unmarked graves in Los Angeles’s Westwood Village Memorial Park, but no one knows why. It seems to be a total coincidence that they’re so close together, Orbison’s family just kind of never got around to putting up a headstone, and Zappa’s family won’t explain why his grave is unmarked, but considering everything we’ve just gone over, it’s pretty understandable. Orbison’s wife was eventually buried next to him, though, and her grave is marked, so it’s not that hard to nail down the general area.
Chopin’s Heart Was Stolen By Nazis
Frederic Chopin was buried in Paris in the same cemetery as Morrison and Wilde, but being kind of a drama queen, he asked that his heart be buried in his native Poland, which was a politically dicey request in 1849. Not only did it have to be smuggled past Russian authorities, it was briefly stolen by Nazis a century-ish later before it was returned to be encased in a church pillar in Warsaw.
Thomas Paine Was Last Seen in an Attic
Common Sense superfan William Cobbett wasn’t happy with Thomas Paine’s unceremonious burial, so in 1819, he threw his corpse over his back and brought him to England for a more dignified service. The only problem was he didn’t have the money to celebrate Paine the way he felt he deserved, so he stuck him in a trunk in his attic and died himself before he reached his GoFundMe goal. It’s not clear what happened to Paine after that, proving that sometimes, good enough is good enough.
James Doohan Was Buried in Space
The actor who played the Scotty of “beam me up, Scotty” on Star Trek naturally wanted to be buried in space, but it turns out real space travel is hard. After three years of failed attempts, including one in which Doohan’s ashes were briefly lost, he was finally smuggled onto the International Space Station in 2008, a fact everyone involved kept secret for 12 years until NASA would have looked like dicks for objecting.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Tomb Was Broken Into For Mysterious Reasons
In 2000, police described a confusing scene at the tomb of Lynyrd Skynyrd bandmates Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines (who were buried together, aww): Van Zant’s casket had been moved but not opened, and a plastic bag of Gaines’s ashes had been removed from its urn, but the vandals were nowhere in sight. The unschooled public assumed it was your typical case of graverobbing, but music nerds know they were probably trying to confirm whether Van Zant was buried in a Neil Young t-shirt. Whatever the case, their graves were moved more than once and will presumably be watched around the clock until the last Lynyrd Skynyrd fans die out, which should be any day now.
Marilyn Monroe Has Weirdos on All Sides
In 1992, Hugh Hefner bought the crypt next to Marilyn Monroe’s in Westwood Village -- something she may not have loved, considering he published naked photos of her without her consent in 1953 -- for $75,000 after deciding the idea of “spending eternity next to Marilyn too sweet to pass up” but joked that for “that kind of money, I should actually be on top of her.” That place, unfortunately for him, was already taken. It was first occupied by businessman Richard Poncher, who instructed his wife, who he must not have liked very much, to “put me upside down over Marilyn,” then sold in 2009 to a buyer who chose to remain anonymous until death outs them as a huge, huge creep.
Top image: Effervescing Elephant/Wikimedia Commons