5 Insane (but Convincing) Theories About Dead Celebrities
From the god-kings of ancient cultures to the revolving door afterlives of comic book characters, humanity has always been reluctant to accept the fact that even our best and brightest will eventually fade away. As millennia have passed and our cultural relationship with our leaders has shifted from "May He reign forever in the Heavens" to "Thanks, Obama," we have moved our death-eluding attentions to our celebrities. Any time some singer or actor croaks before they become old and uninteresting, you can bet your best Sunday butt that within hours, the Internet will be teeming with "they're still alive" theories, ranging from relatively sane speculation to the obligatory "they just went to their home planet" ramblings of the Tin Foil People.
Can you guess which end of the spectrum this column is going to be about?
Bill Hicks Became Alex Jones, Conspiracy Theorist
If you're interested in stand-up comedy at all, chances are you've bumped into Bill Hicks. A master of dark observational comedy and an avid social critic, his star burned brightly throughout the early 1990s, until he was lost to pancreatic cancer in 1994.
Or was he?
Enter Alex Jones, whom you may know (and hopefully actively ignore) as the man behind InfoWars.com, the host of The Alex Jones Show, and "America's #1 conspiracy theorist." Did you know he's really Bill Hicks in disguise? Does he even know? God dammit, the New World Order has fooled us yet again!
Here's a completely reliable 33-minute video that utterly eradicates all possibilities of this not being true:
"Superficial similarities in voice and physical attributes? Hold the press, Greg, we have stumbled upon the most sacred of all truths."
Should you not have the time to watch the whole video (please don't -- I did, and you can actually feel your brain cells melting like sugar in the rain as they elaborate), this theory suggests that Hicks was actually kidnapped by the CIA, who brainwashed the left-leaning comedian and put his famously sharp tongue to a new use by turning him into a right-wing propaganda machine.
What I love about this theory is not so much its subject matter; I suspect it would take a lot more than mere brainwashing to turn Bill fucking Hicks into a 9/11 truther muppet. It's how thoroughly it manages to serve Jones a taste of his own medicine by claiming that he, a dedicated opponent of all things Illuminati and whatnot, is actually nothing but a powerless puppet serving their secret agenda.
With this in mind, I wholeheartedly propose to any conspiracy enthusiasts who might be reading this: please, please make this "conspiracy theorists making conspiracy theories about other conspiracy theorists" thing an ongoing trend. It would even be worth the inevitable return of that annoying Xzibit meme.
Michael Jackson, Master of Postmortem Disguise
Whatever else he may have been, the late Michael Jackson always struck me as a confused and unhappy individual who was thrown into a very extraordinary life at a young age, and never quite figured out what to do with it. That's why it was no surprise to me that there are plenty of theories about him faking his death and moving on to live what in his head probably passed for a normal life.
What was surprising, however, is how many of these theories refuse the "away from the spotlight" angle altogether, and instead use his fake demise as an excuse to make him seem even weirder than he was in his known life.There's the one that claims Jackson is still occasionally visiting the public eye under the guise of his longtime friend, a facial burn victim called Dave Dave.
Feel free to insert your own "I can see the likeness" joke, because I sure as shit am not going to make one.
How about the one about Conrad Murray, the doctor facing heat over Jackson's death, actually being the singer in disguise, despite looking and sounding nothing like him?
"As you can see, they both clearly have eyes and shit."
Or the ones that claim Jackson was present at his own funeral, disguised either as an old man or a blonde lady?
Because the first thing you do after staging your death is grab a wig and waltz into an event that will be seen by millions.
Most of these theories seem to draw from the fact that a few of Jackson's videos -- notably his Thriller zombie look and Ghosts, where he played a middle-aged white dude -- featured him in heavy makeup and prosthetics, which can obviously only mean that the man is both ready and willing to spend the rest of his life in various heavy disguises.
Look, the King of Pop was a great many things, and I get that tons of fans miss him. However, while he did on occasion dabble with prosthetic makeup in his videos, precisely none of said things was "master of disguise." The dude's recognizability was on par with Mickey Mouse's, and although he did on occasion try to hide his face from the public, his attempts at disguise tended to be less Sherlock Holmes and more like, well, this:
He could probably pass for LaToya, but that's it.
D.B. Cooper Is ... Tommy Wiseau?
Sometimes, when it's 3 a.m., I like to read up on creepy and unexplained events, because I subconsciously hate the concept of sleep and wish to have as little of it as humanly possible. During one of these sessions, I bumped into a few articles about D.B. Cooper, Cracked article alum and noted 1971 plane hijacker who disappeared after parachuting into awful weather wearing just a flimsy business suit, while weighed down by a bag of cash and a set of massive brass balls.
Fast-forward half an hour, and I found myself staring at the mug of none other than Tommy Wiseau, the modern-day Ed Wood behind the cinematic un-masterpiece The Room. "Huh," went my tired brain, as I started backtracking the strange link path that had led me from death-defying robbers to Z-movie auteurs who don't understand the concept of playing catch. And holy shit, was the effort worth it. It turns out that there's an actual theory that D.B. Cooper survived his daring heist and went on to become Tommy Wiseau, presumably financing his train wreck of a film with the stolen money.
Thus creating the perfect circle of trolling the world.
Of course, the whole idea is as flimsy as the script of Wiseau's masterpiece. This is because it was never meant to be taken seriously; the theory is actually just a joke from the webcomic xkcd, which was poking fun at conspiracy theorists' tendency to cherry-pick facts that suit their grand point (Cooper's disappearance with the money and Wiseau's apparent wealth and mysterious past; both men's strange accents) while glossing over the ones that don't fit (Wiseau would have to be at least 80 years old for the theory to work).
Also, you'd think someone would have mentioned it if Cooper talked like a robot from a 1950s sci-fi movie.
I'm including this theory because, although online mentions of the whole Cooper/Wiseau thing are as yet fairly rare and often joking in nature, my gut tells me we might very well be witnessing the birth of an actual conspiracy theory. This thing is already out there, and all it takes is a single conspiracy enthusiast bumping into it and omitting the source for it to turn into the "real" deal. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, in a couple of years, everyone's Google search bar will auto-fill Wiseau's name with "is D.B. Cooper," and vice-versa. Fast forward a few more, and the guy will probably be an alien, too.
Which would only confirm the suspicions of everyone who has actually seen The Room.
Then someone will make a porn parody out of it, which is when the Internet will finally realize how much humanity sucks and quit on our ass.
Andy Kaufman's Ridiculously Elaborate Fake Death
Hey, it's a list of fake celebrity deaths -- of course this guy had to show up eventually.
Andy Kaufman earned his street cred as the patron saint of trolling and a comedian/performance artist extraordinaire by actively messing with the public. As a byproduct of his antics, he developed a reputation as one of the least-trustworthy people in existence. So when this fit, non-smoking, 35-year-old man was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer and died just three months later in May 1984, it wasn't exactly a surprise that not everyone bought the story.
Even today, theories about Kaufman faking his death and waiting to resurface any minute now with a grin and a punchline are floating around, no matter how readily available his death certificate is online.
When one of your jokes is wrestling women for four solid years, people are bound to take everything you do with a pinch of salt.
What warrants the inclusion of this known-ass theory on this particular list is the how, for the first time, we have actual details on the absurdly complicated fashion in which Kaufman might have pulled off his fake death stunt. According to the Kaufman's frequent co-conspirator Bob Zmuda and girlfriend Lynne Marguiles, the comedian had a lifelong fascination about staging his own death, which is what eventually led him to pull off the stunt in 1984. Zmuda and Marguiles claim that Kaufman managed to locate a terminal cancer patient who looked like him, and painstakingly changed his own appearance and mannerisms to fit those of the dying man in mere months.
In what he and Zmuda came to call "the dying routine," Kaufman lost vast amounts of weight, shaved his hair, coughed non-stop and deliberately leaked photos of his frail state. When the lookalike died, it was only a matter of burying him in place of the actual Kaufman, who proceeded to disappear from everyone who knew and loved him. Ha, classic! According to Zmuda, only he was in on the trick; Kaufman's parents both passed away thinking their son was dead. In fact, Zmuda claims he only came out with the allegedly real version of the events (along with a bunch of other less unsavory tales about Kaufman) after both of the comedian's parents were dead, and also because the time limit Andy set for his death exile -- 30 years, max -- expired in May, 2014.
Don't get me wrong; I have as much respect for Kaufman's stunts as any comedian, and a part of me would love to see the man return and once again unleash his never-depleted bag of tricks on the world. Even so, I really, really want the whole death thing to be true if this is the alternative. There's a fine line between an awesome long con and complete, sociopathic disregard for everyone you love, and frankly, Zmuda's version of events is pooping all over said line.
John F. Kennedy, Assassination Survivor
November 22, 1963 is forever remembered as the day of what is arguably the most famous and well-covered assassination in history. The 450,000 or so theories surrounding the death of President John F. Kennedy are a conspiracy enthusiast's heaven. By now, there are so many angles to the story that you can find a way to fit absolutely any theory you're into this week in the mix. Still, even the most hardcore "Illuminati molemen pooped bullets at him from a hidden foxhole on the Grassy Knoll" creeps do acknowledge that there was an assassination. No one is going around stating that Kennedy is still walking around today. That would be insane.
After all, he died in his sleep in 2011, at the tender age of 94.
The real reason Presidents look more and more stressed as their term progresses is that he liked to sneak into their bedroom at night and pull a Jacob Marley on them.
Oh, and at least one person is claiming that JFK was still alive as of early 2013.
I accidentally dropped some brain bleach on my Lunatic-English-Lunatic dictionary in the aftermath of my last celebrity conspiracy column, so my understanding of loon-tongue is a little rusty. From what I can tell, these theories rely largely on the fact that Kennedy still had a pulse and was attempting to breathe when they brought him in the hospital. The extent of his alleged recovery varies -- the "alive in 2013" guy insinuates that JFK's post-Dallas life was spent as more or less a vegetable, while the other, rather more ... elaborate theory claims he lived the rest of his life in a relatively normal fashion, slightly brain damaged but fully capable of communication. He recuperated on Aristotle Onassis' private island (while the latter married his wife, apparently), and proceeded to live under various aliases, secretly discussing matters with other Presidents and occasionally meeting old acquaintances such as Marilyn Monroe (who also faked her death, because of course she fucking did).
She rendered herself totally unrecognizable by calling herself "Norma Jean."
While I personally enjoy the idea of a cranially-restructured JFK secretly Forrest Gumping his way through history, it must be noted that this is goddamned impossible. Although it is true that Kennedy's heart was still beating and his body was gasping for air, he was essentially a goner when he arrived to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Dr. Robert McClelland, who was a surgeon on duty when Kennedy came in, could look directly into the President's skull, and he saw that the back of his right cerebral hemisphere completely missing, while other head bits were, uh, plopping onto the gurney. And while it's admirable that some people are willing to assume 1960s surgeons were able to magically puzzle him back into the land of the living, I feel it's safe to say that conspiracy nuts would stand on sturdier ground by positing a theory that Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy magic-bulleted the man with that whistle arrow of his.
Special thanks to Amanda Mannen for her suggestions in this article. Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked freelance editor and weekly columnist. Join his gang on Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Pauli, check out 4 Famous Mysteries With Really Obvious Answers. And then check out 22 Eerily Plausible Conspiracy Theories (We Just Made Up).
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