We have all heard strange stories of famous people mysteriously disappearing, or dying under suspicious circumstances. These stories, so incomplete or bizarre, often capture the imaginations of people, who create their own narratives to find meaning or comfort in the loss of a celebrity. And as time goes on, the stories themselves take on a life of their own, in some cases taking on the tone of legends. Needless to say, when people who are cared about (and who are known or idolized on a global scale) disappear, a void is left behind. So without further ado, here is our list of some of the most Famous Mysterious Deaths in History that shook the world, and left us wondering "what happened?"
1. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart is a household name. As the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane in 1928, she is a truly an inspirational woman. She had a very successful career as a pilot, and in 1935, she began to work at Perdue University as a female career consultant and technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics. The university subsequently purchased an aircraft, which she planned to use for a flight around the Earth's equator. She planned this flight with three other pilots. Their flight began on March 17, 1937, but after some initial technical problems, they stopped over in Hawaii for some repairs. After three days, they planned to continue their journey, but as they were taking off, Earhart lost control of the plane, crashing on the runway. They repaired the plane again, and reembarked. A couple of months into their journey, Earhart and her crew disappeared. An immense rescue mission was sponsored by the U.S. government, but neither the crew nor craft was ever found. Many speculate that Earhart was a spy, while others claim she crashed the plane in an act of suicide. One popular theory is that Earhart didn't die in a plane crash but lived out the remainder of her life as a castaway on an island. Skeletal remains and evidence of life on this small island have offered some clues.
2. Elizabeth Short
The death of Elizabeth Short is one of Hollywood's first and oldest mysteries. The inspiration for the book (and later, the film), The Black Dahlia, Short's murder shocked the public. Only 22 years old, Short was an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. She was found murdered in Leimert Park on January 15, 1947, her body brutally mutilated, and severed in half. Though the murder was never solved, there were many suspects in the case, and the crime was widely speculated on for years to come. Because of the disturbing nature of the crime, it was sensationalized in the press, leading to a great number of individuals coming forward with diverse and often conflicting information about the case. This sensationalism has resulted in numerous theories about what happened to Short, leaving her murder a mystery to this day.
3. JonBenét Ramsey
JonBenét Ramsey was a 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant, who was found murdered in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado on December 26, 1996. For many, JonBenét's face is one that will not be forgotten, as the discovery of her body was met with great despair and controversy. Her own parents (in particular, her mother, Patsy) were attacked by the public and the press, who declared they were the only obvious suspects. Indeed, though her disappearance was accompanied by a ransom letter, the nature of the letter and the circumstances of her disappearance were unconvincing at the time. Unfortunately, the investigation carried out by the Boulder Police Department was half-handed, leading to an inconclusive report of events. No one was ever charged for the murder, and JonBenét's death remains a mystery to this day.
4. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most significant figures in Hollywood history. An actress and an icon, she was idolized for her beauty and presence on the screen. However, when she died of a drug overdose in 1962 at the age of 36, her death was regarded with both confusion and suspicion. She was discovered dead in the bedroom of her home in Los Angeles, with an empty bottle of sleeping pills nearby. Though the cause of death was ruled as a drug overdose, there have been rumours surrounding her death since her body was discovered. She was rumoured to have been involved romantically with President John F. Kennedy (and/or his brother, Robert) before her death. Many fans of Monroe believe her suicide was forced and staged, perhaps because of these alleged romances.
5. Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur
The deaths of these two famous and infamous rappers remains contentious for the music world, and a mystery at large. With Biggie Smalls (Notorious B.I.G.) representing East Coast rap in America, and Tupac Shakur representing the West, they were engaged in an epic rivalry throughout their careers. After Shakur was shot in 1994, he blamed Biggie and his crew. Thus began their famous feud, which ended with both of their untimely deaths. On September 7, 1996, Tupac was shot to death in Las Vegas. No one was ever charged for his murder, but Biggie was widely blamed (in particular, by Tupac's West coast crew). Biggie was killed less than a year later in Los Angeles, on March 9, 1997. His murder also went unsolved, leaving their two deaths a painful mystery in the hearts and minds of fans around the world.
6. Kurt Cobain
One of the foundational musicians of the grunge genre, and lead singer of the monumental rock group Nirvana, Kurt Cobain's mysterious death continues to puzzle fans to this day. Found shot dead in his Seattle home in 1994, Cobain's death has been officially ruled a suicide by the police. However, this ruling hasn't stopped a great deal of speculation surrounding the circumstances of his death. Though Cobain achieved great professional success as a musician, his personal life was known to be in a state of general turmoil. He had problems with drug abuse, which put a strain on his relationships with his bandmates and family (in particular, his wife Courtney Love). On April 5, 1994, Cobain allegedly committed suicide, leaving behind a lengthy suicide note, in which he apologized to his wife and daughter, Frances Bean. Many suspect Love's involvement in Cobain's death, or that he was murdered, despite the strong evidence of suicide.
7. Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was renowned for his mastery of the martial art technique, Jeet Kun Do. Lee was an actor, filmmaker, and martial artist. Though born in California, he was raised in Hong Kong, and returned to the United States as an adult to further his film career. On July 20, 1973, he was found dead in Hong Kong, at the young age of 32. The officially recorded cause of death was a brain edema, caused by an adverse reaction to a pain killer he was taking for a back injury. However, many fans believe that there was something supernatural about his death. Lee was convinced he would die at a young age: an obsession that spurred rumours of him being "cursed". There were also rumours that he was murdered, though these rumours didn't appear to be based on any concrete evidence.