by Phoebe Renje
When a celebrity dies, our social media pages flood with news and condolences. But in some cases, these celebrities die under mysterious circumstances. Often, people wonder if their death was plotted or if it genuinely was an unfortunate coincidence. While the cause of death is sometimes straightforward, the motive hardly is. In honor of the spooky season, here are five mysterious celebrity deaths that’ll keep you up at night.
Originally from Atlanta, Brittany Murphy moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Murphy instantly became famous with her breakout role as Tai from the cult classic teen film Clueless (1995). She starred in numerous other films, notably Girl, Interrupted (1999) and 8 Mile (2002).
Murphy died in her Los Angeles home on December 20, 2009. Her official cause of death was “accidental pneumonia”; however, she was a noted drug addict and struggled with an eating disorder. According to the autopsy, the coroner found many drugs in her system, including hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Suspicions grew when, in May 2010, Her husband, Simon Monjack, was found dead in the same condition.
Some believe he was to blame; others claim it was her addiction or the toxic mold found in their house. The 2021 HBO documentary What Happened, Brittany Murphy?, details the unsolved circumstances of the actress’s death.
Peter Ivers was a punk icon whose work transcended from music to television. He spent his early career playing alongside Fleetwood Mac and The New York Dolls while writing music for The Pointer Sisters and Diana Ross. In 1982, Ivers hosted New Wave Theatre, a variety program (think a mix between Saturday Night Live and MTV).
On March 3, 1983, Ivers was found bludgeoned to death in his Los Angeles apartment. Rumors circulated about the crime scene and how authorities mishandled the case. The LAPD allowed many of Iver’s friends and acquaintances to take belongings while his apartment was an active crime scene (his friend and musician David Jove left with a blood-stained cover).
At the time of his death, Ivers was dating film producer Lucy Fisher, who paid for a private investigator to solve the case. Due to insufficient evidence and a botched investigation, the results were inconclusive. The iHeartMedia podcast Peter and the Acid King is currently investigating his death.
Anna Nicole Smith:
Anna Nicole Smith, born Vicki Lynn Hogan, was an actress and model for Playboy, Guess, and H&M. Perhaps she is most known for marrying 86-year-old petroleum tycoon J. Howard Marshall. Many speculated the marriage was for money; however, Smith was not named in the will after his 1995 death. She faced legal strife regarding his estate, where the Supreme Court awarded her $474 million after the state of Texas decided she was not entitled to her husband’s money.
On February 8, 2007, Smith was found unresponsive in the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. She was transported to Memorial Regional Hospital, where she was declared dead at age 39. Some speculate her death was not a suicide, but someone intentionally gave her a lethal cocktail of drugs. Her father’s daughter, Larry Birkhead, claims she died of a broken heart. Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead, was born September 7, 2006, while her son, Daniel, died three days later of a drug overdose. After her death, the Hard Rock remodeled the room, changing the number from 607 to 609. Fans still flock to the hotel, claiming her spirit lurks in the halls.
Richey Edwards was the face of the Welsh punk band Manic Street Preachers. He wrote the songs and gave the band an image. His political lyrics earned the band cult status in the 90’s grunge scene.
On February 1, 1995, the band was scheduled to fly to the United States to promote their newest album, The Holy Bible. Instead, Edwards checked out of the Embassy Hotel in London, drove to his home in Cardiff, Wales, and abandoned his passport, keys, and credit cards. He has not been seen since, though it is believed he committed suicide. His car was parked near the Prince Charles Bridge, an infamous spot for suicide.
Edwards was legally declared dead in November 2008. Fans have reported spotting him in India and the Canary Islands in the fifteen years since he went missing. Edwards’s sister, Rachel, claims this puzzle is missing pieces. She aided in the writing of Withdrawn Traces: Searching for the Truth About Richey Manic, suggesting he planned his disappearance. His sister claims authorities did not consider his history of severe depression and self-harm.
One of the most successful cases of child stardom, Natalie Wood’s breakout role, came from the beloved Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Wood was a household name in her teenage years, playing Judy in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Maria in West Side Story (1961).
Wood’s fame abruptly ended in the early hours of November 29, 1981, when her body was found off the coast of Santa Catalina, an island off the coast of California. On a weekend off of filming Brainstorm that year, she, her husband, Roger Wagner, and a few friends climbed aboard a yacht. The official cause of death was hypothermia and accidental drowning. However, Woods’ blood alcohol content was 0.14%. That night, she got into an argument with her husband.
The marriage and divorce between Wagner and Wood were subject to media scrutiny. Wood’s case was reopened in 2011 when the boat’s captain, Dave Wagner, admitted he lied about the interaction between Wagner and their friend, Christopher Walken. In the 2020 HBO documentary Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, Wood and Wagner’s daughter, Natasha Gregson, confirms the decades-long suspicion that her father played a role in her mother’s death. Wagner, now 93, denies any involvement in her death.
*Cover photo by Fey Marin