Celebrities' lives are always in the spotlight. And whether they keep those lives private or make details public, there's a lot you can't tell about a person through the camera lens. But in death, details about a person can become shockingly clear, and even reveal things they tried to keep hidden. Take a look at the latter and see what these celebrity autopsies revealed.
Marilyn Monroe was known for being a blonde bombshell. Whether it was when she graced the covers of magazines or starred in multiple big movies, her beauty captivated everyone. Even to this day, decades after her death, she remains a prominent sex symbol. But she also remains a symbol of the depression and melancholic existence she led inside. Marilyn died in 1962 of an overdose that appeared to be a suicide. Her autopsy found that she died from “acute barbiturate poisoning”. However, there are other aspects of her autopsy that leads people to believe that she was murdered.
The autopsy showed no needle marks on her body and no evidence of a pill in her stomach. There was also no indication of the yellow dye from the Nembutal capsules she supposedly OD’d on. Theories surrounding her death revolve around the mafia, CIA, Area 51, and the Kennedy family. After all, she was known to allegedly have had affairs with both Robert and John F. Kennedy. In fact, the last person she had reportedly spoken to before she died was JFK.
Brandon Lee was the son of famous martial artist Bruce Lee. Weirdly enough, both father and son died under mysterious circumstances. Bruce seemed to be in great physical health when he suddenly dropped dead in 1973 at the age of 32. The idea has been tossed around that he was poisoned by Chinese herbalists.
Brandon’s death was just as shocking. He was only 28 when died on the set of the film The Crow after a prop gun mistakenly fired a semi-live round into him. The autopsy showed a .44-caliber bullet in Brandon’s spine, in fact having pierced his abdomen despite the fact that it was supposed to be safe. Brandon was rushed to the emergency room where surgeons worked for hours to save his life. They even ended up transfusing over 60 pints of blood into him - enough for five grown men. But, they were unsuccessful.
Though his most famous association is as part of the Foo Fighters band, Taylor Hawkins was a prolific drummer and one of the most charismatic musicians around, commanding attention even from the back of the stage. So when he was found dead in March of 2022 at age 50, fans and contemporaries around the globe were devastated.
The autopsy, conducted in Colombia where Hawkins passed away, showed a panel of 10 different drugs in his system upon his death, including antidepressants, opiods, and supposedly heroin. It also apparently found that he had a severely enlarged heart of over 600 grams (~1.3 pounds).
Whitney Houston had a voice that no one could hold a candle to but unfortunately, her successful career was marred by all kinds of personal struggles. One of her biggest struggles was her addiction to drugs. She was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel bathtub in 2012. She had been trying to stay clean for a long time but authorities reported finding a white powdery substance near her body. In fact, her family was shocked to learn she had started using drugs again.
Her autopsy gave more details including the fact that “cocaine, benzoylecgonine, cocaethylene, marijuana, alprazolam (Xanax), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl)” were all found in her system. Houston’s official cause of death was “drowning due to cocaine use and atherosclerotic heart disease.” Even more tragic, the coroner found that she had been developing emphysema and would not have been able to sing at her normal caliber at the time of her death.
Carrie Fisher was rocketed to superstardom after portraying Princess Leia Organa in the epic Star Wars movies that came out in the '70s. Throughout the decades, Fisher was a known drug user and was always open about her addictions.
Fisher died around Christmas in 2016 after going into cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles. While everyone on the plane did their best to help her until they could land, she died shortly after being rushed to the hospital. Her autopsy showed that she had a combination of alcohol, opiates, methadone, cocaine, and MDMA in her system. It also showed that “there was an exposure to heroin,” but the date and time of usage could not be concluded by officials. Fisher’s official cause of death was undetermined, but heart disease and drug use were cited.
Even more tragic, Fisher’s mother, legendary actress Debbie Reynolds died just a few days later. Many of their family believe that Reynolds died of a broken heart over Fisher.
Sharon Tate was an extremely beautiful actress and model who was also married to famous director Roman Polanski. However, she may be more well known for her infamous murder at the hands of the Manson family. Tate, along with her friends Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger, were all murdered in 1969 on the orders of cult leader Charles Manson. Manson had ordered his cult members to kill whoever was living in the house, thinking that he was murdering the music producer he had a grudge against who previously had lived there.
Everyone in the house was stabbed to death. Tate’s autopsy showed that she had been stabbed 16 times before she was finally hanged. The worst part of Tate’s murder? She was eight and a half months pregnant. Members of the Manson family were arrested later that year for the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. This led investigators to put together the puzzle pieces and connected them to Tate’s murder.
Prince’s sudden death in 2016 seemed to shock the entire world when he was found unresponsive at his home, Paisley Park. Known for hit songs such as "Little Red Corvette", "Purple Rain", and "Raspberry Beret", Prince’s death was ruled an overdose, especially after the investigation uncovered his massive stash of drugs.
His autopsy showed that he had an extremely high amount of fentanyl, an opioid almost 50 times more powerful than heroin, in his system. Authorities found that Prince had been taking opioid painkillers for a while, but could not find out if he had been prescribed the medications by a licensed physician. However, many believe that Prince might have been killed, especially as his body was quickly cremated and no other tests could be performed. Many theories state that Prince couldn’t get a legal prescription for the painkillers, and he got involved with an underground drug dealer that ended up killing him.
John Lennon was a member of the Fab Four, otherwise known as The Beatles. Even though the members of the iconic band had gone their separate ways, they all continued to make music in their own solo careers. Unfortunately, Lennon’s musical career came to an end in 1980 when he was shot right outside of his New York City apartment by Mark David Chapman, a man who had been stalking him.
It is clear that Lennon died from the shooting but his wife, Yoko Ono, never released the autopsy report. So, we’ll never know the exact findings of the report, including if any alcohol or drugs were in his system at the time of his death.
Chris Farley was a comedian mostly known for his time as a Saturday Night Live cast member. He died an early death thanks to a drug overdose in 1997, much like former SNL cast member John Belushi did before him in 1982. In similar circumstances to Belushi’s death, Farley appeared to have been entertaining prostitutes shortly before his death. One Chicago woman came forward and stated that she had left Farley in his apartment when he began to pass out on the floor.
Farley’s autopsy showed that he had a lethal cocktail of cocaine and morphine in his system, a combination usually referred to as a 'speedball'. The autopsy also showed that Farley had advanced atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries), which also contributed to his death. He was only 33 years old at the time of his death, the same age as Belushi when he died. Farley was very open about how much he idolized Belushi, making the circumstances of his death that much spookier.
Amy Winehouse’s death was tragically seen coming. She first hit the scene after graduating from The Brit School, a prestigious performing arts academy, in 2003 and released her first album, Frank. It ended up going triple platinum in the U.K. Her next album, Back to Black, came in 2006 and introduced the singer to the world. However, the success only seemed to exacerbate the issues she was facing. It was well known that Winehouse struggled with alcoholism, but just how bad wasn’t revealed until her autopsy came out.
Winehouse was found in her bed surrounded by three empty vodka bottles in 2011. The autopsy showed “416mg of alcohol per decilitre in her blood.” This made her comatose and depressed her respiratory system. Months before her death, she had drunk herself into a coma and in 2007, she had several drug-induced seizures. After the seizures, she seemed to have predicted her own death when she told her mother that her days were numbered.
Paul Walker died in a horribly tragic accident in 2013. Most famous for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, Walker truly had a love for cars which unfortunately led to his death. He was a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT driven by Roger Rodas when they crashed at a speed of over 100 mph. The crash almost broke the car in half before it exploded into flames. Rodas’ autopsy showed that his skull was so damaged that his brain had been exposed. Walker’s autopsy was even worse.
Walker’s body was found in a boxer’s stance with his arms locked in front of his face. This is something that is common in burning victims as the thermal effects on muscles cause them to tighten and shorten. Even worse, the autopsy showed that Walker suffered a broken collarbone, jaw, and pelvis in the crash and his body had been badly charred. Last but not least, it appears that he was alive for a few short moments following the crash as there were bits of soot found in his trachea.
TV’s Golden Age was heralded by the charming and spirited, “I Love Lucy”. With its peers dropping out of sight and out of mind, Lucille Ball’s masterpiece has remained timeless and truly endearing for many generations. This audacious redhead touched the hearts of the American people and filled their screens with timeless laughs and a goofy innocence that has stood the test of time. Ball’s vivacious attitude and on-screen presence influenced an entire generation of viewers. She set a high expectation for the entertainment industry that pioneered an era of comedy that was completely unprecedented.
Lucille Ball died on April 26, 1989, in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, United States. In the days before her death, Ball started experiencing shooting pains in her chest. Her husband called the doctor and tried to talk Ball into going to the hospital. Lucille initially refused, but her daughter managed to persuade her. Ball was given 7 hours of open-heart surgery. Her operation was successful and after a few days, she returned home. She was moved to the guest bedroom downstairs to avoid any unnecessary stress. However, the morning after she got home, her repaired aorta ruptured once again - she was rushed into hospital but on this occasion, the doctors couldn’t save her. She was laid to rest on May 8, 1989, in Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown, New York, marking the end of an era. "Poppers", which is the street name given to the drug amyl nitrite, were apparently found in her system at the time of her death. Although they may be used for a different reason today, back then they were taken when chest pains would occur.
Heather O’Rourke is a well-known name among classic horror fans. She was known for playing Carol Ann Freeling in the original Poltergeist movies. Unfortunately, she never even got to see the third movie finished because she died when she was 12 years old. O’Rourke died in the operation room of The Children’s Hospital of San Diego in 1988 after they found a severe bowel obstruction that she could have had since birth. The obstruction led to an infection that led to septic shock which resulted in a full cardiac and pulmonary arrest in the 12-year-old.
Her parents had only taken her to the hospital for flu-like symptoms but by the time they found the obstruction, she was beyond help. Eventually, O’Rourke’s parents filed a wrongful-death suit because her illness had originally been misdiagnosed. The obstruction wasn’t found until her autopsy even though X-rays had been taken before her death.
David Carradine was the oldest son of John Carradine and was well known for his role in Kill Bill. Besides that, Carradine was known for being in the U.S. Army, starring in Broadway productions, and being in films and television shows such as Boxcar Bertha and Kung Fu. Kill Bill gave new wind to Carradine’s career, but it didn’t last long. Carradine was found dead in his Bangkok hotel room in 2009. The authorities stated that his hands were bound above his head and that there was a rope tied to his genitals and neck.
Also, in photos leaked at the time of his death, he appeared to be wearing a wig and fishnets. At first, his death was ruled a suicide. However, a second autopsy showed that Carradine died in a sex act that went wrong. The autopsy ruled that his death was an accident that resulted from his usage of autoerotic asphyxiation.
Cory Monteith’s death shocked Glee fans all over the world in 2013. He was only 31 years old when he died from a toxic combination of high levels of heroin and alcohol at the Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver. While the public was shocked, many of those close to him were not. In fact, they had been trying to get him to address his substance abuse issues for years. Monteith had starred in an indie film called McCanick as a drug-addicted convict, and even though it flopped, he had been excited about it because of how much he could relate to his character.
Once, Monteith even told Parade that in the past, he had been abusing “anything and everything, as much as possible.” Despite multiple rehab visits, he went back to his old ways and was found dead with a “spoon with drug residue and a used hypodermic needle,” as well as “two empty champagne bottles”. The coroner’s report also stated that he had been dead for a few hours before he was found.
Johnny Lewis was known for his roles on Smallville, The O.C., and Sons of Anarchy. He is also known for his famous celebrity romance with Katy Perry. His character on Sons of Anarchy was a fan favorite, though he ended up leaving the show because of the violent storylines. After he left he went into a downward spiral and was arrested multiple times for assault and lost a custody battle over his daughter. In an attempt to turn his life around, he began staying in a 1927 Spanish-style mansion which was a popular retreat for artists called the Writers Villa operated by Cathy Davis.
In 2012, neighbors found Lewis’s body in the driveway of the property with the left side of his skull and left eye socket caved in. He had fallen from the second floor or the roof. Before his fall, though, he beat Davis and her cat to death. It was assumed that Lewis had been strung out on drugs at the time, but his autopsy showed that there were no drugs in his system, making his actions all the more incredulous.
In general, people often find they look for closure when it comes to deaths around them. This need is only maximized when it comes to celebrities, as without the personal connection of acquaintance, fans have less to hold onto in the aftermath of a passing. While autopsy conclusions are one possible way for fans to better understand the figures they admire, open funerals are another...
Bob Crane was mostly known for his roles on the television show Hogan’s Heroes. He died suddenly and tragically in 1978 when he was 50 years old. He was found in his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, bludgeoned to death. The murder weapon was never identified, but many believe that it had been a camera tripod as Crane was known to film his sexual encounters. The attack was so violent that he was found in his own bed with the sheets and pillow drenched in blood. The autopsy report also showed that an electrical cord had been wrapped around his neck. The investigation into his death revealed his kinky life off-camera.
Investigators believed this was a personal murder, especially since he was found in bed. There was no forced entry and nothing of value was missing from the scene. Investigations led police to John Henry Carpenter who helped Crane with his video equipment, but without DNA testing at the time, nothing conclusive was found. Carpenter was later charged and acquitted, making Crane's murder still unsolved.
Elvis Presley was known for the curl of his lips and the swing of his hips which helped him go down in history as the King of Rock and Roll. He died unexpectedly in 1977. His official cause of death was ruled a heart attack, but his autopsy revealed more troubling information. Many believe that Presley actually died of a drug overdose and that the heart attack was a coverup. When the toxicology report came back, it revealed that he had diazepam, methaqualone, phenobarbital, ethchlorvynol, and ethinamate in his system, but not at dangerous levels.
However, the amount of codeine found in his system was about 10 times higher than the normal, safe range. His autopsy also showed that his heart was two times its normal size and that had atherosclerosis in many of his main arteries and vessels. Not to mention, the autopsy also revealed that Presley suffered from a rare genetic condition, antitrypsin deficiency, that caused emphysema. All in all, it sounds like the drugs exacerbated his already present heart issues and caused his fatal heart attack.
Kurt Cobain, the lead singer for Nirvana and the mastermind behind classic tracks such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit", was found dead in his home in 1994 from an apparent suicide. Cobain had always been open about his struggles and drug addiction. In fact, he had been to rehab on a couple of different occasions. While Cobain’s death was officially ruled a suicide, many people point to some autopsy results to back their theory that Cobain was actually murdered. The autopsy showed that Cobain had three times the lethal dose of heroin in his system, something that would make it almost impossible for him to live long enough to pull the shotgun trigger.
Not to mention, there are other pieces of evidence from the crime scene that many believe were mishandled in a coverup. This theory also points to his then-wife, Courtney Love, as possibly being involved with the murder thanks to a handwriting practice sheet found in her bag and the fact they were looking at getting divorced. In April 2021, files released by the FBI would certainly have given these conspiracy theorists fuel for their versions of events. These files included letters sent to the FBI stating alternate theories as to how the legend met his end. These letters mentioned that apparently there were no fingerprints found on the shotgun and they also pointed out the different handwriting in the suicide note. The letters also mentioned that Courtney Love reportedly hired a private investigator to investigate Cobain's suicide. It turns out that this investigator actually thought that Love may have had something to do with Cobain's death.
Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 rocked the world. Conrad Murray, the personal physician to the King of Pop, found him not breathing in his bed, and Jackson was never revived. At the time, Jackson had been rehearsing for a highly anticipated comeback tour in London.
Later, in 2011, Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Murray had been giving Jackson a propofol drip every night for insomnia. But this anesthetic is notoriously unpredictable and potentially fatal and as a cardiologist, Murray wasn't trained properly in its usage. Not to mention, Jackson’s autopsy showed that he had a large cocktail of additional drugs in his system including lidocaine, midazolam, ephedrine, and diazepam.
Other than the drugs, there was nothing physical found in his autopsy that would have led to an early death. The autopsy also revealed that Jackson had had his lips tattooed pink and his scalp tattooed black so his wigs could blend in better and that he also had vitiligo, a condition which lightened his skin.
Almost a month after the unexpected death of Boyce an official cause of death has been issued. His parents said a few days after that he died of a seizure in bed. He was only 20-years-old when he died.
The toxicology tests show that Boyce tested positive for Levetiracetam, a common anti-seizure medication used by many. Other than that nothing else was found in his blood. The report also said that Boyce had already suffered from "non-traumatic" yet major seizures in the past.
Brittany Murphy was known for her roles in movies like 8 Mile and Clueless. Unfortunately, she died before she could take on more popular roles as her star was rising. She was only 32 when she was found collapsed on her bathroom floor. The coroner’s report showed that she had anemia that had been exacerbated by a heavy menstrual flow, which made her body weak and prone to infections. She was also found to have “bilateral acute pneumonia” that she had been treating with a variety of drugs. Even if she had been immediately rushed to the hospital, there wouldn’t have been a way to save her.
However, if she had gone to the hospital 24 hours earlier and received intravenous drugs, she probably would have lived. But, even with this information, Murphy’s father, Angelo Bertolotti, claims that his daughter was poisoned by an assassin. His reasoning is that Murphy’s husband died in almost the exact same way five months after her death. Not to mention, Murphy died shortly after she and her husband had publicly supported a government whistleblower.
Natalie Wood was a famous actress who was known for her roles in classic films such as Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story. The beautiful actress was even married to fellow actor Robert Wagner. Unfortunately, her career came to an early end in 1981 when she mysteriously drowned while on a yacht with Wagner and Christopher Walken.
Her death was originally ruled an accident, but evidence from her autopsy have made officials take another look into the nature of her death. According to her autopsy, certain urine levels in her bladder show that it is possible that was already unconscious before she went into the water. Wood, who was notoriously afraid of water and drowning, also publicly had a rocky marriage with Wagner.
Nicole Brown Simpson
Nicole Brown Simpson and waiter Ron Goldman both met a brutal, untimely death in 1994. Simpson was the ex-wife of NFL star O.J. Simpson. The two were found stabbed to death outside of her home in Los Angeles, California.
The crime scene was so bloody that investigators had to wait until the autopsy to be able to recreate the attack. Simpson had been stabbed seven times in her scalp and neck with the final blow being a 5.5-inch long gash to her throat. The cut was deep enough to sever both her left and right carotid arteries, breach her left and right jugular veins, and even penetrate her cervical vertebrae. This attack was so vicious that Simpson was nearly decapitated.
Goldman died just as violently and authorities believed that he arrived to return her sunglasses in the middle of the attack. Authorities stated that the murderer had personal motivation which is what led them directly to her ex-husband. After his infamous trial, O.J. was eventually acquitted.
Actor Heath Ledger was known for pouring himself into the characters he portrayed. But when he took on the role of the Joker in The Dark Knight, it seems he might have gone too far. Ledger died in 2008 before the film was even released, leading it to become a digital memorial for him and the character he seemingly sacrificed himself in pursuit of.
When he took on the role of the infamous Batman villain, he locked himself in his hotel room for weeks preparing. The documentary Heath Ledger: Too Young To Die showed the journal he kept during this time including pages with photos of hyenas and stills of Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. Even more suspicious is the last page in his journal that simply said, “Bye Bye.” Many think that Ledger got too into his character, but others think this is just in reference to Ledger finally being finished with filming the movie. His family doesn’t think that he was depressed or that his death was intentional, and his autopsy showed that he died accidentally from abusing prescription medication. A combination of doxylamine, oxycodone, alprazolam, hydrocodone, temazepam, and diazepam was found in his system.
Anna Nicole Smith
First finding fame with the Playboy media empire, Anna Nicole Smith went on to star in wildly successful advertising campaigns with Guess and H&M as a model. In 1994, her highly publicized and controversial marriage to oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall - 89 years old to her 27 - thrust her even farther into the spotlight. The early 2000s saw her personal life decline into tragedy as erratic behavior contributed to rumors of her substance addiction and her adult son died of an overdose in 2006 in the very same hospital room where Smith was recovering after having her second child, a girl.
It was said that she never got over her son's death, and on February 8th, 2007, Smith was found dead in her hotel room. The autopsy revealed that she had also been the victim of an overdose and that there were 11 drugs in her system, the combination of which had proved fatal. It was later revealed that almost all of the 11 drugs had come from prescriptions written not to her but to people close to her, pointing to the fact that they had facilitated her substance addiction.