Shocking Old Hollywood unsolved Mysteries
The Black Dahlia’s Murder
The Black Dahlia is at the heart of one of Hollywood’s most infamous murder mysteries. The 22-year-old aspiring actress (real name: Elizabeth Short) was found murdered on January 15, 1947. Her body was cut in half and mutilated, leading police to include local medical students in their pool of suspects. The killer followed reports of the investigation and mailed investigators personal items belonging to Short, including her birth certificate. Despite this, the case remains unsolved.
Marilyn Monroe’s Apparent Suicide
Who killed Norma Jean? Take your pick. There is no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s death, who was found dead in her Los Angeles home on August 5, 1962.
Was it the CIA? The mafia? Did it have something to do with her relationship with President John F. Kennedy? Or her affair with his brother, Robert Kennedy? Did she know too much?
Or was it, as the autopsy suggested at the time, a lethal dose of chloral hydrate and Nembutal, which caused an accidental overdose?
Iconic actress Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home on August 5, 1962. Simultaneously, her death was officially ruled a probable suicide, several conspiracy theories about it, placing the blame on everyone from the mafia, to the CIA, to the Kennedy family.
Thelma Todd’s Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Todd was an actress during the ’20s and ’30s and appeared in Marx Brothers classics like Monkey Business. On December 16, 1935, she was found dead in her car of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although her death was determined to be either accidental or a result of suicide (though she had bruises around her throat, a broken nose, and cracked ribs), some believe she was murdered. Conspiracists point out that she attended a party in Hollywood on the night of her death where she was overseen having an unpleasant exchange with her ex-husband, Pat DiCicco.
There were also reports at the time that her lover, director Roland West, had locked her out, causing her to seek warmth in a car and to die of carbon monoxide poisoning accidentally. The reason she got into her car that night remains a lingering mystery.
Virginia Rappe’s Tragic Death
Rappe was just 26 when she died in 1921 of a ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis. The young actress’s death led to a massive scandal and lengthy Hollywood trial. Four days before her death on September 9, she attended a Labor Day party in Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s suite. Arbuckle was a prominent silent film star at the time.
Maude Delmont alleged that Rappe had been violently sexually assaulted by Arbuckle at the party and died due to trauma suffered during the attack. While other theories were put forward for the cause of Rappe’s condition (including cystitis), Arbuckle was tried for manslaughter.
After three trials, Arbuckle was formally acquitted, but his career never recovered from the scandal.
George Reeves’ Suicide
Reeves is best known for playing Superman in the 1950s Adventures of Superman TV show. On June 16, 1959, he died of a gunshot wound to the head. Several people were present at the time of Reeves’ death, including his fiancée Leonore Lemmon. One of the many suspicious things about the case is that the group waited to call the police after hearing the gunshot, attributing their intoxicated state for the delay.
Reeves was found lying naked in bed, with his feet on the floor and the gun between his feet. While he was reportedly depressed over the state of his career, not everyone believes his death was a suicide.
Jean Spangler’s Unsolved Disappearance
Spangler was an actress, model, and dancer who disappeared mysteriously in 1949 (two years after the Black Dahlia murder) when she was just 26. She left her Los Angeles home at around 5:00 p.m. on October 7, 1949, and told her sister-in-law, Sophie, that she would meet with her ex-husband to discuss child support payments and then to work on a night shoot. When she failed to return home the next day, Sophie filed a missing person report. Two days later, police found Spangler’s purse in Griffith Park. In the bag was an unfinished note, written to someone named “Kirk.” The note read: “Can’t wait any longer; going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while the mother is away.”
William Desmond Taylor’s Murder
Taylor, a silent film director, was found murdered in his bungalow on February 2, 1922. A crowd gathered around the body, and a man who identified himself as a doctor examined announced that Taylor had died of a stomach hemorrhage. The doctor left the scene and was never heard from again. Later, when investigators turned the body over, it was clear Taylor had been shot at least once in the back.
Taylor was found wearing a diamond ring, and with his wallet full of cash, investigators ruled out a robbery. More than a dozen people were eventually named suspects, but no one was ever formally charged with the murder.
Johnny Stompanato’s Stabbing
In 1957, Stompanato began a relationship with actress Lana Turner. The union was reportedly “stormy” and, by some accounts, abusive.
In 1958, Stompanato was stabbed to death in Turner’s home in Beverly Hills. Turner’s teenage daughter Cheryl Crane immediately confessed to the murder, claiming that she was defending her mother, who Stompanato had been violently attacking at the time.
Crane’s actions were ruled “justifiable homicide,” but many have speculated that Turner may have been the one who stabbed Stompanato and that Crane just took the blame for her mother.
James Dean’s Car Accident and Death
James Dead didn’t die in that car crash.
Are you sensing a pattern here? James Dean’s death at the age of 24 remains one of the most tragic events in Hollywood history. The actor died in a car accident on September 30, 1955, when his Porsche 550 Spyder was hit almost head-on by 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed, but conspiracy theorists have built a pretty convincing case for why Dean could have faked his own death. Conspiracy theorists seized evidence from a reconstruction of the accident that suggested the damage had been too light for a high-speed crash and would not have killed the driver. They suggested Dean faked his own death. Other accounts of the event claim that Dean wasn’t even the driver but instead was sitting in the passenger seat. The actor’s most iconic movie, Rebel Without a Cause, was released a month after his death, cementing his status as a Hollywood icon. Dean died in a car accident on September 30, 1955, when he was 24 years old. The accident details are public knowledge—his Porsche 550 Spyder was hit almost head-on by a 1950 Ford Tudo, driven by 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed. Conspiracy theorists don’t believe Dean actually died in the car crash, however. They claim that the damage done was too light for a high-speed crash and contend that Dean faked his own death.
Elvis faked his own death.
Elvis Presley famously died on his bathroom floor at Graceland on August 16, 1977, leaving the world to mourn a man whose swaying hips and velvet voice had helped launch a cultural revolution. Do opinions differ regarding his cause of death — overdose or heart attack? — but we can all agree that at 42, the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” was no more.
Or can we? Some still aren’t convinced. Conspiracy buffs claim that Elvis could have staged his own death to combat flagging record sales. There have been a valuable amount of reported Elvis sightings over the years — the most recent being a picture claiming to show the star visiting Graceland on what would have been his 82nd birthday.
Clark Gable had really stinky breath.
This isn’t so much a theory, so much as a fun fact. If you, like me, were mesmerized by the chemistry between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.
Apparently, due to a gum infection in 1933, the Hollywood heartthrob had to have most of his teeth removed. The dentures he had to wear as a result gave him severe halitosis, a.k.a. bad breath. It got so bad that Vivien Leigh reportedly complained about the smell on the set of Gone With the Wind.