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Ten unsolved Hollywood mysteries

Murder mystery fans, assemble!

By John H. KnightPublished 2 months ago 9 min read

Let’s face it: we love mysteries. The more spine-chilling, the better. We love murder mysteries and true crimes, we love to watch the darkness in our world from the safety of our favourite armchair. I won’t try to guess why such a macabre activity is so popular these days, but even after a mystery is solved, we tend not to pay attention, not to accept the solution: answers can be simple and boring while mysteries are exciting.

So, without further ado, here are ten of those spine-chilling or popular mysteries surrounding the death of Hollywood actors.

Leslie Howard (1893-1943)

Howard was a British actor, best known for movies like Gone with the wind or Pygmalion. According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Howard died in Spain, when his plane from Lisbon to London crashed. The Brittanica seems to know that the plane was shut down, but it does not elaborate. The fact is that Flight 777 was indeed shot down by the Luftwaffe, but nowhere near its usual patrolling range. That fuelled some theories: The New York Times, days after the incident reported that the Nazis believed Winston Churchill was on the plane This remains the most popular theory to this day, however, in his 1992 paper, “Neither Friend Nor Foe: The European Neutrals in World War II”, author Jerrold M. Packard states that the target might have been Howard himself. According to Packard, Goebbels saw Howard’s Nazi and Third Reich opposing movie, Pimpernel Smith, and gave the order of eliminating the actor personally.

We may never learn the truth about the death of this early movie icon.

Brandon Lee (1965-1993)

Son of martial art legend Bruce Lee, and actor in his own right, Brandon Lee was on the path to gaining fame for himself, after he landed the main role in The Crow. This movie would have put him on the map of Hollywood, had it not been for that faithful night in the studio. In the scene, Lee’s character, Eric Draven was supposed to be shot at. As it was customary in movies, they used blanks, but when the other actor, Michael Massee, pulled the trigger, the gun shot a very real bullet instead. After the crew realised that Lee wasn’t acting and was, in fact, injured, they called for help and the actor was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he died hours later.

Rumours flew. Some said the movie was cursed, Lee’s had not been the first accident happening in the studio. Brandon Lee having mortal enemies was a popular theory, too, but been eventually debunked as the DA (district attorney) ruled negligence as the cause of Lee’s death.

George Reeves (1914 - 1959)

Though having a vast filmography, George Reeves is most known for being the first small-screen Superman in the show Adventures of Superman.

The official LAPD report says that George Reeves committed suicide on the night of June 16, 1959. He was said to be depressed over his career and he apparently dreamed of the silver screen and real movie stardom.

The people in his house that night (a few friends and neighbours) all agreed and stated that Reeves killed himself, even though nobody was with him in the room when he did it.

Though the case appears open and shut, there are certain circumstances that to this day make Reeves’ death controversial. For one thing, the gun he supposedly used didn’t have his fingerprints, nor had his hand show any sign of gunpowder, which strongly indicates that he did not fire a gun that evening. Other friends, who had not been there that evening said that Reeves wasn’t depressed and in fact, was looking forward to reprising his role as Superman in the show that was about to return. One went as far as to say “no one in Hollywood believed in the suicide story”. Some seemed to think that Reeves’ death had something to do with Toni Lemmon, his ex-girlfriend, and her mob-related new husband.

Elizabeth Short (1924 - 1947)

If you’re not familiar with her name, don’t worry: though Elizabeth Short was indeed an actress, she was yet to be discovered. Whether or not that would have happened to her is anybody’s guess.

See, Ms Short is better known by the name of Black Dahlia.

On the cold morning of January 15, 1947, a mother and her child stumbled upon what they first believed to be a broken mannequin. On second glance, it became clear that casually placed on the sidewalk was the dead body of a woman, cut in half. Police and FBI alike sprung to action, and even though they managed to identify the corpse as Elizabeth Short in record time (according to the FBI’s website), not much more they achieved in the 75 years that passed since. It’s unlikely that they ever will, and the story of Black Dahlia continues to be ground zero for all the true crime fanatics. Though viable-sounding theories arose from time to time, some involving a plausible cause and perps with a medical background, nobody had ever been charged with the murder of Elizabeth Short.

Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962)

She needs no introduction. In fact, the sheer volume of her stardom might be the very thing that fuels the controversies and rumours about her death: someone so special, beautiful, funny and just altogether out of this world surely didn’t die a boring, regular death!

Truth is, she might have. It is most likely that she purposefully overdosed on her medications. In the last months of her life, she was under the constant care of her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, who eventually found her dead, naked and surrounded by empty boxes of medicine.

Yet, people are reluctant to believe in such a mundane way to go when it comes to Marilyn. Especially since her housekeeper, Eunice Murray later came forward and stated that Ms Monroe was visited by Robert Kennedy, brother to President John F. Kennedy, on the night of her death. Monroe is thought to be having an affair with both him and John, a scandal so big that it might have warranted her untimely death.

Or it was indeed suicide. We will never know for sure.

Bob Crane (1928 - 1978)

Hogan’s Heroes, a sitcom first aired back in the ‘60s, was set in a Nazi prison camp for war prisoners. The main character, Colonel Robert Hogan, was played by Bob Crane, a drummer turned radio host turned actor. He was a regular face in the world of sitcoms by the time the show aired, and a household name when it came to a close. But from then on, it was all downhill for Crane.

It’s known that he collected nude photos of women he slept with and even had the equipment for doing home videos. According to Crane’s son, it was always consensual and never a dark secret, even though his behaviour led to the eventual decline of his career.

And then, he was dead, just two weeks before his 50th birthday. He was found in bed, his head bashed in, a cable around his neck, beaten up so badly that his landlord and colleague at the theatre had difficulties identifying him.

Local police allegedly let friends and family in the crime scene, causing its contamination, which, according to Crane’s son, was one of the reasons they never caught the killer.

And though signs point at John Carpenter, Crane’s long-time friend, porn supplier and partner in crime, who allegedly was upset that Crane was about to go straight and leave pornography behind, nobody has been ever arrested for the murder of the sitcom star.

Nicole Brown Simpson (1959 - 1994)

Though an actress, most famous for being the ex-wife and alleged victim of football player O. J. Simpson, Nicole was stabbed to death alongside her friend, Ron Goldman, in front of her home. Though quite literally every piece of evidence was pointing at O. J., who also tried to escape from the police, he was eventually found innocent and the trial was deemed racist, hugely based on his lawyers' efforts. Simpson swore to find the real murderer, but he has yet to produce a single new lead, nearly 30 years after.

Brittany Murphy (1977 - 2009)

Actress of Clueless or 8 Miles, Brittany Murphy used to be a household name. She died young, the cause being, according to the LA County coroner, pneumonia, iron deficiency and the overuse of otherwise legal medicines. She is somewhat peculiar on this list because her death wasn’t exactly odd or mysterious if we’re looking at it as a standalone occurrence. However, if we take her husband's eerily similar death just 5 months after hers into account, the picture gets darker. Cosmopolitan reports that Simon Monjack didn’t only die from the exact same causes, but also in the same room. Which is likely a coincidence if even true, but certainly adds a malevolent shade to the story. So much so that some fans went as far as creating a theory according to which Murphy’s mother, who lived with the couple, poisoned them both.

Sean Flynn (1941 - ?)

The son of legendary actor Errol Flynn though tried himself briefly as an actor, was also known as a prestigious photojournalist, working during the Vietnam War. His place on the list might not even be warranted: though he is most likely to be dead by now, and had been legally declared so since 1984, nobody actually knows what happened to him.

People Magazine says that Flynn was working for the Times, when went missing in Cambodia, in 1970. He left the capital for Saigon alongside his colleague, Dana Stone, and the pair was never to be seen again. It is most likely that they were captured by the Viet Kong and were held prisoners for a while before had been killed, but no remains or witnesses have been found to support this theory.

Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981)

Actress in movies like Miracle on 34th Street, West Side Story or Rebel without a Cause, Wood had an impressive career from childhood. Though towards the end of her life her professional life seemed to be more modest, having switched movie theatres for television, she was in no way neglected or in career trouble. In fact, not long before her death she even won a Golden Globe for the miniseries From Here to Eternity.

The circumstances of her death are somewhat foggy. Encyclopedia Brittanica reports that she was on a vacation with her husband, actor Robert Wagner and a friend of the couple, Christopher Walken, also a famous actor. The fact is that Wood drowned: her body was found a day later off the coast of Santa Catalina Island. She was supposedly drunk and fell off the yacht, though why her husband and Walken waited until the morning to raise alarm is a question we still don’t have an answer to. We also don’t know what was Wagner and Walken exactly arguing about, though Wagner himself claims it happened and was about his wife. Wagner also said that after the argument he went to see Wood, who was already missing, and Walken stated several times in the years after that he was in his room, and to his best knowledge, Natalie Wood was alone when she fell off the yacht.

Her death was first deemed accidental but was officially changed to undetermined, then suspicious, but no charges were ever pressed against any of the people present that night.

investigationfact or fictioncelebrities

About the Creator

John H. Knight

Yet another aspiring writer trying his luck on the endless prairie of the Internet.

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