Celebs Whose Deaths Remain Mysterious

Despite the nonstop proliferation of gossip blogs and sites that dig into seemingly every facet of celebrities' personal lives, some Hollywood mysteries continue to puzzle even the most intrepid sleuths. Notably, questions still eddy about the true reasons for a number of high profile actors' and musicians' deaths. Keep scrolling to read more about the celebrity deaths that have left even professional detectives stumped and speculating.

Misty Upham

At the time of her death, actress and Native American activist Misty Upham was an up-and-coming star who'd appeared in movies such as August: Osage County and Django Unchained. After she'd been missing for 11 days, Upham's body was discovered in Auburn, Wash., at the bottom of a ravine, in October 2014.

According to The Guardian, the coroner reported that Upham died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head and torso. However, a medical examiner was reportedly unable to confirm whether Upham's death was the result of suicide, accident, or foul play. Her blood alcohol content was an incredibly high .33, and she'd reportedly struggling with mental health issues in the months leading up to her death. Family and friends also claimed police did not taken the search for her seriously, potentially ruining the chances of finding her before she died.  

Upham's friend, actress Juliette Lewis, tweeted that she believed police needed to conduct a thorough murder investigation because Upham allegedly had "known enemies" as a result of her activism. To date, no such investigation has occurred. 

Sam Cooke

The mysterious circumstances of soul legend Sam Cooke's death at age of 33 continue to puzzle his adoring fans. 

On the evening of Dec. 10, 1964, Cooke reportedly picked up a woman named Elisa Boyer in Hollywood and took her back to a Los Angeles motel. Boyer allegedly stole a number of Cooke's belongings, and after racing out of the room, Cooke confronted the manager of the motel, Bertha Franklin, and supposedly accused her of colluding with Boyer to rip him off. As the story goes, things turned physical and Franklin ended up shooting Cooke in self-defense during the altercation, mortally wounding him. His last words were reported to be: "Lady, you shot me!" However... 

This account has been challenged by numerous folks over the years, including Cooke's family members and singer Etta James. James claimed she saw Cooke's body, and his injuries were inconsistent with the official story. According to The Hollywood Reporter, some theories suggest Cooke was murdered because of his involvement in the civil rights movement and/or because of his alleged relationship with "mob-connected music executives."

Cooke's death was ruled a "justifiable homicide," but interest in proving otherwise continues to this day. 

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was just 36 years old when she was found dead in her home on Aug. 5, 1962. With an empty bottle of sleeping pills conspicuously nestled nearby, the cause of death was officially ruled a drug overdose and probable suicide.

Over the years, numerous conspiracy theories claim the blonde bombshell's death was anything but self-inflicted. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some theories suggest Monroe was murdered because of her alleged affair with President John F. Kennedy; that the CIA was involved; that the Mafia put a hit on her; and that she knew too much about UFOs (yes, really).

Rumors of a cover-up were also fueled by Monroe's ex-husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, who told his biographer: "I always knew who killed her, but I didn't want to start a revolution in this country. She told me someone would do her in, but I kept quiet."

Jack Nance

Actor Jack Nance gained cult status as a much-loved presence in David Lynch's movies Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart and as the bumbling Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. His career was cut tragically short, however, when in December 1996, the 53-year-old actor was discovered dead in his Pasadena, Calif. home.

The day prior, Nance was reportedly involved in an altercation with two men outside a donut shop, which resulted in him getting punched in the head. According to People, friends who saw him later that day said he had a black eye, and when questioned, he reportedly told them, "I told off some kid... I guess I got what I deserved." 

However, as the Daily Beast reported, the owner of the donut shop recalled no such altercation, and Nance's blood alcohol content at the time of his death was a very high .24, leading some to speculate that he'd actually fallen and hit his head while drinking (using the fight story as a cover-up.)

Police quickly ruled out natural causes, and according to a 1997 article in PremiereNance's death was ruled "a homicide: subdural hematoma caused by blunt-force trauma." However, with no witnesses and no suspects, no one has ever been charged in connection with his untimely death. 

Richey Edwards

Richey Edwards was the rhythm guitarist for the Manic Street Preachers. He mysteriously disappeared in 1995 at the age of 27. Edwards, who had a long history battling self-harm and substance abuse, reportedly checked out of a London hotel on Feb. 1, 1995 and was never seen or heard from again. His car was discovered two weeks later in Southwest Wales, but despite being strewn with personal effects, the vehicle reportedly offered no clues.

In the years since his disappearance, sightings have been reported, but nothing concrete has materialized. Edwards was declared dead in 2008, which means that his missing persons file was closed. No cause of death has been established, and the mystery of what really happened to him lives on. 

Natalie Wood

On Nov. 29, 1981, 43-year-old actress Natalie Wood tragically drowned during a boating trip off Catalina Island. She'd been sailing with her husband, actor Robert Wagner, and fellow actor Christopher Walken. 

In his 2009 biography, Wagner wrote that he became jealous of Wood and Walken, and after a fight, discovered his wife had disappeared. Wagner assumed that she'd taken a dinghy back to shore. Her body was later discovered about a mile from the yacht. 

Though Wood's death was initially ruled an accidental drowning, the cause was changed to "drowning and other undetermined factors" as a result of suspicious bruising on Wood's body, reported CNN.

The original coroner on the case has fueled speculation about what really happened that night in a 1983 book that questioned why neither Wagner nor Walken were aware that Wood–who had a well-documented fear of water–had left the boat.

According to Vanity Fair, doubts about the true nature of Wood's death have continued to proliferate. Witnesses claim those involved were drinking heavily in the hours leading up to Wood's death–her blood alcohol content had been above the legal limit. Sources also alleged that Wood had been displaying "volatile" behavior and that some kind of major argument had occurred.

Despite years of speculation and new breaks in the case as recently as March 2017, the truth about what really happened that fateful evening continue to elude. 

Elliott Smith

Musician Elliott Smith died in 2003 from a widely reported suicide. However, the details of his death have fueled years of speculation about what really happened to the Oscar-nominated songwriter. 

According to MTV News, after an argument in which he threatened to commit suicide, Smith's girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, reportedly came out of the bathroom to find the musician with a kitchen knife in his chest. Chiba pulled the knife out and called 911. Smith was pronounced dead 20 minutes after arriving at the hospital. 

The coroner initially declared that Smith's cause of death was "undetermined." Smith reportedly had two stab wounds and lacerations on his palms that seemed to be defensive in nature. According to The Guardian, the coroner report stated: "While his history of depression is compatible with suicide... and the location and direction of the stab wounds are consistent with self-infliction, several aspects of the circumstances (as they are known at this time) are atypical of suicide and raise the possibility of homicide."

Rumors started to swirl that Smith had been murdered, perhaps as a result of his alleged involvement with unsavory characters linked to drugs. Chiba denied any involvement in her boyfriend's death. No charges have ever been filed, leaving fans to continue to vigorously debate what really happened to the beloved singer.

Jimi Hendrix

It's well known that musician and rock n' roll icon Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 by choking on his own vomit. What remains up for debate, however, is if Hendrix's death was the result of something more sinister than an accidental and tragic overdose. 

In 2009, the doctor who was on duty the night of Hendrix's death, John Bannister, claimed in a book by former road manager James Wright, that Hendrix could have purposely been force-fed wine to induce his death. Bannister said, "The amount of wine that was over him was just extraordinary... Not only was it saturated right through his hair and shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine. I have never seen so much wine... He had really drowned in a massive amount of red wine."

The motive? Wright suggests that Hendrix's manager, Mike Jeffery, arranged for the rock star to be murdered because he wanted to reap the rewards of Hendrix's substantial life insurance policy. Jeffrey died in a plane crash in 1973, and these wild claims have yet to be thoroughly scrutinized, though they continue to garner interest. 

George Reeves

Actor George Reeves is best remembered for playing the lead role in the 1950s television series Adventures of Superman. On June 16, 1959, Reeves was discovered dead in his bedroom in his Los Angeles home from a single gunshot wound. His fiancée, playwright Leonore Lemmon, and friends William Bliss, writer Robert Condon, and Carol Van Ronkel had been partying downstairs. According to The Telegraph, police didn't treat the situation as a crime scene and never dusted for prints or collected evidence. 

The cause of death was initially reported to be suicide. However, in the ensuing years, a number of theories have emerged regarding the possibility that Reeves was murdered. Some suggest he was killed by a jilted lover, while others believe the gun went off during a drunken argument. The 2006 Ben Affleck film Hollywoodland dramatized Reeves' death and explored these scenarios. 

As with all of these confounding celebrity deaths, the truth remains to be told, and we may have to accept that we'll just never know what really happened. 

Brittany Murphy

Actress Brittany Murphy's sudden death in December 2009 at the age of 32 sent shockwaves through Hollywood. The bizarre details surrounding the investigation have led many to speculate that the full story about what happened to the actress remains to be told.

Murphy reportedly collapsed into her mother's arms on Dec. 20, 2009 after battling flu-like symptoms for weeks. According to Extra, the official cause of Murphy's death was "accidental due to natural causes," citing "pneumonia, anemia, and an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs." The coroner told People, "This was a case of a person with pneumonia who was anemic and was taking medication when she should've been getting medical treatment." It was later revealed that 90 pill bottles were removed from Murphy's bedroom.

In a strange coincidence, Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack (a curious character) died just five months later of the same causes in the very same house, fueling speculation of foul play. 

In 2013, Murphy's father had his daughter's hair tested. The results reportedly revealed high levels of toxic metals often used in rat poison. However, the LAPD has not reopened the case, despite lingering questions.