There is always something haunting about a celebrity death. When we fall in love with their performances on stage and in our favorite movies and TV shows, it’s easy to imagine these celebrities simply living and performing forever.
However, celebrities are all too human. This is especially clear when you check out their autopsy reports. Be warned, though: some of the facts in these reports are downright disturbing and may forever change how you view your favorite celebs.
If you’re ready for the shock, here are the top 10 most disturbing celebrity autopsy reports.
Many rumors swirled around Heath Ledger’s shocking death at the age of 28 in 2008, months before his Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight was released. Some wrongly speculated that the stress of playing The Joker caused him to commit suicide, thanks to his last “Joker diary” entry, which simply reads “BYE BYE.”
But Ledger’s autopsy revealed his death was an accidental overdose of prescription drugs he was taking to reportedly combat sleeplessness and anxiety. The medical examiner’s statement said Ledger “died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine,” the generic names for OxyContin, Valium, Xanax, Restoril, and Unisom.
Some celebrity deaths come as a complete shock. Others are ones that we see coming, like a slow-motion trainwreck that we are powerless to stop.
That was certainly the case with singing sensation Amy Winehouse. She seemed to engage in more destructive behavior as she achieved more and more success. At one point, she literally drank herself into a coma.
The whole world could see she was spiraling out of control, and reportedly Winehouse herself predicted that she would join the tragic “27 Club” — rock stars who died at the age of 27. That prophecy proved true when she was found dead in her bed and surrounded by vodka bottles in 2011.
Winehouse had not one but two autopsies performed, after the first coroner was found not to have the requisite qualifications. But both autopsies confirmed Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning, finding 416mg of alcohol per decilitre in her blood.
“I’ve always been terrified, still am, of water, dark water, seawater,” West Side Story star Natalie Wood once said. This made it all the more chilling when she was found dead in the Pacific Ocean near Catalina Island in 1981. She had been on a yacht with her TV star husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.
At the time, the coroner ruled her death an accidental drowning. Wood’s alcohol level was found to be 0.14, above the 0.10 legal limit.
But disturbingly, Wood’s autopsy noted she had “numerous bruises to legs and arms” and “abrasions on the left side of the face.” And her bruises were described as “relatively fresh.” At the time, the coroner theorized the “superficial bruises” were sustained in the water when she drowned, and no foul play was suspected.
Thirty years after Wood’s death, investigators reopened the case. They amended her official cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” New witnesses claimed Wood and Wagner had had an argument that night.
In 2018, Robert Wagner was officially named a person of interest. But the actor, now 90 years old, has refused to speak to investigators. We may never know the true cause of Natalie Wood’s death.
It’s never pleasant to think about someone dying. And our only real consolation is to believe that the experience was quick and painless. In the case of Paul Walker, his autopsy report absolutely destroys fans’ hopes of a painless death.
For example, it’s one thing to hear that Paul Walker died as a passenger in a single-car accident in 2013 at the age of 40. But the autopsy revealed that he broke a number of bones in the crash and that his entire body was engulfed in flames from an explosion. The coroner described his body as being in a “pugilistic stance,” flexing of the joints caused by fire.
While the official cause of death was “effect of traumatic and thermal injuries,” it is unknown what cause the driver to lose control of the car, which was going more than 100 mph. Neither the driver nor Walker had any drugs or alcohol in their systems, the autopsies found.
Most horrific of all? Walker’s autopsy revealed a small amount of soot in his trachea, meaning he was alive long enough after the crash to take a few breaths.
Michael Jackson’s death was surrounded by controversy from the very beginning. It seemed like the king of pop was headed for a musical comeback when he suddenly died in 2009. What, then, caused his untimely death at the age of 50?
The shocking answer: Jackson’s doctor! Dr. Conrad Murray ended up being convicted of involuntary manslaughter because of his unique treatment for Jackson’s insomnia. Conrad actually gave the star a nightly dose of propofol, a drug that can (and apparently did) prove fatal in patients. The dose that killed Jackson was “consistent with major surgery anesthesia,” according to a coroner.
Jackson’s official cause of death was “acute propofol intoxication,” with additional sedative drugs in his system being contributing factors. Jackson’s autopsy revealed a number of other drug, including diazepam, ephedrine, midazolam, and lidocaine.
But perhaps the strangest revelations of Jackson’s autopsy were cosmetic. Completed unrelated to his death, Jackson’s autopsy revealed he had some surprising tattoos. His lips were tattooed pink, his eyebrows were tattooed, and the front of his scalp was tattooed black to blend in with wigs.
Carrie Fisher was beloved around the world for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. She was also respected for being brutally honest about her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction, which were the inspiration for her hit novel Postcards from the Edge and its award-winning film.
Fisher maintained a respected career as a writer and public speaker in the ’90s and 2000s. It seemed her struggles with drugs had ended and she was experiencing a career resurgence with the Star Wars sequel trilogy that began in 2015.
Then, in December 2016, Fisher tragically suffered a heart attack on an airplane. She fell into a coma and died four days later, at the age of 60.
The official cause of death listed in the coroner’s report was “sleep apnea and other undetermined factors.” It also revealed Fisher had multiple drugs in her system, including cocaine, methadone, ethanol, and opiates.
The coroner was unable to determine how the drugs may have contributed to her death. Sadly, the addiction demons Fisher battled were with her to the end of her life.
The shocking 1962 death of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe became instant fodder for conspiracy theories. The troubled star was just 36 years old. Her struggles with amphetamines, barbiturates, alcohol, and depression had begun to affect her career. She had a history of using sedatives to treat sleeplessness. Monroe’s autopsy revealed she died from an overdose of barbiturates.
Most disturbing of all, Monroe’s autopsy concluded that her death was a “probable suicide.” An accidental overdose was outruled because dosages several times over the lethal limit were determined to have been taken “in one gulp or in a few gulps over a minute or so.”
But the coroner’s report didn’t stop conspiracy theorists from claiming Monroe had been murdered.
It seemed like Brandon Lee had his entire life ahead of him, when he suddenly died in 1993 at the age of 28. The son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee (who himself died from a mysterious brain edema at age 32), Brandon was about to make a splash on the world with his starring role in The Crow. Sadly, this movie ended up his undoing.
During his autopsy, medical examiners discovered a bullet lodged against his spine. The official cause of death listed was gunshot wound to the abdomen. The death was ruled an accident due to negligence from the film crew.
Lee had been filming a scene where his character is shot at with a .44 Magnum revolver. The gun was loaded with blank rounds, so nothing bad should have happened. However, the crew failed to notice the gun had a “dummy” bullet stuck in the chamber from a previous scene. The dummy round shot into Brandon Lee, and not even 60 pints of blood transfusion were enough to save his life. Sadly, he died from internal hemorrhaging.
Brittany Murphy rose to fame as a teenager in Clueless, had a successful voice acting career as Luanne on King of the Hill, and headlined a string of movies like Just Married in the early 2000s. Then, suddenly Murphy died at age 32 in 2009.
Tragically, the autopsy revealed that Murphy died from a combination of factors, including pneumonia, severe anemia likely caused by heavy periods, and “multiple drug intoxication.” The drugs in her system were legal, both prescription and over-the-counter, and consistent with those used to treat colds: hydrocodone, acetaminophen, chlorpheniramine, and L-methamphetamine. The autopsy found no evidence she was abusing drugs. Rather, her anemia left her body more vulnerable to the pneumonia and the drugs she was using to treat it.
Sadly, Murphy’s death was likely preventable. “Had she been taken to hospital 24 hours earlier and given intravenous drugs, there is a very good chance she would have survived and would still be here today,” pathologist Dr. Richard Shepherd told the Daily Mail.
Weirdest of all, Murphy’s husband died five months later, also of acute pneumonia and severe anemia — leading Murphy’s 87-year-old father to claim he believed they were murdered by government assassins. He also at one point accused Murphy’s mother of poisoning the couple.
But the reality is simply that pneumonia can be very deadly. “At the time of their death, both of them were in very poor health,” Los Angeles coroner Ed Winter told ABC News. “I don’t think they ate correctly or took care of themselves. They didn’t seek medical attention.”
Of all the celebs on this list, David Carradine had perhaps the most surprising cause of death. And it happened when his career was on the rise again thanks to his appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films.
In 2009, the 72-year-old Carradine was found dead, hanging in the closet of a Bangkok hotel room. But Carradine’s autopsy ruled out suicide, simply saying the cause of death as asphyxiation.
“He didn’t die of natural causes, and he didn’t die of suicidal causes from the nature of the ligatures around the body,” medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden told Reuters. “So that leaves some kind of accidental death,” he said, and did not rule out autoerotic asphyxiation.