Weird History The Most Surprising Historical Celebrity Deaths  

Erin Wisti
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List Rules Vote up the historical celebrity deaths the world is still reeling from.

Surprising celebrity deaths are never easy, especially when stars pass in a particularly tragic fashion. Murder, drugs, alcohol, and suicide are often culprits when a beloved star falls too soon. The most memorable historical celebrity deaths are often shrouded in both tragedy and mystery. Questions about the nature of the death, how and why it occurred, are often left unanswered when it comes to untimely demises. 

When a celebrity dies, it's a wound widely felt throughout the public. People who have been inspired or moved by a piece of work are often left reeling to learn the artist behind it is gone. It can be especially difficult to accept when seemingly young and healthy celebrity pass away. These shocking celebrity deaths in history exemplify some of the saddest moments in Hollywood. 

Sharon Tate is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Surprising Historical Celebrity Deaths
Photo: Freebase/Public domain

In an event that marked the end of the ‘60s era of peace and love for many, the world was shocked when up and coming actress Sharon Tate was brutally stabbed to death while nine months pregnant. Tate was found dead in her Los Angeles home, alongside five other bodies, on August 9th, 1969. In the ensuing weeks, it would emerge Tate had been a victim of the Manson family cult. The cult members, acting under the instructions of Charles Manson, were committing murders in order to start the apocalyptic race war Manson believed was coming.

The deaths were incredibly shocking to the general public due to the seemingly random nature of the attack and the gruesome details. Tate had been stabbed multiple times and there was an “X” cut into her stomach. The killers had written words like “Pig” and “Helter Skelter” on the walls using the blood of the victims. The tragedy led to mass paranoia in Hollywood and was one of several tragic events that led to general disillusionment with the ‘60s counterculture.

Age: Died at 26 (1943-1969)

Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States of America

Also Ranked

#88 on People We Wish Were Still Alive

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Bob Crane is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Surprising Historical Celebrity Deaths
Photo:  Maury Foldare and Associates, Hollywood/via Wikimedia Commons

Bob Crane was seen as the picture of normalcy as the star of the family friendly program Hogan’s Heroes. This made the bizarre details surrounding his death shocking to the public. Crane was bludgeoned to death on June 29th, 1978 in his apartment in Scottsdale, AZ. In the ensuing weeks, it came out that Crane was a fan of kinky sex, seduced many women, participated in orgies, and often filmed such endeavors.

The most likely suspect was John Henry Carpenter, a friend of Crane’s who often helped Crane tape his exploits. Carpenter, bisexual, was believed to be in love with Crane and Crane was supposedly considering ending their relationship. While Carpenter was charged with the crime, a lack of evidence ultimately led to him being found “not guilty.”

Age: Died at 50 (1928-1978)

Birthplace: Waterbury, Connecticut, United States of America

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James Dean is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Surprising Historical Celebrity Deaths
Photo: Wicker Paradise/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

While James Dean only made three movies, he was on his way to become a major Hollywood star. Popular with fans and critics alike, the public was devastated when the 24-year-old died in a car accident on September 30th, 1955. A lover of fast cars, Dean was speeding in a recently purchased Porsche when he struck another car in a Cholame, CA, intersection. Dean died in the accident, likely instantly, and the public was left stunned by the death of an up-and-coming icon.

Age: Died at 24 (1931-1955)

Birthplace: Marion, Indiana, United States of America

Also Ranked

#45 on The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won an Oscar (for Acting)

#91 on The Best Actors in Film History

#3 on The Coolest Actors Ever

#53 on People We Wish Were Still Alive

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Marilyn Monroe is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Surprising Historical Celebrity Deaths
Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

A prominent actress and sex symbol during her day, Marilyn Monroe’s untimely death was one of the most shocking moments in Hollywood history. The actress was found dead in her home on August 5th, 1962, from a presumed suicide. Monroe was found naked, lying on her stomach, and surrounded by empty pill bottles with a telephone in one hand.

The pressures of stardom caused Monroe to slip into a depression. Monroe’s maid contacted her psychiatrist after finding her bedroom door locked. The psychiatrist discovered Monroe’s body after breaking a window. Monroe had reportedly been living as a recluse in her Brentwood, CA, home in the months leading up to her death.

Age: Died at 36 (1926-1962)

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America

Also Ranked

#60 on The Best Actresses in Film History

#72 on The Greatest American Actresses of All Time

#65 on Famous Women You'd Want to Have a Beer With

#30 on People We Wish Were Still Alive

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