The Biggest Unsolved Hollywood Mysteries

Throughout the decades that Tinsel Town has been around, there have been a series of grisly murders and shocking reports that have stood the test of time and are still talked about today.

1. Thelma Todd

The 29 year old Monkey Business actress was found dead in her car in the garage of Jewel Cartman, who was the ex-wife of Todd's lover, Roland West. The police ruled the death an accident since she died of carbon monoxide inhalation, but some believe her death lies on West's head, who was thought to have locked her out of the house and forced her to seek warmth in the car. Others think she attempted suicide. But that doesn't explain why she had cracked ribs, a broken nose, and bruises around her throat.

2. Bruce Lee

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee was experiencing intense headaches so his friend — the Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei — gave him a painkiller to take the edge off. He went to go lay down to take a a nap, but he never woke up. It was discovered that he had an allergic reaction to a painkiller additive in the pill, and his death was ruled “death by misadventure.” But many people spun conspiracy theories out of his anti-climactic passing, linking it from everything from a mob hit to Ting Pei poisoning him.

3. Phil Hartman

Known for his six years on Saturday Night Live, Phil Hartman's death made waves when it was discovered that his wife shot him and then shot herself. Brynn Hartman had substance abuse problems which the couple constantly fought about, and it all came to a head on the night of May 27, 1998, when Brynn came home from dinner high on drugs. The couple fought about her using again after coming back from rehab, and when the actor went to sleep his wife followed him upstairs and shot him in the head. By the time the police came, Brynn locked herself in the bathroom and killed herself, too. But why she exactly did it — anger, because she was under the influence, a snap judgement — is still a mystery.

4. Natalie Wood

The star of iconic movies like Miracle on 34th St and Rebel Without a Cause, the Hollywood leading lady had a demise shrouded in mystery. In 1981, while on a boat in Santa Catalina Island with her husband Robert Wagner and a young Christopher Walken, Wood drowned in a mysterious accident.

5. The Laurel Canyon Conspiracy

Laurel Canyon was a mountainous neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills region where some of the biggest folksingers and musicians of the '60s and '70s congregated to live side by side. Artists like the Monkees, the Eagles, the Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, and Jim Morrison lived there, but there was a dark side to this hippie commune — many people didn't make it out alive, and it's still a mystery why. 

6. Bob Crane

Bob Crane is best known for his two-time-Emmy-nominated role on the hit show Hogan's Heroes, where he played a prisoner of war. After the show ended so did his career, where he was only able to get a few guest roles and landed in a couple of failed shows. Then in 1978 he was found bludgeoned to death in his apartment, with the murder weapon and murderer nowhere to be found. At one point his friend John Carpenter was arrested and tried for the murder, but he was eventually acquitted. The trail had gone cold after that.

7. Virginia Rappe

The silent film actress died while attending a Labor Day party hosted by Fattie Arbuckle at the Saint Francis Hotel. Rappe arrived to the party with her friend Maude Delmont, who would become the only witness to Rappe's death. She reported that she heard her friend screaming, so she ran to her hotel room and began pounding on the door, only to be met with Arbuckle leaving Rappe moaning on the bed. The actress stayed in the room for a couple of days until the pain became too great and asked to go to the hospital, where she died of a ruptured bladder. The death was ruled an accident due to overindulgence in alcohol, which is hotly argued about to this day.

8. Lana Turner

Lana Turner had the classic Hollywood story, where she was discovered while buying a soda at a drugstore, and went on to become one of Tinsel Town's leading ladies. During the peak of her career she met and fell in love with Johnny Stompanato, a Los Angeles mobster, who she was rumored to have killed.

9. Peter Ivers

Musician Peter Ivers was best known for being the host of '80s music show, New Wave Theatre. The way his death was handled was shady from the start, where the host was found bludgeoned to death with a hammer in his LA apartment, but the police did a shockingly incompetent job in investigating it. They not only let friends and family onto the crime scene, but they also let the producer of New Wave Theatre leave the scene with a few blood stained blankets.

10. Ronni Chasen

Ronnie Chasen was a high-level Hollywood publicist who experienced a mysterious death. In 2010, while driving back from the premiere of Burlesque, Chasen was shot three times, causing her to crash. No one understood why it happened, but an eventual tip through America’s Most Wanted led police to a man named Harold Martin Smith, who was a known felon. When police came to question him, he shot himself with the same gun hat was used to murder Chasen. No one still knows why Chasen was targeted, but police believe it was a robbery gone wrong.

11. Jack Nance

Twin Peaks actor Jack Nance died in 1996, thanks to a mysterious fight. The day prior to his death his friends saw him with a heavily bruised face, which he said he got after fighting with a teen outside of a doughnut shop who gave him lip. The next day he was found dead on his bathroom floor because of a subdural hematoma as a result of the fight. Police ruled it a homicide, but were never able to find the person who caused it.

12. Jean Spangler

Spangler was a 26-year-old actress who disappeared mysteriously in 1949. She vanished after telling her sister-in-law that she was going to a night shoot, and the only trace of her found was her purse in Griffith park two days later. In the purse was a hastily written note addressed to a man named "Kirk."

13. George Reeves

Reeves is best known for playing Superman in the 1950s, but on June 16, 1959, he died when he was shot in the head by an unknown assailant. Reeves was found laying naked in bed, with his feet on the floor and the gun between his feet. Several people were present in the house when it happened — including his fiancée Leonore Lemmon — but they waited to call the police after hearing the gun go off. They claimed they were drinking which was why they had a delayed reflex, but the case seemed too murky to be deemed a suicide.

14. William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor was a silent film director in the 1920s who was found murdered in his bungalow. A crowd of people gathered around his body, and a man who claimed he was a doctor inspected Taylor and confirmed that he died of a hemorrhage. He then disappeared back into the crowd, and was never heard from again.

15. James Dean

The iconic James Dean died in a car accident in 1955 when he was just 24 year's old. His Porsche was hit head-on by 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed's Ford, taking his life. But conspiracy theorists don't believe that Dean actually died in the car crash due to the damage being too light to the car. They believe Dean faked his own death and is living a low-key life somewhere.

16. Joe Pichler

Joe Pichler of Beethoven acclaim was a '90s child star who disappeared one day coming back from his friend's house. In 2006 at 18 years old, he left his friend's house after an evening of playing video games, but his car was found abandoned at an intersection days later. A suicide note was reportedly found in the car, but no one knows where he went or what he did. His mom, however, doesn't believe that he died, and is still looking for him.

17. Bonnie Lee Bakley

An aspiring actress and singer, Bonnie Lee Bakley's career never officially took off, so she settled on marrying celebrities and running "lonely heart" scams. Married several times, her last husband before her death was Robert Blake. The marriage itself was odd, where the two didn't live in the same house and Blake had her constantly investigated. One fateful day Bakley was waiting for her husband in the car as he went to go retrieve a gun he forgot in a restaurant, when she was unexpectedly shot in the head and killed. Police confirmed that it wasn't his gun that murdered her, and no one ever figured out who killed her.

18. Olivia Newton-John's Boyfriend

Olivia Newton-John’s longtime boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, a cameraman, disappeared after a fishing trip in 2005. The Coast Guard concluded he was most likely lost at sea, but many people believe he simply faked his own death and disappeared. After a couple of sightings of him in Mexico, Dateline NBC hired a P.I. to track him down, and they have found sufficient evidence that he was still alive and well. But seeing how he filed for bankruptcy and owed child support from a previous marriage, he decided to reset the clock for himself.

19. Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith's death was treated much in the same way that Marilyn Monroe's was — people didn't want to believe it. When in 2006 her son died of an overdose, she followed him six months later at the age of 39, using a very similar cocktail of pills. People believe that she didn't take it herself but was prescribed that particular dose of drugs in order to separate her from her fortune, in which she was in a lengthy legal battle over with her late-husband's family.

20. The Notorious B.I.G.'s Murder

The drive-by-shooting murder of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace in L.A. in 1996 shook rap fans and the music world. He, along with Tupac, were gunned down in the same year as their East Coast-West Coast rap war escalated, forcing rival rap labels and street gangs to go up against each other. Eventually their confrontations escalated to death.

21. Elizabeth Short

An aspiring actress living in Hollywood in the late ‘40s, Elizabeth Short isn't remembered for her movie roles but for her nickname: The Black Dahlia, which was given to her because of her dark, beautiful looks and horrific heath.

22. Bobby Fuller

The “I Fought the Law" folksinger was discovered dead in his car outside of his Hollywood home at just 23-years-old. He had bruises all over his face, chest, and body, and he was completely covered in gasoline. The official cause of death was asphyxiation, and the police ruled it an accident. Many people don't believe that ruling though, and rumors swirled that he was in trouble with the mob. 

23. Brian Jones

The 27-years-old Rolling Stones guitarist was found dead in a swimming pool, just one month after being asked to leave the band he founded. Police ruled it an accident due to the drugs in his system, but there was more to it than that. 

24. Nicole Brown Simpson

The murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are one of the most well known murder trials in American history, which are better known as the People of the State of California v. O.J. Simpson. At 35 years old, Brown was found dead outside her home, lying curled up in a pool of blood. Next to her was her 25-year-old friend, a restaurant waiter named Ron Goldman. An autopsy showed that she was stabbed seven times in the neck and head, and had a gash running across her throat so deep it nearly decapitated her. Her husband, O.J. Simpson was put on trial, but he was ultimately acquitted. Events since, however, have made it all the more clear O.J. Simpson was undoubtedly the killer.

25. Marilyn Monroe's Suicide

Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home on August 5, 1962, where her death was announced as a probable suicide. But many conspiracy theories sprang up after the news, one of the most famous linking the Kennedy family to her death in an attempt to stop her affair with JFK.