Chilling Final Photos No One Was Supposed To See
By | December 1, 2020
There are toxic relationships and then there are toxic relationships. When Sid and Nancy got together in 1977 they were embroiled in a love affair with heroin at its center. After the Sex Pistols self destructed on stage Sid tried to get his solo career going in New York City while he and Nancy stayed at the Chelsea Hotel. The grimy hotel room was the last home that Nancy Spungen ever knew.
When Sid woke up on October 12, 1977, Nancy was dead on the bathroom floor with a knife in her abdomen - it was identical to the one that Sid owned. Sid was unsure of what exactly happened. Initially he thought that the two of them fought and that he stabbed her in the melee, and then he changed his story and said that Nancy fell on the knife, finally he claimed that he didn't remember what happened.
While there have been claims that a drug dealer or a stranger stabbed Nancy, all proof points to Sid dealing the killing blow in a drugged out state. A few months after Nancy's death, Vicious died of a heroin overdose, no one will ever know what happened in Nancy's final moments.
Patrick Swayze's final days were spent in agony in his home with the knowledge that he could die at any moment. After his diagnosis, Swayze sought cures both through classical and non-traditional means. One year after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer he'd shrunk down to 90 pounds and was in near constant pain.
In 2008, Swayze began chemotherapy and treatment with the experimental drug Vatalanib at Stanford University Medical Center. By April 2009 the cancer had metastasized in his liver, and months later he was dead. Swayze's wife Lisa Niemi says that her final words to him were "I love you," and that after he returned form the hospital "things went very fast." She continued:
I cherished our time alone, holding his hand, listening to music, sleeping with my arm around him, my head on his shoulder, wordlessly. In the quiet of Monday morning, September 14, I looked at his face and listened to the tiny sips of air he was taking. There was something delicate, childlike about it. I knew it was time.
The final days of Sharon Tate were spent like any other day for the actress. She was extremely pregnant in the summer of 1969, and much of her time was spent lounging around the pool at her home at 10050 Cielo Drive. The most upsetting thing about Tate's last day is how mundane it was. Gardeners showed up to groom the hedges, she had lunch with her friends, and she took a nap before her her friends arrived for the evening.
After hangnig out with former flame Jay Sebring and her friends Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski, the foursome went out for a late dinner at El Coyote on Beverly Boulevard. This would have been a simple capper to a normal day if things hadn't turned completely upside down.
Shortly after midnight, Tex Watson and members of the Manson family broke into the home, rounded up the friends, and committed one of the most brutal slaughters that America had ever seen. Tate's unborn baby died in her mother's womb.
Hitler was deeply unhappy in the final days of his life. That sounds obvious, no happy person commits genocide and tries to take over Europe, but after years of leading the German military to success during World War II, it was clear that the Allies were about to hand him a giant L.
In January 1945, Hitler retreated to his bunker and tried to ignore the fact that the Russians were advancing on Germany with a steady pace. By April, Hitler decided to commit suicide and married Eva Braun, a union that warranted a party in the bunker. Yes, before Hitler killed himself he had a wedding party.
Supposedly, Hitler spent most of the night talking about better days, and explaining how he planned to put a bullet in his head before the Russians could take him as prisoner. On April 30, Hitler shot himself before Eva took a cyanide capsule to join her husband in death.
From the outside, Marilyn Monroe's life looked as if it was the ultimate in Hollywood glamor. However, inside she was troubled. Monroe was dealing with a dependency to drugs and alcohol, and a depression that took over her life in her final years, leaving her in a destructive headspace.
In the last months of Monroe's life she was a recluse in her Brentwood home. When she did go out she was rarely sober, and when she was home she remained in a drugged out fog. On August 5, 1962, Monroe's body was discovered by her maid.
Police discovered a fatal amount of sedatives in her system, the coroner ruled her death a suicide. Monroe biographer Charles Casillo believes that the suicide was accidental and due to a build up of prescription medication in her system. He says:
I think that her pill take upped in those final months, but it wasn’t new to her. By then, she had such a high resistance.
On the same day that Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, scored a number one hit with "That'll Be the Day," Holly boarded a chartered Beechcraft Bonanza with tour mates Richy Valens and the Big Hopper for a flight to Moorhead, Minnesota.
Holly was only 22 years old and already had hits with "Peggy Sue," "Oh Boy!," and "Maybe Baby," and was poised to have one of the biggest careers in rock and roll when the Beechcraft experience horrible weather, sending it down into a field in Iowa minutes after takeoff.
Known as "the day the music died," Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper all perished in their final flight on February 3, 1959. The plane's wreckage was strewn across 300 yards of frosty cornfield, so much so that Holly's glasses were finally recovered in 1980 in Mason City, Iowa.
The day Princess Diana died in a fiery car crash she'd just returned to Paris with her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed after a holiday that was an attempt to escape England, and escape the paparazzi who hounded everywhere she went. The plan was a failure.
According to the Daily Mail’s Richard Kay, Diana was excited to spend the next few years working on her self and pulling back on her public appearances. The evening of August 30 was gorgeous in Paris, the weather was mild and Diana was in love with Fayed. After a late dinner at the Ritz's L’Espadon restaurant the couple attempted to escape photographers in a black Mercedes S 280 driven by Henri Paul, the hotel's assistant director of security.
As the Mercedes sped along the Seine Diana and her beau were pursued like criminals, when they got into Place de l'Alma they were circled by seven cameramen on five motorcycles, then came the crash. A waiter named Jerome Laumonier who was near the entrance of the bridge told People:
There was this huge, violent, terrifying crash followed by the lone sound of a car horn.
Fayed died on the scene, Diana finally exited the mortal plane at 4:57 a.m. on August 31, 1997. Thousands of mourners took to the streets of London in a daze, the princess was gone.
On November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury passed away at his Kensington home, Garden Lodge, at the age of 45 from bronchial pneumonia due to AIDS-related complications. The once vivacious singer was a shell of himself when he drew his final breaths, at the time the world was only just aware that Mercury was sick.
Mercury's personal assistant and bodyguard, Peter Freestone, also acted as one of the Queen frontman's nurses as his body was ravaged by HIV. Freestone was witness to some of Mercurys highest highs and lowest lows, and as such he watched the singer fade away in his home. He said of Mercury's final moments:
There was a plan to make the announcement before Freddie died, but that was as far as it went. After Freddie came back from Switzerland on the 10th November 1991 and made his decision to stop his medication, it obviously passed through his mind to make the statement. He made all his arrangements...I think he just felt and knew it was his time...
Janis Joplin wasn't on a death trip when she passed away on October 4, 1970, she was busy completing her album "The Pearl," and enjoying the life of an artist who was finally receiving the success she deserved. But as the recording stretched on Joplin became bored, and with boredom came drugs.
According to Joplin's manager, John Byrne Cooke, Joplin had been clean for six months before her tragic death, but the night before she was supposed to record vocals she relapsed in a major way. Cooke recalls finding the singer in her room when he went to pick her up for her session:
As I pass through the lobby, I stop at the desk and get a key to Janis's room from Jack Hagy, the manager... Janis is lying in an awkward position, her head and shoulder wedged against the bed and the bedside table. In her hand, there are four dollar bills and two quarters. On the side table, there's a pack of Marlboros. The story is obvious to an interested observer: She got change for a five, bought cigarettes for fifty cents from the machine in the lobby, came back to the room, sat down, and keeled over before she could light one. She was sitting on the bed and pitched over sideways. There's dried blood on her face where her head struck the corner of the bedside table.
Joplin's friends and family still argue over whether the singer passed away from an overdose or an accident. Her sister, Laura writes:
[Joplin] was careful to use only one supplier, and he was careful about what he sold. Usually, he had a chemist check the drug before he sold it. For that batch, the chemist had been out of town. He had sold the dope without checking it. The dope Janis had bought that Saturday was four to ten times stronger than normal street heroin. It was 40 to 50 percent pure.
Her fans may never know the truth.
A photo from inside Japan Airlines Flight 123 as it went down over Japan
Everything was normal on Japan Airlines Flight 123 as it cruised over its home country in 1985, but as this photo shows, something was seriously wrong with the plane. An off-duty flight attendant who survived the disaster says that it was like any regular flight until she heard a "bam" sound ear the tail.
Yumi Ochiai, one of the four survivors of the crash that killed 518 people, was thrown from the plane as it broke up when it hit the mountain, although pieces of the 747 were already falling off before the worst damage was done. From her hospital bed, Ochiai described every airplane passenger's worst nightmare:
At 6:25, there was a ‘Bam!’ sound overhead. Then, my ears began to hurt. I don’t know if a door flew off or not. I did not hear any other explosion sound from the floor or anywhere else... At the same time, the (air) inside the cabin turned pure white... The ceiling above the lavatory fell down. At the same time, the automatic (oxygen) masks dropped and the prerecorded announcement began... Soon, I saw Mt. Fuji on the left and--although there was no announcement from the cockpit--I thought we were going back to Haneda (Tokyo’s domestic airport)...Finally, the plane started to descend steeply. It seemed like it was going straight down. Soon, there were two or three strong shocks. Seats, cushions and other objects around me flew into the air. Seats fell on top of me, and I couldn’t move. My stomach hurt so bad it felt like it was going to be torn to pieces. Finally, with all the strength I could muster, I was able to unfasten the seat belt.
Ian Curtis with his newborn daughter shortly before his suicide
The signs of Ian Curtis' depression were all around, but no one wanted to read them. The lyrics that Curtis used to augment the sparse, chilly arrangements of the music of Joy Division were filled with indictments of himself, his disillusionment with his marriage, and with life.
In April, 1980, Curtis attempted suicide by pills, but told his bandmates that it was an accident. Drummer Stephen Morris recalls that Curtis was amazing at making everyone feel at ease, even when he was going through hell. He said:
Ian would always say what you wanted to hear. He was in a spiral, and it was just getting worse... He was a very determined person. If he was going to do something he certainly wouldn't discuss it with you. I remember coming back from rehearsals one day and we took a short cut through the graveyard and I said to him, 'You're lucky, your name could be on one of those stones if you'd succeeded the other week. You really want to think about it, it's not worth ending up like that.' He was just like, 'Right, yeah, right.' No connection in the response.
Joy Division were scheduled to begin an American tour on May 20, 1980, on 19th Curtis hung himself in his kitchen.
Ronald Reagan shares a last kiss with his wife, Nancy
Ronald Reagan was one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century. Like him or not, he brought the country together under a promise of economic prosperity, and when he left the White House he remained a hero to many, but his health was failing even then.
By June 5, 2004, Reagan had been struggling with Alzheimer's disease for years, but he was comfortable on his ranch living with his wife Nancy. The former president knew that the end was near, and his daughter said that his final moments not only brought relief to her father, but to the rest of the family:
At the last moment when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn‘t opened for days, did. And they weren‘t chalky or vague. They were clear, and blue, and full of love. If a death can be lovely, his was.
This photo of Kurt Cobain was taken 10 days before his suicide in 1994
When Kurt Cobain's body was discovered on April 8, 1994, he was only 27 years old but in a few short years he changed the face of music forever. His suicide was a shock to everyone who knew him, but he'd been missing for six days prior to the discovery of his body, and in a depressive spiral for years.
In the months leading up to his death, Cobain told his wife, Courtney Love, that he was tired of being in Nirvana, that he wanted to quit the band and do anything but play the songs that defined a generation.
Cobain attempted suicide a month prior to his follow up attempt, leading his band members to stage an intervention for the wayward singer. They asked him to seek treatment and go to rehab, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl says that he still has trouble dealing with his former friend's death. He explained:
The Nirvana experience was such a whirlwind. It all happened so quickly – exploded without any warning, and then it just disappeared. Life had changed so much, it was almost like you had to find something to hold onto so that you didn’t get swept away... You have to understand – for me, Nirvana is more than it is for you. It was a really personal experience. I was a kid. Our lives were lifted and then turned upside down. And then our hearts were broken when Kurt died. The whole thing is much more personal than the logo or the t-shirt or the iconic image.
The Challenger crew excitedly walks to their final mission
On January 28, 1986, the crew of the Challenger walked towards their craft, unaware of their fates. However, when the ship took off from the platform they knew that something was wrong. According to a transcript released by NASA in 1986, the final communication by any of the astronauts was the comment ''uh oh,'' made by the pilot, Michael J. Smith, 73 seconds after launching.
While the Challenger incident looked like an explosion thanks to the massive fireball that engulfed the craft, it actually broke apart following the collapse of its fuel tank. The pieces of the Challenger reached an altitude of 65,000 feet before falling into the Atlantic. It's believed that the crew survived the breakup of the shuttle but lost consciousness when the cabin lost pressure and died due to oxygen deficiency.
If anyone survived the lack of oxygen, it's likely that they died when the cabin hit the water's surface at more than 200 miles per hour nearly three minutes after the shuttle broke apart.
The final moments of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.'s life
On April 4, 1968, the life of one of the greatest men who ever lived was brought to an unceremonious end in Memphis Tennessee. This photo, taken just moments before his assassination at 6:05 p.m. show Martin Luther King Jr. as he was in his downtime, a man who enjoyed the presence of his friends.
At the moment of his death he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when he was struck in the neck by a bullet. Even though he was rushed to the hospital there was nothing that could be done. King was pronounced dead an hour after the attack.
King's assassin, James Earl Ray, was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport on June 8. His attempt to escape capture for his actions nearly went off without a hitch, but his fingerprints were all over the rifle used to kill King, as well as a scope, and a pair of binoculars. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
James Dean, photographed with "Little Bastard" before his final drive
This shot of James Dean gassing up his Porsche Spyder on Beverly Glen is one of the most iconic final photos ever taken. Dean was only 24 years old when he set out for Salinas, California on September 30, 1955. At the time he only had one film in theaters, with two more on the way.
Two hours after receiving a ticket for speeding Dean's 550 Spyder collides with a Ford Tudor sedan along then-U.S. Route 446 near Cholame, California. The sedan was turning at an intersection, resulting in a near head on collision that killed Dean instantly. His neck was broken, and his left foot was crushed between the clutch and the brake pedal.
Although it's been widely reported that Dean was traveling at 90 mph, a report from the attending Highway Patrol officer only clocked Dean at moving at 55 mph. Either way, his death was a massive waste of potential.
John Lennon signs an autograph for his murderer, Mark Chapman
There's no final photo that's quite as chilling as this shot of John Lennon signing an autograph for the man who killed him. Mark Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, claims that he had a gun in his pocket when this photo was snapped outside the Dakota, but that he hadn't yet worked up the nerves to kill his hero.
After Lennon left, Chapman continued to wait outside the Dakota, reading The Catcher in the Rye to pass the time. When Lennon returned from a recording session that evening Chapman fired on the former Beatle, killing him on the sidewalk.
As Chapman waited for the police to arrive he read some more of his book. A security guard for the building rushed to Chapman and asked, "Do you know what you just did?" Chapman later explained his reasoning for the murder as an act of retribution against Lennon's so-called phony nature:
I would listen to this music and I would get angry at him, for saying that he didn’t believe in God… and that he didn’t believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least 10 years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, ‘Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?’. Saying that he doesn’t believe in Jesus and things like that. At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage. So I brought the Lennon book home, into this The Catcher in the Rye milieu where my mindset is Holden Caulfield and anti-phoniness.
The final photo of President Kennedy before his assassination
The morning of November 22, 1963, was a beautiful day in Dallas, Texas. When the president rode in his motorcade through Dealey Plaza he waved to his adoring crowd and basked in the adulation of his constituents. He was confident in his chances of re-election only one year later.
But as Kennedy's car drove past the Texas School Book Depository around 12:30 p.m. a gunshot rang out. The president was struck in the neck and the head as he slumped onto his wife. His car sped away to Parkland Memorial Hospital but there was little to be done. At 1 p.m. a Catholic priest administered Kennedy's last rights and the president was pronounced dead.
It didn't take long for Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's assassin to be brought into police custody, but he never stood trial for his crime. Two days later he was shot at point black range on national television.
According to his sister, the final words of Steve Jobs were "oh wow"
When Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011, the Apple co-founder was only 56 years old. His sister, Mona Simpson describes his final moments as beatific, almost as if Jobs was prepared to move on from the planet following decades of trying to make the world a better place through technology.
In Simpson's eulogy, she said that Jobs called her to his bedside with the full knowledge that he was leaving this mortal coil. She said:
His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us... His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before. This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn't happen to Steve, he achieved it.
His last words seemed to be in awe of his passing. He said, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."
The "Lost Patrol" shortly before their test flight through the Bahamas
It was supposed to be a routine training flight, but when Flight 19 took off from a Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 2:10 p.m. on December 5, 1945, it quickly became apparent that something was wrong.
The planes were meant to take part in a three-hour exercise known as “Navigation Problem Number One." They would head east from the coast, conduct bombing runs and head towards Hens and Chickens Shoals before going north to the Gran Bahama Island and finally flying south towards the base.
None of the pilots were new to this, each of them had at least 300 hours in the air, but when the patrol turned north for the second part of their exercise things got strange. The flight's leader, Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, became convinced that his compass was malfunctioning and that his planes were flying in the wrong direction. Thanks to heavy cloud cover the pilots became disoriented.
Common sense states that pilots lost in the Atlantic should point their planes toward the setting sun and fly towards the mainland, but Taylor believed he was over the Gulf of Mexico and decided to steer his plane northeast, taking the squad farther out to sea. The planes went down in the Atlantic, but after five days of combing more than 300,000 square miles of the ocean the search party couldn't find them. They vanished.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, photographed for tintype at the Sundance Film Festival
No one realized that Philip Seymour Hoffman was struggling with a heroin addiction when he passed away suddenly in 2014. He passed away following an erratic series of days where his sense of normalcy was interrupted by clandestine drug deals and erratic behavior.
We think of heroin addicts crouching alone in a hall, a needle in their arms, but in his final days Hoffman was out and about, he even traveled to the Sundance Film Festival to promote two of his films. Back in New York he tried to take sobriety seriously, but he couldn't kick his habit.
In early February 2014, Hoffman spent the day pulling $1,200 out of ATM in $200 chunks. He sent texts to a friend about watching a Knicks game, and then he shot up for the last time in his apartment. He was discovered on February 2, lifeless, with a needle still in his arm.
Steve McQueen moved to an airplane hangar in Mexico his final years
After developing a nasty cough in 1978, Steve McQueen thought it best to get out of Hollywood and avoid what he believed was a glut of asbestos that was negatively effecting his breathing. It turns out that asbestos wasn't the problem.
McQueen left his life as a star behind and moved to Santa Paula, California in 1979. He took up residence in an airplane hangar and did his best to blend in with the townsfolk, essentially shrugging off the fame brought to him by films like Bullitt and The Great Escape. The same year McQueen was diagnosed with lung cancer.
When American doctors told him that there was nothing they could do, he traveled to Mexico for a series of out of the box treatments. He received a series of coffee enemas as well as daily injections of fluid containing live cells from cattle and sheep, massages, and laetrile, a reputed anti-cancer drug available in Mexico. The treatment was all for not, and on November 7, 1980, McQueen died of heart failure in a clinic in Juárez.
The final shot of the RMS Titanic
This shot of the Titanic was meant to be a triumphant one. The majesty of the "unsinkable" ship dwarfs the small rowboat. If the Titanic had made it to its destination in the States this shot would have been a perfect ad for an amazing luxury cruise. Sadly, that never came to pass.
In the early hours of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland after it sideswiped an iceberg in the middle of the night. More than 1,500 of the 2,240 passengers last their lives in the tragic events. Sadly, more lives could have been saved, but in the confusion of the sinking most of the lifeboats were sent out under-filled, many with only a few passengers.
Even with the law of the sea at play - women and children first - most of the victims were women and children, mostly because of the disorder and chaos of the first hour of the night.
Tupac, photographed in Las Vegas before his murder
On September 7, 1996, "California Love," rapper Tupac Shakur was shot multiple times when he was riding shotgun with Death Row Records label owner Suge Knight. He was only 23 years old when a white car pulled up beside them and opened fire.
Shakur's murder has never been formally solved, but former LAPD officer Greg Kading believes that the answer is staring investigators in the face. He's certain that a man named Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson pulled the trigger. He explained:
There's really not much mystery behind these murders, even though there's a bunch of conspiracy surrounding them. When you just get down to the brass tacks of it they're relatively simple... All of the facts and evidence point to one thing and one thing only. They recognize that also and we've all embraced each other and recognize this to be the conclusive and definitive truth behind the murders.
Anderson was killed in a gang-related shooting in 1998, before he passed away he denied involvement in the killing.
German General Anton Dostler moments before he was executed by firing squad
There's no photo that tells the story of the months following World War II quite like this shot of General Dostler waiting to meet his fate at the behest of a firing squad. There's no doubt that he would have been put on trial after the war, but it was his ordering the death of 15 American prisoners of war that did him in.
After hearing of the capture of 15 U.S. soldiers on March 22, 1944, Dostler sent a memo to the 135th Brigade, ordering them to execute the commando party. The members of the 135th attempted to delay the execution command, but Dostler was insistent.
Following the war, Dostler was taken prisoner by the U.S. Army, and when his order was discovered he was out on trial on May 8, 1945. Dostler claimed that he was only following orders throughout the war, but that defense did little to drum up sympathy. He was going guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death by a 12-man firing squad on December 1, 1945. He was buried in the Pomezia German War Cemetery.
Paul Walker was attending a charity event moments before he died
When we mourn for an actor it can be because of how much we love their work, or the special connection we have for them through the silver screen. When Paul Walker passed away in 2013 the world felt the immense loss not only because he was a beloved actor in the Fast and the Furious franchise, but because he was clearly a good guy.
After attending a charity event for Reach Out Worldwide, Walker hopped in the passenger seat of a friend's Porsche and the two took off through the streets of Valencia, California. The car crashed and was engulfed in flames moments later.
By the time authorities arrived on the scene Walker had already perished. It was a stunning moment of horror for the entire world.
Stowaway, Keith Sapsford drops from a plane's landing gear compartment
Keith Sapsford was an Australian teen with a need to escape - after being sent to Catholic school he decided to run away. On February 22, 1970, he snuck inside of Tokyo-bound plane through the airplane's wheel compartment and attempted to take the plane all the way to Japan.
His belief that he would avoid the pain of high altitude exposure by hitching a ride in the wheel-well was sadly incorrect. Sapsford had no idea that the compartment would reopen when the plane's wheel's retracted after takeoff. Shortly after the plan lifted off he fell 200 feet to his death.
The photo was captured by John Gilpin, an amateur photographer who just happened to be taking pictures at the airport. He had no way of knowing that he captured Sapsford's final moments. The boy's father later said:
All my son wanted to do was to see the world. He had itchy feet. His determination to see how the rest of the world lives has cost him his life.
Lucille Ball on her final red carpet walk
From I Love Lucy to The Lucy Show (and not to mention all of her production work), Lucille Ball is responsible for most of the entertainment in the middle of the 20th century. Following her final television appearance on March 29, 1989, and the Academy Awards Ball suffered from pains in her chest.
On April 17 of that year her daughter finally convinced her to go to the hospital and het checked out. After doing her hair and makeup she went into the hospital and then underwent a seven hour open heart surgery. She returned home later that day, but she wasn't long for this world.
The next morning her surgically repaired aorta ruptured and she went into cardiac arrest. Her friend Lee Tannen said:
She really disintegrated so quickly. Her tombstone should have read 'From Desi's death on Dec. 2, 1986, to her own death on April 26, 1989' because that was the life of her death. On her death certificate it says 'ruptured aorta,' but I believe Lucy died because she didn't want to live anymore.
Heath Ledger on the set of his final film before he passed away
On January 22, 2008, Heath Ledger passed away quietly from an accidental overdose of prescription medication. He was discovered by his masseuse and housekeeper on the floor of the apartment he was renting in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. At the time his personal life was in tatters, but he was busier than ever.
Ledger passed away while working on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with Terry Gilliam. The director told Entertainment Weekly that when he heard about the passing of his star he collapsed:
I was working in the art department trying to save $15,000 on a set. Amy, my daughter, came in and said ‘you’ve gotta come in the office.’ I said, ‘I’m busy.’ She said, ‘now.’ She got me into the office, and there it was on the BBC: Heath Ledger had died. We all just collapsed and lay on the floor all day long, not knowing what to do. It was like a member of the family had died.
Vladimir Lenin in the summer of 1923
After rising to the top of Soviet Union in the early 20th century, Vladimir Lenin was left at the hands-off his sister and his doctor in 1923. By the time this photo was taken he had suffered three strokes. He was left crippled with no ability to speak, and without the use of the right side of his body.
Lenin's physical downfall was fast and relentless. His first stroke occurred shortly after his 52nd birthday, and another hit him on December 15, 1922. In 10 months time he suffered three attacks and was brought to his knees. Before the third stroke Lenin hoped to take back the Soviet Union from Josef Stalin, but now he was just waiting to die. Before his death on January 21, 1924, a visiting physician noted:
Vladimir Ilyich lay there with a look of dismay, with a frightened expression on his face, his eyes sad with an inquiring look, tears streaming down his face.
Whitney Houston accidentally drowned in her hotel bathtub in 2011
When you listen to Whitney Houston's music, songs like "I Want To Dance With Somebody," and "I Will Always Love You," hardly tell the true story of her life. Of the pain and addiction that she lived with every day. On February 11, 2012, Houston drowned in the bathtub of her junior presidential suite in the Beverly Hilton. There were traces of marijuana, the muscle relaxant Flexeril, the allergy medication Benadryl, and Xanax.
Leading up to her death, Houston was strung out but trying to keep things together, but like so many addicts she was unable to control the beast within her. Her friends and family all said that they had no indication that she was in trouble during her final days, but members of Bobby Brown's family claimed that the opposite was true. Brown's sisters, Leolah Brown told Doctor Drew:
When I first heard she passed away, I said, My God, somebody gave her a bad bag.
Christopher McCandless passed away after ingesting poisonous potato seeds
Shortly after this photo was taken Christopher McCandless' body was found by moose hunters outside of Denali National Park. His corpse was in a rusted out bus that served as a shelter from the cold for trappers and hikers outside northern boundary.
McCandless died in August 1992 after consuming squirrels, birds, roots and seeds for the entirety of his trip, but it's still unclear what killed him. Jon Krakauer, the author of Into the Wild, the story of McCandles, believes that the young man was accidentally poisoned after eating potato seeds. He explained to NPR:
There's one passage you just can't ignore, which is 'Extremely weak. Fault of potato seeds. He didn't say much in that journal, and nothing that definitive. He had reason to believe that these seeds – and not all these other foods that he had photographed and catalogued – had killed him.
Kirk Douglas lived to 103, outlasting the diagnosis given by his doctors
Out of every star from the golden age of Hollywood, Kirk Douglas lived the most long and eventful life. From his time starring in Spartacus to his days with De Palma in the 1970s, Douglas was one of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century.
In 1996 he suffered a stroke that severely hurt his ability to speak, and although his full hold on speech never returned he had some control over it by the time he was given an honorary Academy Award in the same year.
On February 5, 2020, Kirk Douglas passed away at the age of 103 at his home in Beverly Hills. While his cause of death was kept private by his family, it's most likely that the passed away from old age.
Elvis Presley waves to fans as he drives into Graceland
On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died in his home in Memphis. His cause of death was heart failure, but that was brought on by a horrible diet and years of prescription drug addiction. He was so famous that was nearly impossible for him not to get whatever he wanted. This final shot of Presley sums up his entire existence at the end of his life: dressed to the nines and boxed in by his own fame.
Presley's private nurse Letetia Henley Kirk believes that if Presley's friends hadn't been so giving with the drugs that he would have been around for much, much longer. She said:
The world thinks he has everything, and yet the happiness isn’t there. He was miserable because he’d gained so much weight. He knew he was not going to be able to perform like he wanted to. [Prescription drugs] came from everywhere. His access to medications was overwhelming... Had he had immediate medical attention, there’s a big possibility [he might have lived]. But who knows?
Burt Reynolds looks cool as ever even in his final days
On September 6, 2018, 82 year old Burt Reynolds, the king of cool, died as he lived, working. That day found him running lines for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, the Quentin Tarantino film that would have seen him play George Spahn, the elderly, blind owner of Spahn Ranch - home of the Manson family. Tarantino told Esquire about the loss of Reynolds:
I found out from three different people that the last thing he did just before he died was run lines with his assistant. Then he went to the bathroom, and that’s when he had his heart attack.
The film's star, Brad Pitt, says that he was able to spend some time with Reynolds on set and that it was one of the best moments of his life. He said:
I’ll tell you one of the greatest moments I’ve had in these however many years we’ve been at it in this town: getting to spend two days with Burt Reynolds on this film. You’ve gotta understand, for me, growing up in the Ozarks and watching Smokey and the Bandit, you know, he was the guy. Virile. Always had something sharp to say - funny as sh*t. A great dresser. Oh, man. And I had never met him, so being there with him reminded me of how much I enjoyed him as a kid. And then getting to spend those days with him in rehearsal, I was really touched by him.
Jim Morrison relaxing in Paris before passing away in the tub
After finishing "L.A. Woman," the final Doors album with the original lineup, Jim Morrison left for Paris. He needed to get out of the country, out of Los Angeles, and away from his enablers. Sadly, he passed away of a heroin overdose in July 1971, but only a month before he was enjoying his life as a regular guy in France.
This photo shows Morrison with his longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson relaxing on a day trip to Saint-Leu-d’Esserent, an area just north of Paris. Like many of these final photos, Morrison is blissfully unaware of his fate. Here he's just a happy man, an artist putting himself back together and finding his spirit unhindered by hangers on and sycophants.
Morrison's body was discovered on July 3, 1971, dead from a heroin overdose.
The final moments of Archduke Ferdinand
When Archdule Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie traveled to Sarajevo in 1914, they had no idea of the destruction waiting for them, or the chaos that their deaths would cause. Ferdinand was in Bosnia to inspect the imperial armed forces, but Serbian nationalists were plotting to kill the archduke for annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina.
19 year old Gavrilo Princip spent June 28 trying to kill the archduke, but finally accomplished his goal when the couple traveled with their official procession. His plan to blow them up failed, so instead he shot them at point-blank range. They both died instantly.
The assassination sparked European chaos as Russia backed Serbia in their fight against Austria and Hungary, while Germany stepped up behind Austria. Soon, the entire world was framed into the fray.
Jimi Hendrix photographed earlier in the day before he overdosed
Rock legend Jimi Hendrix was only 27 years old when he passed away on September 18, 1970. This final photo, taken of Hendrix shortly before his death, shows him relaxing with a cup of tea and his guitar, happy and content. Taken the day before his death, it's clear that he had no idea that he was hours away from passing through this mortal coil.
Hanging with his prized "Black Beauty" Fender Stratocaster, he was excited to expand his musical horizons and do more than just the guy from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Prior to his death, Hendrix spent a lot of money building a studio where he could work without having to worry about studio suits, or people breathing down his neck.
Sadly, he was only able to spend a few hours in the studio before leaving for England to take care of some contractual performances. He never returned to the states.
A politician in the Philippines Reynaldo Dagsa photographs his own assassination
This chilling image isn't of Reynaldo Dagsa, instead, it's the final photo that Reynaldo Dagsa ever took. Taken on New Year's Day, the local politician in the Philippines was snapping a shot of his family when he caught his killer taking aim in the back of the frame.
The photo was taken outside the councilman's house in metropolitan Manila, and thanks to the photo the gunman was arrested a few days after the shooting, accomplice was arrested in a separate raid. According to The Daily Inquirer:
Chief Inspector Cresencio Galvez, Caloocan police intelligence chief, said the suspects were known car thieves and holduppers out on bail. It is likely that they bear a grudge against Dagsa who had them arrested last year, he said.
Dale Earnhardt died in a crash during the last lap of the Daytona 500
This shot from February 18, 2001, shows the face of a driver in the prime of his life. This was just another day for Earnhardt, and he was ready to win. In 27 years Earnhardt won 76 Cup Series victories, including the 1998 Daytona 500, on top of that he won seven Cup Series championships.
During the last lap of the Daytona 500, Earnhardt's car was tapped by Sterling Marlin, causing the No. 3 car to wobble and slam into a wall. Earnhardt died on impact.
An investigation determined that Earnhardt's death was the cause of inadequate head and neck restraints, causing his cranium to snap forward at a deadly speed when he car hit the wall going around 160 mph. After the accident, most NASCAR teams migrated from traditional five to six-point safety harnesses, this was made mandatory in 2001.
Aaliyah relaxing during her final music video shoot
Aaliyah had her entire life in front of her when her airplane crashed on August 25, 2001, in the Bahamas. She'd just finished her part in Anne Rice's Queen of the Dead, and she was in love with Roc-A-Fella Records mogul Damon Dash.
While shooting underwater scenes for her single "Rock the Boat" in Miami, Aaliyah and the film crew flew to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas to get more footage. Dash later claimed that he warned the singer against getting on the Cessna. Director Hype Williams says that the film shoot was one f the best moments of his professional career. He said:
Those four days were very beautiful for everyone. We all worked together as a family. The last day, Saturday, was one of the best I've had in this business. Everyone felt part of something special, part of her song.
When Aaliya finished shooting she boarded a twin-engine Cessna 402-B, and almost immediately upon takeoff the plane crashed on the runway and a fire broke out, killing everyone aboard.
Dolores O'Riordan, her final photo posted to Twitter before her tragic drowning
In the 1990s Dolores O'Riordan led The Cranberries to international success from the small island of Ireland. Her lyrics were raw and emotional, and its no wonder that her intense vocal style brought in millions of fans from across the world.
Even though O'Riordan's raw emotional state is all over the work of The Cranberries, her bandmates say that she didn't dress her mental issues until the 2010s, but when she did she came out of a funk. Noel Hogan, the band's guitarist, told The Guardian:
She was a lot more herself. Especially last year, when we were rehearsing: you wouldn’t even know, because they had found the right cocktail of whatever it was she needed to be on. There wasn’t even a case of having to ‘work around it’. The hardest thing was her back, because playing live she could not move as freely as she used to.
Sadly, on January 15, 2018, O'Riordan died from accidental drowning in her bathtub. in London's Park Lane Hilton Hotel.
David Bowie planned his final days down to his last record release
On January 10, 2016, David Bowie passed away two days after the release of his 25th album, "Blackstar," at his Lafayette Street home in New York City after suffering from liver cancer for 18 months. His fans and friends were shocked, but Bowie choreographed his death to the end.
When Bowie released "Blackstar" it was on the day of his 69th birthday, he was terminally ill but told no one. His promo photos show him as he was in his final days, well dressed and happy, laughing in defiance of his illness. It's believed that this was Bowie's second bout with cancer, so he he'd been working on ways in which to tell the story of his final days for quite some time.
Through his videos, song lyrics, and album art, Bowie gave hints to everyone that he was on the way out, but no one put the pieces together until he was gone.
Abraham Lincoln's final photo before his assassination
When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, he was enjoying an evening at Ford's Theater. No president thinks that something so awful can happen to them, but it's clear that Lincoln felt that he still had quite a bit of work to do when he died.
In Licoln's final public address on April 11, 1865, just four days before his death, Lincoln was concerned about what to do at the end of the Civil War, and how to bring the states back into the Union without causing any problems. For the first time in a public setting, Lincoln backed suffrage for African Americans. This statement incensed John Wilkes Booth, a member of the audience, who vowed, "That is the last speech he will make."
Alan Rickman, weeks before his death from cancer
When Alan Rickman passed away on January 14, 2016, from cancer at the age of 69 it shocked everyone. This photo shows him attending a red carpet event and going on as if life was normal.
Not only was he the star of some of the most iconic films regardless of the genre, he gave life to a beloved children's book character, giving parents someone to watch and children something to be terrified of. After his death, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe wrote of his former co-star:
Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with. He is also, one of the loyalest and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry. He was so encouraging of me both on set and in the years post-Potter... People create perceptions of actors based on the parts they played so it might surprise some people to learn that contrary to some of the sterner (or downright scary) characters he played, Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny... As an actor he was one of the first of the adults on Potter to treat me like a peer rather than a child. Working with him at such a formative age was incredibly important and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career. Film sets and theatre stages are all far poorer for the loss of this great actor and man.
Albert Einstein's brain was stored it in formaldehyde until 2007
On April 18, 1955, Albert Einstein passed away at the Princeton Hospital following a hemorrhage suffered at his home. It's believed that Einstein was dealing with the hemorrhage for longer than he let on, and suffered immense pain throughout his final days with just a small.
On the day that Einstein passed away he went on like normal. He read the paper, he talked science, and he was open about how ready he was for death, saying that it had to happen some time. Although, his friends should have known how relaxed he would be about death thanks to his notes that open An Einstein Encyclopedia. He writes:
Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose….To ponder interminably over the reason for one’s own existence or the meaning of life in general seems to me, from an objective point of view, to be sheer folly.
Following his death, Einstein's brain was removed without his family's permission and stored it in formaldehyde until around 2007. In that time it was photographed and small sections were sent to different researchers.
Amelia Earhart opens a gift before her final flight
This shot shows Amelia Earhart as we rarely see her: at home, on a couch, and far away from her plane. A lover of aviation from the moment she saw a plane leave the ground, Earhart's life was one of obsession. It's fitting that the American public is still obsessed with her final flight, now decades after the fact.
On May 21, 1937, Earhart departed from Oakland, California and flew east in her second shot at flying around the world at the equator. Her first attempt ended in a crash, but she wasn't going to let that stop her. Before the flight, Earhart ditched her CW transmitter. She wasn't great at typing out wireless code so she felt the machine was dead weight, this is likely why we have no idea what happened to her following her take off.
Fourteen hours and 15 minutes into her flight, Earhart sent out a transmission on her radio that said something about "cloudy weather," and later radioed the people on Howland Island that she couldn't find the island. Her final transmission, made 20 hours and 14 minutes into her flight noted that she and her navigator were going to continue "running north and south." She was never seen again.
Amy Winehouse, singer and soul goddess, walking through London
With a voice that dripped with heartache and booze, this late addition to the 27 club parallels so many stories of the singers and rock stars that came before her. Throughout her brief time in the limelight, Winehouse was known as a drugged out singer, but she was no different than many stars who cam before her, except that she was a woman.
For much of the summer of 2011 Winehouse was holed up in her house drinking to avoid the paparazzi, and on the morning of July 23 she just didm't wake up. On October 26, 2011, a coroners inquest revealed that her blood alcohol content at the time of her death was 0.416%, more than five times the legal limit. Following her death, Winehouse broke her second Guinness World Record for the most songs by a woman to simultaneously appear on the UK singles chart, with eight.
A week after Winehouse passed away in 2011, Lady Gaga appeared on The View, devastated, and spoke about the way the media spins these tragic ends:
I just think the most unfortunate thing about it all is the way that the media spins things, like, 'Oh, here, we can learn from Amy's death.' I don't feel that Amy needed to learn any lessons. I felt that the lesson was for the world to be kinder to the super-star. Everybody was so hard on her, and everything that I knew about her was she was the most lovely and nice and kind woman.
Anne Frank in happier days
Anne Frank was only 15 years old when she died in a Nazi concentration camp, she was far too young to experience the horrors that so many people were put through. Somehow, through it all she remained strong and lives on through our memories and our hopes.
Before she met a nightmarish end at the hands of the German military, Frank was just a regular girl who spent most of her life in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, by 1940 the Frank family was trapped in the country that was meant to be their haven.
In 1942, the Frank family went into hiding. They lived behind the walls of a building where her father worked. In that time she kept a diary of her life, it's since become one of the most important documents of World War II. Not only does it show the day to day life of a survivor, but it shows that Frank was a real person, not just a martyr.
Some of Frank's most emotional work comes when she speaks of her future. She wonders what life will hold for her after the war, something that makes passages like the following absolutely heartbreaking:
If I don't have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can't imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to... When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
Reggae star Bob Marley smiling even as he faces death
It seemed as if Bob Marley would live forever. Just eight months before his death on May 11, 1981, Marley played for an ecstatic crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City. After assassination attempts, and the impossibilities of taking the Jamaican sound to the mainland, he was finally on top of the world.
But that feeling wasn't meant to last. A few days after his triumphant set at the Garden, Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park. Doctors had terrible news: a cancerous growth from an injury on his big toe had metastasized and spread to Marley’s brain, liver and lungs.
Marley was only 36 when he passed away in Miami hospital. 10 days later he was laid to rest on the top of the highest hill in Nine Mile, the village where he was born. The island mourned for the rock star and folk hero, sending him off not with sadness, but with joy for his next adventure.
James Gandolfini passed away on vacation with his family where he enjoyed the fruits of his labor
These final photos of Sopranos star James Gandofini give a voyeuristic look into his final moments, but even as the specter of death hangs around him it's clear above all that he went out happy.
Taken in the heart of Rome, the photos show Gandolfini enjoying an evening meal at the Sabatini restaurant off Rome's Piazza Santa Maria. No one knew that he was so close to death. Family friend Carole Marini told the New York Daily News about hanging out with the star just days before he passed:
[Gandolfini] was amazing as usual. He seemed very healthy to me — walking around, laughing, smiling, showing his little baby girl to everybody. There was no sign of trouble. For us, it was a shock.
Gandolfini was only 51 when he passed away of a heart attack on June 19, 2013.
Brittany Murphy poses for the cameras for the last time
The sharp decline in Brittany Murphy's health was an eerie thing to see in the late 2000s. Not only was her career on a downward slant, but she was losing weight at an alarming rate, and no matter how beautiful she was there was always something sad about her.
In December 2009, Murphy was living with her husband, screenwriter, Simon Monjack when she collapsed in her Hollywood Hills home. After she was rushed to the hospital she went into cardiac arrest and died under the care of the staff. Her death was ruled to be caused by a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and "multiple drug intoxication," but the world has always wondered what really happened to her.
This final photo shows Murphy smiling in the glow of the red carpet, was she really so ill that she simply passed away without warning? Or was there foul play involved. While many have pointed towards her then-husband as a negative influence on her life nothing has ever been proved. Months after Murphy passed away, so did Monjack. His death was attributed to acute pneumonia and anemia - the same as his Murphy.
A photo of Jeff Buckley taken the day of his suicide
Jeff Buckley brought beauty to the world with his performance of "Hallelujah" mysteriously died on May 29, 1997, after going for a spontaneous swim in the Mississippi river. For some, this random decision was proof that Buckley was suicidal, for others it just seemed like a tragic accident.
According to Buckley's former manager, Dave Lory, Buckley was acting uncharacteristically erratic in the weeks before his mysterious death. He told NPR:
He was trying to buy a house that wasn’t for sale. He was trying to buy a car that wasn’t for sale. He proposed to Joan [Wasser, Buckley’s girlfriend]. He even applied for a job to be a butterfly keeper at Memphis Zoo – a lot of weird stuff that was uncharacteristic for him. I think it was a yearning to settle down. He wanted a normal life.
Was it suicide? Was it an accident? Unfortunately what really happened to Buckley will remain a mystery.
Jenni Rivera, shown here with her team on their final journey
Everything about this photo, a candid look into the life of Latin music star Jenni Rivera, is terrifying. Not because the photo features anything horrific or scary, but because it shows how quickly life can turn from happiness to tragedy in an instant.
On December 9, 2012, Rivera boarded a Learjet 25heading towards Toluca, west of Mexico City where she was scheduled to tape an episode of "La Voz," the Mexican equivalent of The Voice. 10 minutes and 62 miles into the flight, air traffic controllers lost contact with its pilots, according to Mexican authorities. The jet crashed outside Iturbide, a remote city that straddles one of the few roads bisecting Mexico’s Sierra de Arteaga national park.
Before her death, Rivera had seven top 10 hits on the Latin music charts, and in 2011 she became the first female regional Mexican artist to sell out Staples Center in Los Angeles, she sold more than 20 million albums, and had recently launched a clothing and cosmetics line. For Rivera, the future was bright.
John Gotti, no longer the "Dapper Don"
Once known as the "Dapper Don," this final photo of John Gotti shows a once powerful man eroded by life in prison, and the pain of throat cancer. Taken just eight months before he passed away, Gotti looks much older than his 61 years. He's forlorn, defeated, and knows that the end is coming.
Gotti's family hated that this photo was released, saying that it was the last way that the man would have wanted to be remembered. He would rather people think of him as he lived in the '80s, as a well dressed mob boss with expensive taste. Gotti's daughter, Victoria, told ABC:
[The photo is] sad, really, since my fathers last wish was to NOT have his grandchildren see him 'ravaged' by cancer. Releasing this photo gives new meaning to the words, 'unimaginable invasion of privacy.'
Johnny Carson spent his retirement sailing and playing poker
This final shot of Johnny Carson shows the way in which time, and a life away from the spotlight can change someone. No longer the lithe performer that we know from his time on the Tonight Show, Carson enjoyed his time away from the show even if he never stopped writing.
In his final years, Carson was suffering from emphysema but he didn't let that slow him down. The former Tonight Show host spent time on his yacht, he traveled to Africa and Scotland, and he played poker with his friends when he wasn't sending in monologue jokes to David Letterman.
Film producer Daniel Melnick, the host of a regular poker game that Carson attended told the New York Times after the host passed in 2005:
He looked fine to me. We knew about the emphysema, but he wasn't carrying oxygen. He looked tanned from spending all that time on the boat.
Keith Moon hanging with Paul McCartney
For a rock star, it's always just another party, another hang with one of The Beatles, and one more evening of debauchery, but for Keith Moon, the party after the premiere of The Buddy Holly Story at the Odeon, Leicester Square would be his last.
At the party Moon fraternized with Paul McCartney, his wife Linda, and David Frost before leaving the whole shebang early. Melody Maker journalist Roy Carr said of his tearful final encounter with Moon:
He hugged me for about two or three minutes. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘No, no, you suddenly realize who your friends are…’ [Then he] shagged out… and like a caricature of himself.
Once back at his flat, Moon ate lamb cutlets for dinner before watching The Abominable Doctor Phibes and swallowing a "bucket of pills." He woke again the next morning to eat more lamb, but he took more pills and passed out again. When his girlfriend discovered him in the afternoon he was already gone. His cause of death was listed as “Clomethiazole (Heminevrin) overdose, self-administered but no evidence of intention. Open verdict.”
Korey Stinger spent his last day on the field with the Vikings
It's chilling to see this final photo of Korey Stringer, a man who died doing what he loved, playing football. As a member of the Minnesota Vikings, he was a standout on the offensive line. After staring 91 games of his professional career, it was clear that his future was bright. He was well liked outside the locker room, and always made people feel good on and off the field.
Tragedy struck on the second day of the Vikings 2001 preseason training camp. On July 31, Korey was already exhausted from practices, and heat stroke hit him hard when he suited up in full pads. He vomited throughout a two and a half hour routine. Stringer was taken to Immanuel St. Joseph's–Mayo Health System hospital with a body temperature of 108 degrees.
Stringer's state was so bad that he was unconscious from the time that he was admitted to the time he passed away at 1:50 a.m. on August 1. The Vikings returned his jersey number 77 on November 19, 2001.
Layne Staley from Alice In Chains hamming it up months before his overdose
More so than any other singer lumped into the "grunge" genre, Layne Staley effected rock music long after the heyday of Alice In Chains. His guttural yawp can be heard in the modern rock tracks of bands across the spectrum, which makes his passing all the more sad.
Staley was one of the many rock stars who struggled with addiction, and that came to a head on April 5, 2002, when he died at the age of 34 following the lethal combination of heroin and cocaine, a "speedball." To make his death even more chilling, his body wasn't discovered until April 19 when the Seattle police broke down his door to find his 86 pound corpse surrounded by drugs and squalor.
Staley passed away eight years to the day that Kurt Cobain committed suicide, adding an all too eerie finality to this singer's death.
Mark Twain came into this world with Halley's Comet, and he left with it too
Mark Twain, Samuel Clemons, whatever you want to call him, knew he was going to die. I do't mean that in the way that we all know we're going to die. No, Twain had almost a supernatural knowledge of his final days. Born on November 30, 1835—two weeks after the perihelion of Halley’s Comet, Twain said in 1909:
I came in with Halley’s Comet. It is coming again next year. The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'
How right he was. Twain passed away on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley's Comet reached its perihelion.
Tim Russert enjoying life away from the news room with is family
When Tim Russert, the TV journalist and trusted newsman passed away on June 13, 2014, it shocked everyone. The host of Meet the Press seemed happy and healthy, so how could death come so fast for someone who was so prepared to take the world by storm?
Russert passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest plaque ruptured in his left anterior descending coronary artery. It wasn't just that he had a heart attack, the event made his heart lose its rhythm, something that happens in about 15% of all heart attacks.
Before his death, Russert was diagnosed with asymptomatic coronary artery disease, but it's not clear why he just suddenly had a heart attack. Dr. Scott Monrad, director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center in New York City frankly said that Russert just had bad luck.
Steve Irwin gives the thumbs up before heading into dangerous water
Steve Irwin was always a shining light in the minds of people around the world, not just because he was funny and informative, but because he just seemed like an all around good guy. Sadly, he passed away while filming an episode of the Crocodile Hunter in 2006 when he was stung by a stingray.
According to cameraman Justin Lyons, everything on the day had gone well and they were getting the final shot when Irwin was struck by the ray. Lyons told the Sydney Morning Herald:
I had the camera on, I thought this is going to be a great shot, and all of sudden it propped on its front and started stabbing wildly, hundreds of strikes in a few seconds. I panned with the camera as the stingray swam away and I didn't know it had caused any damage. It was only when I panned the camera back that I saw Steve standing in a huge pool of blood... He had a two-inch-wide injury over his heart with blood and fluid coming out of it and we had to get him back to the boat as fast as we can... I was saying to him things like 'think of your kids Steve, hang on, hang on, hang on', and he calmly looked up at me and said 'I'm dying' and that was the last thing he said.
Cliff Burton, the bassist for Metallica is all smiles before his final bus ride
Metallica was on an insane upward trajectory in September 1986. Earlier that year they released "Master of Puppets" on Elektra Records, it's still one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all time and featured Burton's melodic bass playing all over it.
The band toured the hell out of this album, and it was on one of these endless tours where Burton passed away. On September 26, 1986, the band was traveling between dates in Sweden and by chance Burton won the bottom bunk on their tour bus. Before 7am the bank woke up to the bus careening over patch of black ice, Burton was thrown through the window and when the bus fell on its side it crushed the 24 year old bassist.
An investigation into the crash cleared the driver of any wrong doing, although the band is still in disbelief over the claim of "black ice." Hetfield later explained his anger:
It hit so-called black ice, skidded out and bounced once, and that’s when he went through the window, and the bus went right on him. It was pretty quick and I know he didn’t know what hit him. Coming out and finding your buddy under the bus is not something you want to go through. Our first reaction was anger – one of the things we were good at... Why did this happen? Where’s the driver? Let me smell your breath.’ I walked for miles looking for this black ice in my underwear, when it’s 20 below. There were screams from the crew who were still trapped in there, screaming in pain – broken collar bones, toes, all that.
President Roosevelt ran for a fourth term even though he knew he was sick
To say that FDR was popular is an understatement. Not only his new deal help stabilize the American economy, but his deft hand led America through the second World War. He was a politician that people trusted and looked up to.
However, through the end of World War II his health was deteriorating at a massive rate. Aside from the polio that kept him confined to a wheelchair he was struggling with a violent cough and fatigue. On March 28, 1944, he was diagnosed with reduced lung capacity, hypertension, acute bronchitis, and congestive heart failure. None of that stopped FDR from running for, and winning, a fourth term.
82 days into his fourth term, on April 12, 1945, he passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia.
Mark Matays falling to his death, 1974
This terrifying final image may look staged, but it was captured in the blink of an eye by a photographer ready to capture a horrifying piece of history. On May 15, 1974, 21 year old Mark Matays stood at the top of a building on Coney Island and threatened to end his life.
Matays crossed the barrier on the roof of the middle-income Trump Village housing project and contemplated life as he waited for the right moment to take his own. police arrived on the scene and for the next agonizing hour they attempted to coax him away from his deadly perch.
Their work failed to keep Matays from engaged, and he stopped the conversation and jumped from the building, falling 23 stories to his death. Photographer Bruce Page was on hand to catch the jumper's brutal final moment.
Dennis Dilda poses with his family before his execution
In 1885 a truly strange story occurred in the American Southwest. Dennis Dilda killed a man named Jenkins while working on a Yavapai County, Arizona Territory before hiding the body on the property. Dilda couldn't stay cool about the crime, and when the authorities showed up to investigate Jenkins' disappearance Dilda killed Deputy Sheriff John Murphy and hid his body as well before going on the run.
Dilda couldn't stay hidden forever and he was caught by the law and dragged back to Yayapai to stand trial. He was tried and convicted for the murders, with the sentence of death. Before walking to the gallows in Prescott on February 5, 1886, he posed for a photo with his family. It's believed that something like 800 people watched his execution.
The last photo of George Mallory And Sandy Irvine as they attempted to climb Mount Everest, 1924
Adventurers have been dreaming of scaling Everest from the moment it was discovered, but it's a deadly climb that's claimed more lives than any other mountain. Aside from the possibility of falling off a huge mountain, climbers can fall victim to high altitude pulmonary edema, frostbite, and free-falling icefall slips. It's estimated that one in eight climbers dies on Everest.
In 1924, George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, disappeared during Mallory's third summit attempt. Mallory, an avid mountain climber knew the dangers of climbing the mountain without proper equipment, but after receiving one of the few summit bids from Nepal and Tibet, he had to go for it.
Irvine was a smart, well respected young man who created a light, reliable supplemental oxygen tank while going to school at Oxford. He was, however, not adept at climbing. On June 8, 1924, Mallory and Irvine disappeared near the "Second Step," only a few hundred feet away from the summit. Mallory's body wasn't found until 1999, and thanks to the high altitude, freezing temperatures, and low oxygen levels, Mallory’s body only decayed slightly. Irving's body is still missing.
Robin Williams Celebrated His Final Birthday With Crystal the Monkey
The world was devastated on August 11, 2014, when Robin Williams committed suicide. For those that new him well, it was the end of a long, difficult era, when Williams was dealing with problems in his professional and personal life. Not only was his career stalling, but he had just leaned that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease.
It turned out that the Parkinson's diagnosis was incorrect, he was really suffering from Lewy body dementia, an aggressive and incurable brain disorder that has an associated risk of suicide. After attempting to get his head straight at a rehab facility, Williams hanged himself in his bedroom. His longtime friend Eric Idle of Monty Python recounted an email exchange with Williams where he realized that the funnyman was saying goodbye:
All the time I was getting e-mails from him, and he was going downhill. Then he said he could come, but he didn’t want to be onstage. I said, ‘I totally get that.’ Because he was suffering from severe depression. We were in touch, and in the end he said, ‘I can’t come, I’m sorry, but I love you very much.’ We realized afterwards he was saying goodbye.