The most persistent celebrity death conspiracies

Andy Kaufman, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, John F Kennedy, Buddy Holly - do these famously dead celebrities really live on?

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The most persistent celebrity death conspiracies
Written By
Emma Daly and Paul Jones

New sightings of US star Andy Kaufman, 29 years - almost, but not quite, to the week - after his apparent death from lung cancer, have re-ignited rumours that he is, in fact, alive and well and living in Alburquerque.

Kaufman - known for his role in sitcom Taxi and celebrated by Jim Carrey in biopic Man on the Moon (and by REM in the song of the same name) - was more of a performance artist than an out-and-out comic actor. He enjoyed devising elaborate hoaxes and was said by many, including close friend and colleague Bob Zmuda, to have been obsessed with the idea of faking his own death. Although Zmuda has since said he believes Kaufman really is dead - and despite the existence of a death certificate - some fans still maintain he is alive.

Check out the report below featuring the "new footage" to make up your own mind, then read our guide to some of the other most famous celebrity death conspiracy theories of all time...


Kurt Cobain

Despite his well-documented battles with depression and drug addiction, a family history of suicide and the presence of a handwritten suicide note, some people still maintain that the verdict of "death by self-inflicted gunshot wound" is not the real truth behind the Nirvana frontman's death aged 27 on 8 April 1994. Claims that Cobain was in fact murdered, cite evidence including a lack of blood at the scene and the suggestion that the dosage of heroin found in his bloodstream would have been too high to allow him to pull the trigger himself. Meawhile, a private investigator working on the case believed that the supposed "suicide" note was in fact a letter announcing Cobain's plans to leave his wife Courtney Love and the music business and that references to suicide had been added later.


Marilyn Monroe

The Hollywood icon's death aged 36 on August 5 1962 was decribed as "acute barbiturate poisoning" and "probable suicide" by the LA coroner but many have since concluded it was murder staged to look like suicide. There were discrepancies in reports of what time Marilyn made and received her final phone calls, while no trace was found in her stomach of the Nembutol capsules which are supposed to have killed her, suggesting they had not been swallowed, despite the fact that death had been instantaneous. Theories as to why she might have been killed generally revolve around the Kennedy political clan, including one that says an affair with one of the brothers, and Marylin's ambition to be First Lady, were becoming embarrassing, while another claims she was murdered by the Mafia in retribution for Bobby Kennedy's tough stance on organised crime. 


John F Kennedy

This is the big one - not just in terms of celebrity death conspiracies but of conspiracy theories in general, with as many as 2,000 books thought to have been written on the subject in the 50 years since the US President was shot and killed while travelling as part of a motorcade in an open-topped car in Dallas, on 22 November 1963. The Warren Commission found Lee Harvey Oswald to be the lone gunman responsible for Kennedy’s death but numerous commentators have since pointed to a host of discrepancies including “magic” bullet trajectories, inconsistent autopsy finding, and a host of eyewitness accounts that identify the source of the shots as the now infamous grassy knoll, rather than the book depository in which Oswald was stationed. Suspects have included the CIA and other shadowy government agencies intent on escalating the war in Vietnam, that Kennedy was working to end, as well as Cuban exiles blaming the president for the failed overthrow of Fidel Castro, the Mafia and Kennedy's supposedly over-ambitious vice-president Lyndon B Johnson.



Bruce Lee

At the age of 32 martial arts legend Bruce Lee was pronounced dead. The official cause was cited as acute cerebral edema (swelling of the brain). But at such a high level of fitness, and a young age, conspiracy stories of a faked death soon began. After his coffin lid had to be replaced, many assumed he'd kicked it off. There have also been suggestions that Bruce was actually killed by a fatal martial arts blow, while others point the finger at poison. Some think the mafia was inolved, too. Pictures of Bruce Lee in his casket circulate the web. Bruce even had two funerals – one in which his casket was carried by Steve McQueen. Yet, websites scream out that Bruce is in fact alive and well and, would you believe it, living out his days in Brussels.


Elvis Presley

Since his death Elvis has been ‘seen’ in more places than we’ve had hot dinners. There’s actually a whole website ‘elvis-is-alive.com’ dedicated to unearthing the truth. They have an online shop and everything. The King, as he was often referred, was found dead on his bathroom floor. President Jimmy Carter issued a statement saying the face of American popular culture would be permanently changed. But this didn’t calm the masses and their conspiratorial natures. A presumed mistake on Elvis’s gravestone didn’t slow the rumour mill either – his middle name Aaron had two 'a's in it, which his parents hadn’t originally intended, but was on his birth certificate – and photos suggest he’s even popped up in Graceland post-death. But, given we could pick up a costume and have Elvis in the building within the hour, we’ll politely agree to disagree. 


Michael Jackson

Can you believe it, Michael Jackson has his own post-death non-believers website, too. Aptly entitled ‘michaeljacksonsightings.com’, the website hopes to demonstrate that the King of Pop lives on. Michael, whose death was surrounded by drama after his personal doctor was hauled into court, was about to kick off a huge tour, entitled This Is It before being found dead in his home. Some think he simply couldn’t do ‘it’ and faked his own death to avoid the commitments of his tour. For some, the cover on posthumous album Michael, is the biggest clue yet that he lives on - zoom in on his lips and the word 'Alive' appears to be written. He’s also been ‘sighted’ in Disneyland, Switzerland and Israel along with a strange picture of Michael supposedly crouching on the second floor of his California cabin. 


Notorious B.I.G

In the world of Twitter, rapper and hip-hop artist Notorious B.I.G is alive and well. Fake B.I.G waxes lyrical about watching The Hills, his friendship with Puffy (he’s not moved on to calling him Diddy) and what he’s eating (a cheese Danish since you ask). The real B.I.G was shot to death in LA in 1997. After his death his double-disc set Life After Death fittingly went to number one in the US charts. B.I.G’s murder remains unsolved, although often linked to rival artist Tupac’s death, due to their similarities. But if his wannabe Twitter profile B.I.G can sit around tweeting in 140 or less characters. Perhaps the real B.I.G lives on, too. There have been reports B.I.G dresses as a cowboy and walks around Hollywood. Stranger things have happened, right? 


Buddy Holly

Going one step better than a website, Buddy Holly has his own book dedicated to the conspiracy of his death: Buddy Holly is alive and well on Ganymede. It looks set to be a film, too. All we really know is the day Buddy Holly’s plane disappeared somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle, is the day the music died. Whether he’s living out the rest of his days in a pair of high tops and a blue moon suit as is suggested via the wonders of YouTube, who knows. As long as he’s got a guitar, he can live on wherever, surely? 

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