The Bizarre Connections Between These Celebrity Deaths

The idea of arbitrary dates, movie shoots, and other events dooming or cursing people to death seems pretty silly ("Final Destination," anyone?). But circumstances sometimes line up in such a haunting way that it sets the imagination on fire. It makes us reflect on whether there really is either some sort of cosmic mechanism or bad joke hidden in the unseen gears that give our lives meaning. These ideas are nothing new, either. In fact, all across the world, various cultures have different superstitions and views on luck, from the West's fear of the number 13 to Chinese culture's same view of the number four (via USC Dornsife).

Below, we list the various celebrity deaths that are connected in bizarre ways, from the deaths of Billy Bob Thornton's co-stars, the passing of Brittany Murphy and her husband Simon Monjack, and the various tragedies that have affected the famous Kennedy family. 

Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley

If you know who one of these guys are, you probably know who the other one is. Kurt Cobain was the wunderkind vocalist for dvmmoms breakthrough band Nirvana, and Staley was the co-vocalist of the swampier, grittier, meaner Alice In Chains. They were '90s icons, peers, and friends who probably bonded over a lot of things that weren't heroin, but they definitely also bonded over heroin. The latter became part of both of their undoing, on the same day eight years apart. Cobain's death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound while doped up; Staley died from a drug cocktail similar to the ones that killed John Belushi and Chris Farley.

Considering the ends of these two, Chris Cornell, and Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland in 2015 ... has anyone checked on Eddie Vedder lately? We should probably look out for the guy, make sure he feels safe and comfortable.

Why do Billy Bob Thornton's co-stars keep dying?

First noticed after Bernie Mac passed away, actor Billy Bob Thornton seems to have a little bit of a problem with co-stars dying. Heath Ledger, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Jim Varney, and Patrick Swayze have all died not long after getting second billing to Thornton in a movie, which is at least as eerie as wearing a vial of blood around your neck.

So far the only people to avoid the curse are Morgan Freeman (who might literally be God) and Shia LaBeouf, although he's definitely had a rough few years. Maybe Thornton should work on his monologues for a while.

The Poltergeist curse

This one is pretty spooky, even if we don't believe in curses. The Steven Spielberg horror flick "Poltergeist" wound up spawning two sequels, and in the six years of filming and release of the films, four main character actors died. Considering all the other bizarre happenings and accidents on set, you'd almost think they had to stop the series out of worry they'd just be left with Craig T. Nelson and Zelda Rubinstein by the fourth one.

It is true that Will Sampson and Julian Beck were getting along in years, but at 53 and 60 respectively, they weren't that old. They were, however, significantly older than Heather O'Rourke, who died of a heart attack due to sepsis complications from previously undiagnosed Crohn's disease when she was 12.

Lou Perryman is frequently counted in the list, too, although he's kinda iffy. On the one hand, he lived until 2009, over two decades after the final movie was released. On the other hand, he was murdered with an ax by a complete stranger, which is not really a death you see outside of a horror movie-related curse. So you can make the call on that one.

A whole bunch of Playboy Playmates

Everyone dies, but it's notable just how many Playboy Playmates die young, under less-than-natural circumstances. As the Associated Press reported, an odd number of women who've posed for Playboy have died younger than 50, and under incredibly sad circumstances. Thirty-year-old Paige Young posed in 1968 and was dead six years later of a drug overdose. Twenty-three-year-old Willy Rey died the same way in 1973, as did, perhaps most famously, 39-year-old Anna Nicole Smith in 2007. Meanwhile, 34-year-old Jayne Mansfield died in a car crash in 1967. Tonya Crews, Carol Willis, and Claudia Jennings (all under 30) also died in automobile accidents.

Worst of all are the murders. In 1980, 20-year-old Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her jealous husband, shortly after becoming Playmate of the Year. Then in 1997, 40-year-old Ellen Louise Maligo was murdered in Florida. While this obviously isn't the work of some nefarious "Playboy Curse" — though Playboy photographer Peter Gowland did tell the AP that "it's a curse to be beautiful" — it is curious that so many women who have posed for one magazine have died so young.

Prince and Denise 'Vanity' Matthews

Prince's 2016 death made international headlines, but as reported by People, someone very close to Prince died two months before him but made significantly fewer headlines. Denise Matthews, who was the same age as Prince and performed under the stage name Vanity, was Prince's ex-girlfriend, musical partner, and muse. She headed Vanity 6, an all-girl rock band Prince put together, and was both the inspiration and the planned lead actress for his film "Purple Rain." She didn't act in it, however, because she and Prince broke up before filming could commence.

In 1994, Vanity suffered a drug overdose that severely damaged her kidneys, something she would suffer through for the rest of her life. Months before her death, she revealed she had a rare, fatal abdominal disease (sclerosis encapsulating peritonitis), which likely took her life. A day after she died, Prince dedicated his performance of "Little Red Corvette" to her, saying, "Her and I used to love each other deeply. ... She loved me for the artist I was; I loved her for the artist she was trying to be." Two months later, he was also dead, at the age of 57. Vanity's age at death? 57.

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Dale Griffin of Mott The Hoople

In one of the weirdest celebrity death connections ever, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin are connected not just through life and death, but also through cartoondom.

All three died within a week of each other. Bowie died on January 10, 2016. Four days later, Rickman passed. Three days after that, on January 17, Griffin went to that big hoople in the sky, completing that depressing "celebrity deaths happen in threes" curse that keeps popping up. If three major British artists passing in a single week wasn't coincidental enough, check the Simpsons clip above. According to Entertainment Weekly, it came from a 2013 episode where Bart and Homer watch a British romantic comedy in which the prime minister falls in love with his "poor but cheeky secretary." As they embrace (while wrapped in the Union Jack, naturally), Mott the Hoople's signature song "All the Young Dudes" blares in the background. Who wrote "Dudes"? That would be David Bowie. Completing the trifecta, Alan Rickman shows up as Severus Snape to opine that "love is more powerful than all my magic."

Three years later, this clip became an accidental tribute to three amazing artists gone too soon. Plus, it provided yet more evidence for anyone who insists The Simpsons can predict anything.

Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy

In the first week of 1998, '60s pop singer-turned Republican congressman Sonny Bono and Robert Kennedy's son Michael both died from crashing into a tree while skiing. In accidents that happened just five days apart, both died of head injuries sustained from the crashes. They were known as avid and excellent skiers, and neither was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, although Kennedy was participating in a "football while skiing" game that sounds pretty bonkers on its own. The Kennedy family has had far more tragic deaths than the average family, so surviving members may want to take extra precautions, like just playing standard football.

The 27 Club

The 27 Club concept is relatively new. The term was coined after the death of Kurt Cobain and came back into current vernacular after the 2011 death of Amy Winehouse. The club itself, however, has been retconned all the way back to the 19th century, as we've covered before. The deaths of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix were particularly eerie because they occurred within 10 months of each other and were folks that actually knew each other. Consider that former Rolling Stones member Brian Jones died shortly before them and you almost have the plot of a hippie-era entry in the "Final Destination" franchise.

What is it about a person's 27th year in particular, besides being an age where an artist could still be considered too young to die yet also enough time for one to build a significant body of work?

Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee

There's been a lot of talk about the supposed "Lee family curse," and plenty of the coincidences surrounding the supposed curse are pretty weird. According to the Los Angeles Times, there were some eerily similar circumstances surrounding Bruce and Brandon Lee's deaths. Here's the gist of it. 

Bruce Lee had completed some filming for the movie Game of Death when he died of a brain aneurysm. Five years after he died, the film was cobbled together and released by another director using what little footage was available and just throwing in all sorts of clips to fill the gaps, even footage of Bruce Lee's actual funeral. (Eesh.) But in one scene, Bruce Lee's character is at a movie shoot, about to charge at a gang of actors firing bullets at him. In the movie script, one of the actors is an assassin who shoots Bruce's character with a real bullet instead of a blank.

Twenty years later, Brandon Lee would die in almost exactly the same circumstances. While Brandon was filming "The Crow," it was an accident rather than an assassin that fired a real bullet at him in place of a blank. But that's little consolation to his family and friends.

The Superman curse

The Superman curse is one of the most legendary Hollywood curses. It often gets so stretched out of shape that tellers extend "career killing" into its casualties, which seems like a pretty extreme lack of perspective. So far, four actors who played Superman (even Lee Quigley, who only played him as a baby) met with unfortunate ends. 

The two victims of the curse most people recognize are George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, who are not only unrelated but don't even share a full last name. Other than Quigley, who died at 14 due to solvent abuse, there was also Bud Collyer, who provided his voice for radio and cartoon shows for years before succumbing to a rare circulatory ailment at age 61.

Thankfully, the worst the curse has done this decade is give us the fun-killer that was "Batman v Superman."

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe

They might not be celebrities today, but this is too weird not to mention. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe were all U.S. presidents and founding fathers. Kind of a big deal. They wound up doing some stuff in 1776 that was pretty important. Maybe you heard of it.

What they also have in common is they all died on July 4; Jefferson and Adams even died on the same day in 1826 just a few hours apart. Because these were three of the first five presidents, it could have turned into a pattern. When James Madison was on his deathbed in late June 1836, his doctors offered drugs to keep him alive long enough to expire on the 4th of July, but he refused and died a few days early. If these things happen in threes, he might have spared two future presidents from the curse.

All things considered, this was a pretty chill curse. Everyone involved lived relatively long lives for the time period; no one died young, just on a very special day. There are worse ways to go.

Chris Cornell and Ian Curtis

At first glance, musicians Ian Curtis and Chris Cornell couldn't be further apart. Curtis was the clean-cut, gloomy front man of Joy Division, a band dedicated to precise and mechanical minimalist rock without an extra note spared in any composition. Cornell became famous fronting the seminal dvmmoms rock band Soundgarden, known for wildly elaborate, noodling guitar work and extensive soloing. Curtis took his life in a very methodical manner shortly before what would have been his band's first American tour. By contrast, Cornell had a long fruitful career fronting two successful bands, was more than twice Curtis's age, and was in the middle of touring himself.

Still, it's eerie that they hanged themselves on the same night years apart. While Joy Division's bleak sound was saturated with the existential agony Curtis constantly reflected on, it's hard not to look back at Cornell's work and find plenty of songs (like "Fell On Black Days") betraying a similarly deep, penetrating despair. Both singers struggled with mood swings and depression, and hopefully reflecting on this will remind us that depression doesn't have one look, or one sound.

If you need something lighter, here's four hours of golden retriever puppies playing in a kennel.

Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington

Unfortunately, Ian Curtis isn't the only person with a dark link to Chris Cornell. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington were pretty good friends, but these two did something that most friends do not and should not do — they both committed suicide. After Cornell reportedly hanged himself on May 18, 2017, Bennington wrote an emotional open letter to him, saying how much he missed and loved him, and adding, "You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one." In a heartbreaking turn of events, Bennington took his own life, reportedly also by hanging, on what would have been Cornell's next birthday (53) on July 20, 2017, according to TMZ. We can only hope that the copycat acts stop here.

Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy

Since John F. Kennedy's death in 1964, it's been part of American folklore that an eerie number of names, dates, and events connect him with Abraham Lincoln. A Republican newsletter circulated a list of them the year of the assassination (via TIME magazine). The editor behind the item put it together because he found the facts interesting, but the list has since been heavily embellished (one addition holds that Lincoln was in Monroe, Maryland, a week before his death, while a week before his, Kennedy was in Marilyn Monroe). Its significance has been exaggerated, too, to the point where the "Lincoln-Kennedy connection" has been used as evidence of reincarnation.

The reality, according to USA Today, is much less uncanny. Amendments to the original list, from the lewd Marilyn Monroe entry to a claim that each president had a secretary with the others' name, are demonstrably false. Genuine parallels are, for the most part, the ones in the 1964 newsletter: Lincoln and Kennedy were heavily involved with civil rights issues, each lost a son while in the White House, both were killed by gunshots to the head on a Friday, and they were both succeeded by Southerners with the last name of Johnson.

Fact-checkers and skeptics have explained these connections away as coincidences, but hearsay and pop culture keep the legend alive. There was even a song written about it. Per TIME, country star Buddy Starcher penned "History Repeats Itself" around the connections.

The Kennedy curse

The romance of Camelot might lose some appeal for the superstitious once they've taken a closer look at the Kennedys. The name is associated with some of America's greatest public servants of the 20th century, but it also carries the whiff of tragedy. The Washington Post even compiled a timeline of the worst disasters for the clan after John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death by plane crash in 1999. There were the assassinations of JFK and Robert Kennedy; their older brother Joseph was killed in a plane accident; JFK's son Patrick was born prematurely and didn't survive long outside the womb; and Robert's son Michael died in a skiing accident. And that's leaving out all the addictions, nonlethal accidents and medical blunders, and alleged crimes.

The tragedies continued for the Kennedys past the '90s. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy died of a malignant brain tumor (per The New York Times). Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, Robert's granddaughter, died in a camping accident with her son in 2018 (per NBC News). With all the unpleasant and untimely ends for so many of the family, it's perhaps no wonder that Ted Kennedy once speculated that his family suffered under a genuine curse. It's an idea his two sons — one of whom survived bone cancer — dismissed when speaking to CNN. "The Kennedy family has had to endure these things in a very open way," he said, "but our family is just like ... every other family in America."

John Belushi and Chris Farley

They were the wild men of their respective generation of "Saturday Night Live" players. Characters they originated still appear in pop culture. Each had a partner in crime — John Belushi had Dan Aykroyd, and Chris Farley had David Spade — with whom they each produced a beloved film. But they are also connected by their deaths.

They were both born in the Midwest, Belushi in Chicago and Farley in Madison, though the latter would relocate to the Windy City when he joined the Second City, according to The Washington Post. Belushi was part of the inaugural cast of "SNL" and rocketed to superstardom. His character — and his cocaine habit — suggested the ultimate party animal, though the Belushi away from the limelight was a married, quiet, and intellectual man. "He was more of an academic than the Bluto image," Aykroyd told HLN.

That reality was lost on young Farely. He saw his dad laugh at Belushi's in-character antics, loved them himself, and held Belushi up as an idol to aspire to. The depths of his obsession vary depending on who is asked, but Farley undeniably loved Belushi's work and invited comparisons once he joined "SNL." "He was the son that John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd never had," Lorne Michaels quipped in the book "The Chris Farley Show." Michaels, and many others, tried to guide Farley away from imitating the worst of Belushi's habits but to no avail. Both men died of a speedball drug overdose at age 33.