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Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Last updated on: June 30, 2009 

Image: File photo of Michael Jackson performing during the halftime show at the NFL's Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena
Photographs: Gary Hershorn/Reuters

When stars pass away unexpectedly, fans all over the world are left shocked and stunned. And more often than not, conspiracy theories often spring up around the deaths of some of this celebrities -- be it Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley or John Lennon.

In the case of Jackson, who died of cardiac arrest five days back, it took hours for the first conspiracy theories to start circulating. The most popular is that he faked his death to escape the media glare and impending bankruptcy -- despite medical reports blaming an overdose of prescription drugs.

With inputs from PTI

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: A picture of Heath Ledger at makeshift memorial outside the apartment where he died in New York
Photographs: Nicholas Roberts/Reuters

Heath ledger's death in last January shocked fans, family and friends alike. The Australian actor, who apparently died of a drug overdose, was discovered by his housekeeper and his masseuse in his apartment.

Two weeks after his death, a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York concluded that the death was accidental 'resulting from the abuse of prescription medications.'

A case against Ledger's close friend Mary Kate Olsen, who was alleged to have supplied Ledger with the drugs, was also closed.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: File photo of Natasha Richardson arriving at the amFAR Gala in New York
Photographs: Jeff Zelevansky

Natasha Richardson had it all -- a loving husband in actor Liam Neeson, two sons, Micheal and Daniel and a successful career.

But on March 16, tragedy struck when the Parent Trap actress died of a head injury while taking a skiing lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec.

The most shocking part was that Richardson seemed to be fine after the fall, and even turned back paramedics and an ambulance which initially responded to the accident. But three hours later, after returning to her hotel room, she complained of a headache and was taken to a local hospital. Seven hours later, she was in a critical condition.

The next day she was flown to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where she died on March 18.

An autopsy conducted by the New York City Medical Examiners Office the following day revealed the cause of death was an 'epidural hematoma due to blunt impact to the head', and her death was ruled an accident.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: Anna Nicole Smith makes an appearance backstage in this file photo during a Live 8 concert
Photographs: Bradely Bower

Anna Nicole Smith's death was shocking too.

The model and former Playboy Playmate died of drug overdose on February 8, 2007, in Florida, at the age of 39.

A month later, her boyfriend Howard K Stern and doctors Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich were charged with giving her drugs from June 5, 2004 to January 26, 2006.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: The new US postage stamp commerating actress Marilyn Monroe, was unveiled in New York
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe's shocking death at her home in Los Angeles led to a number of conspiracy theories.

An autopsy found a cocktail of drugs in her system and the county coroner recorded the cause of death as acute barbiturate poisoning by accidental overdose.

However, speculation over Monroe's death continues to this day and centres on her relationships with US President John F Kennedy and his brother, Robert Kennedy. Most of the theories allege she was murdered either by the CIA or the Mafia as she knew too much about the Kennedy links to organised crime.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: Elvis Presley

Conspiracy theories have surrounded the demise of the Elvis Presley, who was found dead on his bathroom floor in Graceland in 1977.

Two autopsies into the death of the King of Rock 'n' Roll, whose prescription drug abuse was widely documented, concluded that he was killed by a sudden heart attack. And, yet there are many theories surrounding his death -- by far the most persistent being that he somehow faked his own death in a bid to boost flagging record sales.

Hundreds of thousands of supposed sightings of the legend have been claimed in the three decades since.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: John Lennon

The 1980s witnessed conspiracy theories surrounding the death of the former Beatle John Lennon.

He was shot dead outside the Dakota building in New York where he lived, by Mark David Chapman, on December 8, 1980.

Chapman was jailed for murder and is still in prison. But the most popular conspiracy theory over Lennon's death is that he was killed by a remote control. And those who believe this claim that Chapman was programmed by US government agents to kill Lennon and that they used the novel Catcher in the Rye as a signal to go ahead with the operation.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: Bruce and Brandon Lee

The exact details of Bruce Lee's untimely death are a subject of controversy. The actor was in Hong Kong to discuss a film with former James Bond star George Lazenby. He met with producer Raymond Chow and later drove together to his colleague Betty Ting's house.

A little later after Chow left, Lee complained of a headache, and Ting gave him a painkiller, Equagesic, which contained both aspirin and a muscle relaxant. Lee then went to lie down for a nap. But he never woke up. He was just 32-years-old.

Although there were no signs of injury, Lee's brain had swollen considerably. Though Lee's death was ruled as 'death by misadventure', his untimely demise fed many theories about his death, including murder involving the Triad society and a supposed curse on him and his family.

What was bizarre was that Lee's son Brandon Lee, also an actor, died 20 years after his father, in a freak accident while filming The Crow. He was 28.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix's death in London on September 18, 1970, has never been fully explained. According a doctor who initially attended to him, the musician had literally drowned in his own vomit, mainly red wine.

Earlier that fateful day, the musician had partied and later drove to his girlfriend's flat, where he died. His girlfriend claimed that Hendrix had taken nine of her prescribed sleeping pills.

It was not clear whether his death was a case of suicide or murder.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain's sudden death came as a shock to many.

The troubled frontman of the band Nirvana has been struggling with drug addiction as well as the professional and personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love.

On April 5, 1994, the estimated date of his death, Cobain's body was discovered at his home. He had apparently shot himself. He left a suicide note which read, 'I haven't felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing . . . for too many years now.'

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: James Dean

Hollywood actor James Dean was just 24 years old when his promising life was cut short in a car accident.

The two-time Oscar-nominated actor was preparing for a sports car race when he died in a head on collision with another car.

Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths

Image: Jim Morrison

Another star who died young was Jim Morrison, the charismatic frontman of The Doors. He was just 27 years old.

The singer was found dead in a bathtub in a Paris apartment in 1971. No autopsy was performed because the medical examiner claimed to have found no evidence of foul play.

However, the absence of an autopsy has left many questions regarding Morrison's cause of death.