Celebrity Autopsies With Disturbing Discoveries

Collectively, we become so enamored with our celebrities, the artists and charismatic figures who make TV, movies, music, and sports so transcendently captivating, that we want to know everything about them — how they grew up, who they're dating, who made the clothes they're wearing, and even how they're coping during a personal struggle. The insatiable but pleasurable desire to flesh them out and make them feel like whole people we know personally blurs the lines between public and private, and fact and fiction.

Probably none of these journeys into the off-screen or off-the-record lives of celebrities is more personal, more exceedingly intimate than when their autopsies are entered into the public record, the curious and often sordid factors of their surprising or early deaths laid out for all the world to see. They aren't a fun read, but it is interesting (and also heartbreaking) to learn how those seemingly immortal larger-than-life figures shuffled off that proverbial mortal coil. Here are some recent celebrity deaths that shocked the world, until the surprising details of their autopsies stunned even more.

This article contains reverences to substance abuse and suicide. If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.


The music world, and music fans around the world, mourned deeply when Prince died suddenly in April 2016. A talent for the ages, Prince ruled the '80s and '90s with his hard-to-pigeonhole combination of R&B, pop, soul, funk, and rock, and he was among the very best to ever sing, play guitar, write music, or dance. Among the classic tunes for which Prince is responsible: "Purple Rain," "Little Red Corvette," "Raspberry Beret," and "When Doves Cry."

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, two employees discovered the body of Prince in an elevator at his Paisley Park home and recording complex; the musician had died at least six hours earlier. According to the Associated Press, an autopsy released six weeks after Prince's death cited the cause of death as an accidental overdose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, a clinical and extremely potent painkiller. (Prince had suffered from, and had surgery on, a hip made weak by years of acrobatic and adventurous dancing and performing.) 

In 2018, the AP published the toxicology report from that autopsy, which listed in intricate detail just how much drugs had been in Prince's system when he died at age 57. According to the report, fentanyl was present in the musician's blood at a rate of 67.8 micrograms per liter; fatal doses of 3 to 58 micrograms have been previously recorded. The concentration of the drug in Prince's liver registered at 450 micrograms per kilogram; experts believe a level of 70 micrograms per kilogram is almost certainly deadly.

Cory Monteith

Almost as shocking as the death of 31-year-old actor Cory Monteith was the nature of how he died — it was so utterly counter to his public persona and the character for which he was best known, sweet jock-turned-singer (and lunkheaded boyfriend) Finn Hudson on Fox's mega-popular teen musical dramedy "Glee."

In July 2013, according to CNN, Monteith's body was discovered in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver. His death came just a few months after he entered a rehabilitation facility for not the first time to treat substance abuse issues, which he'd told Parade two years earlier, began when he was 13, when he'd cut classes to drink and smoke marijuana. Monteith attempted to parlay his struggles into his art, convincing director Josh C. Waller to cast him as a drug-addicted character in the indie drama "McCanick." "He was like, 'I can do this character. I know this character. I was this character. I have lived elements of this,'" Waller told People.

According to a coroner's report (via People), Monteith had been dead for hours by the time he was discovered. Authorities also recovered paraphernalia including a "spoon with drug residue and a used hypodermic needle" and two empty champagne bottles, consistent with the ruling that the actor died of a mixture of alcohol and heroin.

Brandon Lee

Due to an abundance of caution and protocol, fatal accidents on big movie productions are exceedingly rare. That makes it all the more tragic when someone does lose their life while making a film. By 1993, Brandon Lee was one of the fastest-rising stars in Hollywood. The son of late martial arts and movie legend Bruce Lee, the 28-year-old actor had starred in a couple of action movies and was primed to break out big with "The Crow," Alex Proyas' film adaptation of the dark, violent, cult classic comic series about deceased rock star Eric Draven who becomes an avenging angel, killing the thugs and criminals who murdered him and his girlfriend. 

According to the New York Post, one scene in "The Crow" called for actor Michael Massee, portraying the film's chief villain, to shoot Draven/Lee from a close distance. Unbeknownst to Massee, a fragment from a previously used projectile had stuck in the barrel of the prop gun. When the actor fired, the gunpowder inside of the blank cartridge sent the fragment into Lee. The actor died after six hours of surgery proved futile.

According to the Los Angeles Times, medical examiners found a .44-caliber bullet lodged in Lee's spine, and believe that part of it tore into the actor's abdomen, raising questions about weapons procedure on movie sets. The real bullet had apparently been used for a close-up shot, and not properly discarded.

Carrie Fisher

A celebrated author, memoirist, and screenwriter, Carrie Fisher achieved pop culture immortality in her early twenties when she portrayed Princess Leia Organa in the original "Star Wars" and many of its sequels. The franchise's countless fans went into deep mourning in December 2016 when the 60-year-old, according to People, went into cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles. As soon as the plane touched down, Fisher was rushed to an L.A. hospital, where she died soon thereafter.

Fisher's use of illicit substances was well-known and well documented, particularly in her own books and one-person shows. "I would tell you, from my perspective, that there's certainly no news that Carrie did drugs," Fisher's brother, Todd Fisher, told Entertainment Tonight. "If you want to know what killed her, it's all of it," he added, referring to the results of his sister's autopsy, made public in June 2017. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, a toxicology review found evidence of methadone, cocaine, alcohol, MDMA (better known as the party drug ecstasy), and opiates, including an "exposure to heroin," in Fisher's body. However, medical examiners listed Fisher's official cause of death as sleep apnea, per The Guardian.

Robin Williams

Whether it was his frenetic, seemingly improvised stand-up gigs in the '70s, or his performance as wild alien Mork on "Mork and Mindy," or starring in a hit comedy like "Mrs. Doubtfire," or acting in a drama like "Good Will Hunting" and winning an Academy Award for his troubles, tens of millions of people absolutely adored Robin Williams, one of the most popular and definitive entertainers of the late 20th century.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, police responded to a 911 call from Williams' home in Tiburon, California, on August 11, 2014, and discovered the actor dead, initially pinpointing the cause of death to be suicide by asphyxiation. His publicist reported that Williams had been suffering from depression, while a medical history intake (via THR) found he'd endured an increase in episodes of paranoia and that he'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a progressive and debilitating neurological condition. An autopsy officially ruled the cause of Williams' death to be suicide while a toxicology procedure found antidepressants and a Parkinson's drug in Williams' system. 

However, an autopsy revealed that Williams didn't actually have Parkinson's disease — he had Lewy body disease, a relatively rare condition whose symptoms are so similar to Parkinson's that doctors may confuse the two.

Brittany Murphy

After a white-hot career in the mid-1990s and early 2000s with big roles in "Clueless," "Girl, Interrupted," and "8 Mile," Brittany Murphy's career cooled off considerably. At the same time, she became a tabloid fixture for her personal life, particularly after she married fringe movie industry figure Simon Monjack, who friends of Murphy said in the 2021 documentary "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" (via Today) was responsible for his wife's rapid weight loss. 

Murphy died at age 32 in December 2009, according to The Guardian. What's shocking was what killed Murphy was something relatively mundane and often preventable: pneumonia. In February 2010, according to Today, a coroner's report cited menstrual flow that triggered a serious case of anemia (an iron deficiency), which left Murphy in such a weak and immunocompromised state that her body wasn't able to fight off the viral infection. "This was not something that she just got a day or so before," retired medical examiner Dr. Lisa Scheinin said in "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" (via Us Weekly)."She was walking around with this for some time."

Four years after Murphy's death, her father, Angelo Bertolotti asked for a lab report to be conducted on his daughter's remains. Technicians discovered an abnormally high presence of heavy metals in a hair sample, according to ABC News. "I have a feeling that there was a definite murder situation here," Bertolotti worked out on "Good Morning America." "It's poison, yes, I know that."

Paul Walker

In a cruel and heartbreakingly ironic twist of fate, the man who made the car-racing-oriented "Fast and Furious" movies an international blockbuster sensation, died in a sports car, the victim of a terrible vehicular accident. In 2013, according to the tabloid The Daily Mail, Paul Walker was riding as a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT when driver Roger Rodas lost control at speeds of around 100 mph. The car crashed and reportedly broke almost in half before bursting into flames. Rodas died in the tragedy, and his autopsy showed that his skull had endured so much damage that it left his brain exposed. The details of Walker's death are equally lurid and disturbing.

According to the Los Angeles County Coroner Walker's body was discovered in a "pugilistic stance," meaning the 40-year-old actor died with his arms up, instinctively trying to shield his head and face from impact. Authorities listed the official cause of death as "combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries," although Walker also suffered a broken jaw, collarbone, and pelvis. The autopsy suggested that Walker died moments after the crash, as bits of soot were discovered in his trachea, inhaled with his final breath. The fire was particularly devastating — Walker's body was so badly burned that none of his organs were deemed suitable for donation.

Michael Jackson

In June 2009, Michael Jackson was rehearsing for a series of comeback shows he thought might restore him to his status as The King of Pop, a designation earned in the '80s and '90s for huge sales of albums like "Thriller" and "Bad." It wasn't meant to be — on June 25, 2009, his personal physician Conrad Murray found Jackson, 50, not breathing in his bed, according to The Sun.

Murray would later be convicted of involuntary manslaughter for his role in Jackson's death. According to People, Jackson paid Murray $150,000 a month to treat the singer's ailments, including insomnia, delivering a nightly dose of propofol — not a sleeping aid but a powerful surgical anesthetic. That wasn't the only drug found in Jackson's system after his death — examiners also identified midazolam, diazepam, lidocaine, and ephedrine, serious prescription narcotics drugs that "have no place in an unmonitored setting or in unskilled hands," a physician told CNN. Another revelation: "There was no indication from the autopsy that there was anything anatomically wrong with him that would lead to premature death," Dr. Christopher Rogers reported to CNN. He did, however, note some cosmetic alterations to Jackson's appearance, including lips that had been tattooed pink and a portion of the singer's scalp tattooed black to make wigs blend in more naturally with his hairline, according to CNN.

Heather O'Rourke

Heather O'Rourke sadly didn't live long enough to compile a lengthy resume of movie and TV appearances, but she nevertheless made a major and memorable impact on mainstream horror films. O'Rourke made her big-screen debut in the 1982 scary classic "Poltergeist" as Carol Ann Freeling, the towheaded child who gets sucked into another dimension (via a TV) by angry spirits. She also delivered the film's creepy, iconic line, "They're heeeeeere," and reprised her role in two "Poltergeist" sequels. The final leg of the trilogy hit theaters on June 10, 1988, four months after O'Rourke died, mere weeks after her 12th birthday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, O'Rourke experienced abdominal pain so severe that she was urgently taken to Children's Hospital of San Diego. She died during an emergency surgery, and a hospital spokesperson told reporters that the cause of death was related to intestinal stenosis, an extremely serious bowel obstruction that O'Rourke had been unknowingly suffering for her entire life. The stenosis brought on an infection, which in turn caused septic shock, triggering cardiac and pulmonary arrest.

Tawny Kitaen

Perhaps the quintessential "video vixen" in the 1980s, the era where hard rock and hair metal bands performed songs about overwhelming feelings of love, lust, and affection, and needed a real-live woman to embody the women of which they sang, a scantily-clad Tawny Kitaen (according to CNN) starred in many music videos, notably "Here I Go Again" and "Is this Love" by the band Whitesnake, whose frontman, David Coverdale, she'd marry and divorce. Kitaen's other notable work includes the Ratt video "Back for More," the 1984 Tom Hanks movie "Bachelor Party," and the early 1990s reboot of "WKRP in Cincinnati." In more recent years, Kitaen's highest-profile appearance was a stint on the second season of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2008, in which she sought treatment for her addictions to cocaine and prescription painkillers.

In May 2021, per a notice from the Orange County Coroner's Office, Kitaen died at her home in Newport Beach, California, at age 59. Five months later, that same government agency released the findings of an autopsy performed on the late actor. According to the Times of San Diego, officials ruled her death to be the result of natural causes, specifically dilated cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart that can't effectively pump blood. Mild coronary atherosclerosis, a buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits in the arteries, contributed to the heart malfunction. Additionally, medical examiners found small amounts of prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications in Kitaen's system.

David Carradine

A member of the Carradine family — his father was character actor John Carradine, and his brothers include Keith Carradine and Robert CarradineDavid Carradine served in the Army before going into the family business. He found his breakout role as Kwai Chang Caine on the cult 1970s TV action show "Kung Fu," and enjoyed a major career resurgence when he starred as the titular, ominous villain in Quentin Tarantino's two-part "Kill Bill" saga in the early 2000s.

Carradine wouldn't get to enjoy his comeback for long — in June 2009, according to Reuters, the 72-year-old actor was found dead in a Bangkok hotel room. Initially, police in Thailand reported that Carradine had died of asphyxiation by hanging, as crime scene photos (per ABC News) depicted a rope around his neck. According to Metro, Carradine didn't leave a note, and with all other things considered, authorities didn't believe any foul play took place but also didn't immediately rule out suicide. Other bits of evidence from the scene, such as how the rope was wrapped around Carradine's genitals, and that he was wearing a wig and fishnet stockings, suggested that the actor died as the result of a sex act gone awry. "The cause of death was asphyxiation, an inability to breathe," forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden said. "He didn't die of natural causes, and he didn't die of suicidal causes from the nature of the ligatures around the body, so that leaves some kind of accidental death."

Johnny Lewis

In the early 2000s, rising star Johnny Lewis landed big roles on "Malcolm in the Middle," "Boston Public," "American Dreams," "Smallville," and "The O.C." Around this time, he also dated Katy Perry for a year, according to Us Weekly, and played Half-Sack on "Sons of Anarchy," until he quit; per Los Angeles Magazine, he'd tired of the show's violent storylines.

After leaving the FX biker drama, Lewis endured a number of personal and legal challenges. According to E! News, he went-through a hard-fought custody battle and was arrested for assault on more than one occasion. When Lewis was released from jail in 2012, the actor's father rented him a room at the Writers' Villa, a mansion operated as a retreat for creatives owned by wealthy arts patron Cathy Davis. After receiving a report of a woman screaming (per E! News) police arrived at the villa and found Lewis dead in the driveway; he had either fallen or jumped off of the building and sustained fatal injuries to his skull. Police then made another grisly discovery: the body of Davis, 81, who, according to a coroner's report, died of strangulation and blunt-force trauma. Detectives believe that Lewis beat Davis (and her cat) to death.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lewis had a history of drug abuse, and it was assumed that narcotics had something to do with his behavior on the night he died. However, an autopsy uncovered no indication of intoxication.

Michael K. Williams

Michael K. Williams tended to play complicated characters and complex, likable bad guys. His smoldering intensity served him well in the 2000s and beyond, a golden age of TV drama. He brought to life the iconic role of stickup artist Omar Little on the cult classic "The Wire," played racketeer Chalky White on the period drama "Boardwalk Empire," and earned Emmy nominations for his work in "Bessie," "The Night Of," "When They See Us," and "Lovecraft Country." Through all of it, according to NBC News, Williams struggled with substance abuse issues.

According to the New York Post, Williams didn't show up for an engagement on Saturday, September 4, 2021, and a relative went to the actor's penthouse in Brooklyn two days later to see if he was alright. Police were summoned to the home on a report of an "unresponsive," "cold" man laying face-down in the dining room. As there was heroin present on a nearby table, Williams' death was initially suspected to be an overdose of the opiate.

About three weeks later, per the Associated Press (via NPR), New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner announced the results of an autopsy, determining that Williams, 54, died of acute drug intoxication. Heroin was found in the actor's system, along with cocaine and the powerful prescription painkillers parafluorofentanyl and fentanyl.

George Michael

George Michael was a superstar two times over. In the mid-1980s, he was a sweet and smiling teen idol type as one-half of (but the chief creative force behind) Wham!, a pop duo who churned out bubblegum hits like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Last Christmas," "I'm Your Man," and "Careless Whisper." By 1987, Michael had gone solo, releasing the blockbuster "Faith" (via Biography), an album full of the music Michael would make for the next decade or so, including mature and sophisticated soul-pop like "One More Try," "I Want Your Sex," "Kissing a Fool," and "Father Figure."

According to Entertainment Tonight, George Michael died on Christmas 2016. The 53-year-old singer-songwriter's U.S. manager reported that Michael had not been sick but had died sometime after he went to bed the previous evening. Michael's partner, Fadi Fawaz (via Twitter), found him "dead peacefully in bed first thing in the morning."

With little to no outward signs or warning of the death, an autopsy was performed on Michael's body. Medical examiners determined that the musician died of a combination of a fatty liver and dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis, according to the Irish Times. The latter two causes are diseases of the heart — dilated cardiomyopathy weakens and stretches the left ventricle, diminishing the quality of blood flow, while myocarditis is an inflammation of the whole organ generally brought on by an infection.

Heath Ledger

First associated with teen movies because of his breakthrough role in the 1999 high school comedy "10 Things I Hate About You," Heath Ledger quickly proved his versatility. In rapid succession, he starred in the war drama "The Patriot," the historical action flick "A Knight's Tale," and "Brokeback Mountain," a modern-day Western about the profound but doomed romance between two male shepherds. Portraying a taciturn, lovesick cowboy landed Ledger his first nomination for an Academy Award, a prize he'd later win for his startling and layered portrayal of comic book villain The Joker in 2008's "The Dark Knight." Sadly, he wouldn't survive to Oscar night.

Shortly after 3 p.m. on January 22, 2008, according to Reuters, a housekeeper discovered 28-year-old Ledger face-down and nude near the end of a bed in his apartment in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. Police were summoned, and they declared the actor dead at the scene. "We are investigating the possibility of an overdose," NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne said at the time. "There were pills within the vicinity of the bed."

Sleeping pills were discovered near Ledger's body, and according to the results of an autopsy published by CNN in February 2008, the medication was present in his system at the time of death. New York City's Medical Examiner's office ruled that Ledger died of accidental acute drug intoxication, having ingested a combination of the prescription painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication diazepam, the sleep aid temazepam, and sedatives alprazolam and doxylamine.

Cameron Boyce

In the 2010s, Cameron Boyce was a near constant presence on the Disney Channel. The young comic actor played Luke Ross in nearly 100 episodes of the sitcom "Jessie" and on crossovers with other shows, as well as the villainous Carlos Oscar De Vil, son of Cruella De Vil, in three highly-rated made-for-Disney "Descendants" movies. On the big screen, Boyce portrayed Adam Sandler's character's son in two blockbuster "Grown Ups" movies.

On the afternoon of July 6, 2019, Boyce was found unresponsive in his home in Southern California. Authorities were called, and the 20-year-old actor was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner. A spokesperson for the Boyce family confirmed the death to ABC News, revealing that the actor "passed away in his sleep due to a seizure which was the result of an ongoing medical condition" not widely publicly disclosed.

The L.A. County Medical Examiner-Coroner announced the results of the autopsy conducted on Boyce and determined that the performer's death was unexpected, accidental, and natural, the result of a seizure related to epilepsy, a neurological condition.

Amy Winehouse

With her throwback style and soulful, dazzling powerhouse vocals, British singer Amy Winehouse earned comparisons to traditional pop singers and jazz greats like Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, according to AllMusic. A critical and commercial sensation in her native U.K. upon the release of her 2003 debut album, "Frank," Winehouse became a global superstar for her sophomore record, 2006's "Back to Black." The album hit No. 2 on the Billboard album chart, while "Rehab," the jaunty-sounding but lyrically tortured single about Winehouse's addiction troubles, made the top 10. At the 50th Grammy Awards, Winehouse walked away with five awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year (for "Rehab") and Best New Artist.

London's Metropolitan police told The Guardian that they were summoned by ambulance dispatchers to go to a home in north London on a Saturday afternoon in July 2011, where a woman was found deceased. When they arrived, officers pronounced 27-year-old Winehouse dead.

The results of the first investigation into the cause of Winehouse's death were voided, when authorities discovered that the coroner hired to examine the singer's remains didn't have the proper credentials, according to The Guardian. A second inquest into Winehouse's death ruled that Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning. After a period of abstaining, Winehouse drank heavily, with a level of "416 mg of alcohol per deciliter" of blood, enough to trigger a comatose state and disable her ability to breathe.

Bubba Smith

The defensive end and tackle Bubba Smith was named to two Pro Bowl squads and won the 1971 Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Colts. After stints with the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers, Smith retired from the NFL in 1976 and successfully transitioned to acting, appearing on TV shows like "Charlie's Angels," "Wonder Woman," and "Vega$" before landing his signature role: quiet but forceful police officer Moses Hightower in 1984's "Police Academy," a part he'd play in five sequels.

According to the BBC, Smith, 66, was found deceased at his home in Los Angeles in August 2011. A cause of death wasn't immediately discernible, so the Los Angeles County Coroner's office performed an autopsy on the athlete and actor, determining that Smith died from "acute drug intoxication" — via the weight-loss medication phentermine — and that he also had high blood pressure, several extremely blocked arteries, and a heart about twice the regular size, per the Los Angeles Times.

After his death, Smith's brain was donated for research, where examiners found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a debilitating injury suffered by numerous former professional football players, according to the New York Times.

Junior Seau

Junior Seau is quantifiably one of the best linebackers to ever suit up for an NFL game. Over a 20 year career, spent primarily with the San Diego Chargers, the fifth overall pick in the 1990 draft amassed 1,847 combined tackles (third on the all-time list) and was so consistent that he was named to 12 Pro Bowl squads and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In May 2012 in Oceanside, California, per ESPN, Seau's girlfriend found the retired football star unconscious, a gun next to his dying body and a gunshot wound in his chest. Revival efforts failed, and Seau was pronounced dead at the age of 43. Within the week, the San Diego County Coroner released a report of its forensic autopsy, determining that Seau's death was a suicide, via a self-inflicted gunshot, according to ABC News.

Upon further examination later in 2012 by brain specialists associated with the National Institutes of Health, Seau tested positive for CTE, the degenerative neurological disease associated with repeated head trauma like that suffered by professional football players. Symptoms of the condition can include dementia and depression, according to ESPN.

Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood was famous for almost her entire life. At age 9, she costarred in the 1947 holiday classic "Miracle on 34th Street" and as a teenager landed the main female role in "Rebel Without a Cause," then starred in the Oscar-winning "West Side Story" in 1961.

One evening in November 1981, Wood, 43, joined friend Christopher Walken and her husband, actor Robert Wagner, on the yacht the Splendor, off the Southern California coast. According to the ship's captain Dennis Davern (via The Daily Beast), the couple got into a heated fight, and there's evidence that Wood left the boat and unsuccessfully tried to sail to land, per CNN. Whatever the circumstances of the night, Wood's body was found by a lifeguard off Catalina Island hours after her disappearance, according to CBS Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Coroner called Wood's death the result of an accidental drowning.

According to CNN, homicide detectives reopened the case in 2011 after receiving new information about Wood's death that the Los Angeles County Sheriff found "intriguing," in the words of spokesperson Steve Whitmore. After more investigation, Wood's death certificate was officially edited, the cause changing from "accidental drowning" to "drowning and other undetermined factors." The coroner shared more details in 2013 (via CNN), pointing out that Wood had bruises and abrasions on her body and face that she likely suffered before she hit the water, indicating an assault.

Anna Nicole Smith

From her work as a glamorous model for Guess Jeans to her unclothed pictorials for Playboy to her marriage to an oil tycoon more than 60 years her senior to her E! reality series "The Anna Nicole Show," millions of Americans were captivated with the every move of Anna Nicole Smith for a solid 15 years.

On February 8, 2007, Smith was found unconscious by her personal nurse in her hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, according to CNN. Rescue workers transported Smith to Memorial Regional Hospital, where soon thereafter the 39-year-old celebrity died. In the immediate aftermath, Smith's death was a mystery, with her attorney reporting that his client had suffered from flu-like symptoms, while local police hauled many bags of evidence out of the reality star's room.

According to Today, the Broward County medical examiner's office produced an autopsy that ruled Smith's death was the result of an accidental drug overdose. Bottles of 11 prescription drugs originally containing hundreds of pills were recovered from Smith's hotel room, with 600 no longer present, including 450 muscle relaxants and 62 tablets of Valium, an anti-anxiety medication. Per NBC Los Angeles, 44 separate prescription drugs were found in Smith's Bahamas home, among them painkillers, opiates, and sleeping pills. Medical examiners pinpoint Smith's death to a toxic and fatal combination of a minimum of nine medications.

Lucille Ball

The undisputed queen of television in the medium's first few decades, Lucille Ball virtually invented the sitcom with "I Love Lucy," which she starred on and helped run with her then-husband, Desi Arnaz. Ball later starred on two more long-running CBS sitcoms, "Here's Lucy" and "The Lucy Show," and branched out into movies and producing before returning to TV for one final show in the mid-1980s, the short-lived "Life with Lucy."

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ball underwent a six-and-a-half-hour heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A. on April 18, 1989, with doctors replacing an aortic valve and part of the aorta. Within the week, Ball was able to eat and walk around the hospital, only to die eight days later. The cause of death, per Cedars-Sinai spokesperson Ronald Wise: a part of the main artery, the aorta, not the section which had been operated on, ruptured, leading to heart failure. After 47 minutes of revival attempts, doctors declared the comedian dead at the age of 77.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Hunter revealed in the Reelz series "Autopsy" (via People) that while the ruptured aorta is what killed Ball, the heart part was taxed by the long-term use of amyl nitrate, better known as "poppers," a street drug used to boost the intensity of a sexual encounter. Ball probably wasn't using the inhalant for recreational use. "It's original purpose was as a prescription drug to treat pain in the chest," said Hunter.

John Bonham

Led Zeppelin might be the quintessential classic rock, blues rock, and hard rock band. They're at least one of the most popular acts in history — the fifth-best-selling act in the U.S., according to the RIAA, with more than 112 albums sold. More than 24 million of those are of the group's 1971 LP "Led Zeppelin IV," which contains some of the band's most famous songs, including "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," and "Stairway to Heaven." Along with the howling vocals of Robert Plant and the guitar acrobatics of Jimmy Page, those tunes became classic rock staples because of the energetic, thunderous drumming of John Bonham.

Bonham's nickname was "Bonzo," which rhymes with "gonzo," an assessment of not just the way he pounded on a drum set, but the way in which he partied. Bonham was a heavy drinker, according to Rolling Stone, a habit he reportedly carried on up until the day he died. In late September 1980, the members of Led Zeppelin met at the Windsor, England, home of guitarist Jimmy Page for rehearsals. According to a coroner's inquest (per the Associated Press, via the Spokesman-Review), Bonham drank throughout the day, imbibing as many as 10 quadruple shots of vodka, or the equivalent of 40 servings. Then Bonham passed out, and never woke up. The drummer died at the age of 32. The real cause of death wasn't alcohol poisoning, but rather Bonham unconsciously asphyxiating on the vodka his body vomited.