The Truth About The Rumors Surrounding Jayne Mansfield's Death

More than one talented entertainer has been struck down while their careers were still going strong. James Dean, for example, has become a Hollywood legend even though he only made three feature films, according to IMDb, before dying in a car crash. Similarly, Natalie Wood died in an accident that, four decades after it took place, remains controversial. Officially, she died by drowning, according to the Los Angeles Times, although the question of whether or not she was murdered remains.

Actress Jayne Mansfield (born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on April 19, 1933, according to Biography) also died while her career was still active. Not unlike the death of Natalie Wood, the details of Mansfield's death remain unclear decades after the dust settled. What is known is that the actress died in an extremely grisly auto accident outside of New Orleans.

Early in the morning of June 29, 1967, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mansfield and her companions were driving from Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans when the vehicle in which she was riding slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer, which had itself slowed down for a mosquito-spraying truck. Mansfield's car slid under the back of the truck, and her head struck the vehicle, killing her instantly. Also killed in the crash were two other adults: Mansfield's attorney, Sam Brody, and their driver, Ronnie Harrison. Three children in the back seat survived.

Jayne Mansfield was (probably) not killed by the devil

Officially, the cause of Mansfield's death was severe head trauma, according to The New York Times. She suffered a crushed skull and partial separation of her cranium. That's plenty gruesome on its own, but for more than five decades, rumors have circulated that her death was even worse. Photos from the crash site show her wig thrown from the car, and the way in which some of the pictures were taken seemed to suggest that she was fully decapitated in the accident. According to Snopes, the rumors are just that: rumors. Though Mansfield's death was indeed quite gruesome, it was not as bad as an urban legend has made it out to be.

Another rumor surrounding Jayne Mansfield's death, according to Vanity Fair, is that Old Scratch himself was involved. Mansfield was certainly involved, romantically and probably sexually, with Church of Satan ambassador Anton Szandor LaVey, even as she was still married to one man and carrying on an affair with another. One of the men, Mansfield's attorney, Sam Brody (who was himself married), apparently got on LaVey's bad side, and the Satanist supposedly cursed him, saying he'd die in a car accident. Brody did indeed die in a car accident — the very wreck that also claimed Mansfield's life, although attributing these deaths to the supernatural is an exercise best left to the superstitious. Further, it bears noting that it's impossible to say whether or not LaVey "cursed" Brody at all, to say nothing of claiming that Old Nick actually came through for him.