5 Major Hollywood Mysteries

INTERNATIONAL NEWS PHOTO/AFP/Getty Images
INTERNATIONAL NEWS PHOTO/AFP/Getty Images

Hollywood is not all glitz, glamour, and cinema. A lot of things happen behind closed doors—so much so that what is considered the "truth" is not always as it seems. Here, we take a look at five major Hollywood mysteries.

1. ELIZABETH SHORT: TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.

On the morning of January 15, 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short—an aspiring young actress, who was born on July 29, 1924—was found in Los Angeles in one of the country's most famous (and ghastly) murders. Short had suffered a number of disturbing injuries: in addition to being cut in half at the waist, her face had been sliced from ear to ear, she had been completely drained of blood, and marks on her wrists indicated that she had been bound and possibly tortured before her mutilated body was dumped in a vacant lot. The press, who nicknamed Short "The Black Dahlia," had a field day, sensationalizing every detail of the brutal crime.

While police followed every lead they could to find Short's killer—interrogating her ex-boyfriends and any known male associates—they came up with no solid evidence. Then, in a brash move, Short's killer began antagonizing the police and even mailing the contents of her purse to local newspapers. Despite the killer's boldness, police could not track the culprit down, and the case remains one of Los Angeles' oldest cold cases.

2. GEORGE REEVES: MAN OF STEEL NO MORE 

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In the course of his 20-year acting career, George Reeves managed to rack up more than 80 film and television credits, most notably as the titular star of Adventures of Superman from 1952 to 1958. Life took a downward turn for Reeves following the end of the series: The acting jobs were not pouring in as he thought they would, and his marriage fell apart after it was discovered that he was having an affair with Toni Mannix, wife of MGM executive Eddie Mannix. Reeves fell into financial disarray and became deeply depressed.

On the night of June 16, 1959, Reeves died of a gunshot wound to the head. Though the police determined his death to be a suicide, Reeves' mother, Helen Besselo, was adamant that no matter how depressed her son might have been, he never would have killed himself. She retained the services of a private investigator to look into the matter. "Nearly everyone in Hollywood has always been led to believe that George Reeves’ death was a suicide," said Milo Speriglio, who helped investigate Reeves' death. "Not everyone believed it then, nor do they believe it now. I am one of those who does not."

Besselo had plenty of reason to believe that there may have been some foul play, as there were some strange occurrences surrounding Reeves' death. For starters, when Reeves allegedly killed himself, his fiancée and three guests were just downstairs. Even though they heard the gunshot, the foursome waited a considerable amount of time before calling the police. Also shell casings were found in various areas of the room where Reeves died, and his body was bruised. Though the official cause of death remains a suicide, rumors have long persisted that Eddie Mannix, the husband of Reeves' former lover, was in fact responsible for his demise.

3. MARILYN MONROE: A GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY? 

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To this day, the death of Marilyn Monroe remains shrouded in mystery. Her death was ruled a probable suicide after she overdosed on sleeping pills in August 5, 1962—but that was only the beginning of the story. In the more than 50 years since her passing, several theories and conspiracies have emerged regarding the Hollywood bombshell's death, among them:

  • She was assassinated by mafia boss Sam Giancana for threatening to expose information about his illegal operations.
  • She was killed at the behest of John and Robert Kennedy after threatening to go public about her affairs with both brothers.
  • She was given a deadly dose of medication by her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson (with whom she also had an affair).
  • She was murdered by the CIA, as she was used in several government operations to seduce world leaders, including Nikita Khrushchev.

According to police reports, some items had been taken from Monroe's home upon her death, including her personal diary, which allegedly could have contained key evidence against some very powerful people. In addition, in 2012, it was discovered that neither the FBI (which had tracked the actress' movements during her life) nor the National Archives had any of the files from Monroe's case.

In his 1983 memoir, Coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi—the man who performed Monroe's autopsy—wrote that the true details of Monroe's death will never likely be known. "On the basis of my own involvement in the case, beginning with the autopsy, I would call Monroe's suicide 'very probable,'" he wrote. "But I also believe that until the complete FBI files are made public and the notes and interviews of the suicide panel released, controversy will continue to swirl around her death."

4. PIER PAOLO PASOLINI: PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE 

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The world cinema industry was in shock when noted Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who courted controversy with films like Accattone and Salò, was murdered in 1975. Pasolini, who was 53 years old at the time, was brutally beaten and run over by his own vehicle. His 17-year-old-killer, Giuseppe Pelosi, admitted to killing Pasolini, and leaving his dead body near a soccer field. The admission of guilt seemed to wrap up the case pretty quickly ... until the forensic report became public. According to the forensic examination, “Pasolini was the victim of an attack carried out by more than one person.” This is when Pasolini's family started to believe there were bigger villains at play than just Pelosi.

Italy in the 1970s was a highly tense nation, and it was not uncommon for outspoken leftists like Pasolini to suddenly disappear, or end up dead. Pasolini's family believes that the director—who often spoke negatively of those in religious and political power—was assassinated in a politically charged killing. There are so many conspiracies and possibilities that in 2010, Pasolini's case was reopened.

5. THE WIZARD OF OZ: A MUNCHKIN IN LOVE

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Is it a bird? A prop? A Munchkin? For years, fans of The Wizard of Oz have been fascinated by a squint-or-you'll-miss-it object hanging from a tree that stands along the Yellow Brick Road. The story goes that one of the actors hired to play a Munchkin had fallen in love with one of his fellow actors, but his feelings were not reciprocated. The actor was apparently so stricken with sadness that he decided to hang himself on the film's set. If you look at the photo above, from the Tin Woodsman sequence, you'll see the shadowy figure straight ahead in the trees.

Though Snopes.com has determined the story to be "false" and pointed to several other explanations for the mysterious object—from a rented crane from the Los Angeles Zoo to a crew member who simply got caught in the shot and was never edited out—the Munchkin tale is one legend that won't die.

DNA Links Polish Barber Aaron Kosminski to Jack the Ripper Murders, But Experts Are Skeptical

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Many people have been suspected of being Jack the Ripper, from author Lewis Carroll to Liverpool cotton salesman James Maybrick, but the perpetrator of the grisly crimes that gripped Victorian London has never been identified. Now, one of the case's first suspects is back in the news. As Smithsonian reports, Aaron Kosminski, a barber from Poland, has been linked to the Jack the Ripper murders with DNA evidence—but experts are hesitant to call the case closed.

The new claim comes from data now published in the Journal of Forensic Science. Several years ago, Ripperologist Russell Edwards asked researchers from the University of Leeds and John Moores University in Liverpool to analyze a blood-stained silk shawl thought to have belonged to Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. The item, which Edwards owns, has been a primary piece of evidence in the murder investigation for years. In 2014, Edwards published a book in which he claimed Aaron Kosminski's DNA had been found on the garment, but his results weren't published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Five years later, the researchers have released their findings. Using infrared and spectrophotometry technology, they confirmed the fabric was stained with blood and discovered a possible semen stain. They collected DNA fragments from the stain and compared them to DNA taken from a descendent of Eddowes and a descendent of Kosminski. The mitochondrial DNA (the DNA passed down from mother to offspring) extracted from the shawl contained matching profiles for both subjects.

Kosminski was a 23-year-old Polish barber living in London at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. He was one of the first suspects identified by the London police, but there wasn't enough evidence to convict him in 1888.

Following the newest study, many Jack the Ripper experts are saying there still isn't enough evidence to definitively pin the murders on Kosminski. One of the main issues is that a mitochondrial DNA match isn't as conclusive as matches with other DNA; many people have the same mitochondrial DNA profile, even if they're not related, so the forensic tool is best used for ruling out suspects rather than confirming them.

The shawl at the center of the study is also controversial. It was supposedly picked up by a police officer at the scene of Eddowes's murder, but that version of the story has been disputed. The shawl's origin also been traced back to multiple eras, including the early 1800s and early 1900s, as well as different parts of Europe.

Due to many factors complicating the Jack the Ripper case, the murders may never be solved completely. The crimes spurred a flurry of hoax letters to the London Police department in the 1880s, and even the letters that were thought to be authentic, like the one that gave Jack the Ripper his nickname, may have been fabricated.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Last Surviving Person of Interest in Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist to Be Released From Prison

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Almost exactly 29 years ago, two men disguised as police officers weaseled their way into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and started removing prized artworks from the wall. They made off with 13 famous paintings and sculptures, representing a value of more than $500 million. It remains the largest property theft in U.S. history, but no one has ever been charged in connection with the heist.

Now, as Smithsonian reports, the last living person who may have first-hand knowledge about the heist will be released from prison this Sunday after serving 54 months for an unrelated crime. Robert (Bobby) Gentile, an 82-year-old mobster who was jailed for selling a gun to a known murderer, has been questioned by authorities in the past. In 2010, the wife of the late mobster Robert (Bobby) Guarente told investigators she had seen her husband give several of the artworks in question to Gentile—a good friend of Guarente’s—eight years prior.

A 2012 raid of Gentile’s home also revealed a list of black market prices for the stolen items. Previous testimony from other mob associates—coupled with the fact that Gentile had failed a polygraph test when he was questioned about the art heist—suggest Gentile might know more about the crime than he has let on. For his part, though, Gentile says he is innocent and knows nothing about the art or the heist.

The FBI announced in 2013 that it knew who was responsible for the museum heist, but would not reveal their names because they were dead. Still, the whereabouts of the artworks—including prized paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, Vermeer, and Degas—remain unknown. The museum is offering a $10 million reward to anyone who can provide information leading to “the recovery of all 13 works in good condition," according to the museum's website. A separate $100,000 reward will be provided for the return of an eagle finial that was used by Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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