They say a picture says a thousand words. Sometimes those words are not happy ones and can be so heartbreaking we can barely stand to look.
All too often, Hollywood faces the tragedy of losing a star. It’s even more heartbreaking when these stars are still young, with the rest of their lives un-lived and so much potential they’ll never get to unlock.
When a celebrity passes away before their time, they leave the world shattered—fans and the industry are left to mourn the loss of talent, art, and influence, and preserve their memory for the generations to come. Often, the circumstances surrounding death are disastrous, leaving the world feeling like it could have been prevented. Whether they joined the infamous 27 Club, just made it past 30 or passed away when they were still children, the following 15 stars won’t be forgotten.
Do you remember where you were when you heard that these young celebrities lost their lives far too soon? Did the little hairs at the back of your neck stand up? Did you get goosebumps? It's probably one of the absolutely worst feelings in the world, finding out that someone you admired, cherished, and loved are no longer walking on this world among us... All we have left are the memories of that person's legacy and their pictures.
15 Heath Ledger: Taking six different prescription medications
Born in 1979, Heath Ledger had gained worldwide fame, respect, and admiration by 2008, but he still had an endless list of feats to achieve. Now and forever, that list remains untouched; Ledger passed away that year of an accidental overdose of prescription medication. At the age of 28, the talented actor had just missed joining the infamous 27 Club.
Ledger’s housekeeper, Teresa Solomon, and his masseuse, Diana Wolozin, found him in his New York City home. After ringing 911, Wolozin was asked to give him CPR, which was unsuccessful. Paramedics did arrive on the scene a short time later, but were also unable to save him. At the time, he’d been taking six different prescription medications for a number of reasons, which ended up causing him to suffer cardiac arrest. Ledger left behind millions of fans, an unshakable legacy, and a three-year-old daughter.
14 Cory Monteith: Found by hotel staff
Canadian actor and Glee star Cory Monteith left the world in shock and millions of fans devastated when he suddenly passed away in 2013. At only 31 years old, the actor failed to check-out of his Vancouver hotel room on July 13, leading hotel staff to forcefully enter. Inside, they found his body. An autopsy showed that he had combined alcohol with other substances, which eventually led to an overdose.
One of the most tragic elements to Monteith’s story is, aside from his young age and bright future, the star had previously sought treatment for issues with substance abuse and addiction. He had even gone to rehab before to try to help himself. From his case, we can see that addiction and substance abuse can involve a very long journey, and sometimes, it takes more than just one attempt to win the battle.
13 Bobbi Kristina Brown: Found unresponsive in her bathtub
The world seemingly stopped spinning when icon Whitney Houston passed away before the Grammys in 2012 after drowning in the bathtub of her suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Many worried about Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who was now left to navigate a world of insane media attention without her mother’s guidance.
Devastatingly, the fears of fans came true in 2015 when Brown followed in her mother’s last footsteps and was found unresponsive and face-down in her bathtub in her Atlanta home. She was found in January, and was put into a medically induced coma and later moved to a hospice. She was cared for until July 26 of that year, when she died at the age of 22. The autopsy showed that Brown passed away from drowning and drug intoxication, and hearts around the world ached for the family she and her mother left behind.
12 Selena: Doctors tried to revive her
Latin singing sensation Selena could have been enjoying a long career next to the likes of other successful Latin artists like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. By the age of 23 in 1995, she had already won over a sea of fans who were in love with her sound, and couldn’t wait to see her prosper as she crossed over to mainstream music. Her popularity led to her having her own fan club, which disastrously also led to her demise.
On March 31 1995, Selena met up with Yolanda Saldívar, the former-president of her fan club. Earlier in the year, Selena had fired Saldívar for embezzling money from her fan club and boutiques. The two got into a heated argument, which ended with Saldívar shooting Selena in the back. Doctors tried to revive the singer, which led to her going into cardiac arrest and sadly, losing her life. Selena is still remembered and missed, especially amongst the Latin community, while Saldívar is still serving a life imprisonment sentence.
11 Brittany Murphy: Collapsed in her home
By the age of 32, actress Brittany Murphy had quite a few achievements under her belt. The star first garnered international attention after appearing in Clueless in 1995. From there, she went on to land blockbuster hits like Girl, Interrupted, Sin City, and 8 Mile.
Just before Christmas in 2009, Murphy collapsed in her home. Paramedics arrived to take her to the hospital, where she went into cardiac arrest. Doctors pronounced her gone, though her autopsy proved to be inconclusive. CNN reported that the actress was suffering from acute pneumonia and a chronic iron deficiency, and at the time of her passing, she had a number of cold medications in her system. Some fans believe there was more to Murphy’s passing than the autopsy revealed, since her husband, Simon Monjack, lost his life five months later in the same house, under similar circumstances.
10 Amy Winehouse: No pulse could be found
In 2011, British singer Amy Winehouse was getting lost to the dark side of fame and fortune. The lifestyle of a rock star—addicted to drinking and partying—took its toll when Winehouse passed out from ingesting too much alcohol and never woke up.
Her bodyguard entered her bedroom in her Camden Square home in London, where he found her lying on her bed. Over the past few days, the singer had been drinking, but he wasn’t concerned to see her motionless on the bed, as it was normal for her to sleep late. When he returned to her bedroom hours later and discovered that she hadn’t moved, he felt for her pulse. Emergency services were called when no pulse could be found, and Winehouse was pronounced gone as a result of alcohol poisoning. It was found that at the time of her death, the star’s blood alcohol level was more than five times the legal driving limit.
9 Aaliyah: A Life: The plane crashed 200 feet from the runway
Many of the legends in the pop scene today were just rising up at the turn of the millennium: Britney Spears, Beyoncé Knowles, and Pink, for example, had just started their famous journeys. Triple threat Aaliyah would have been amongst them today, had she not lost her life in 2001, at the age of 25.
With hits like “Rock the Boat”, Aaliyah was making a name for herself in the music industry, and her talent proved that she would have had a long and successful career to rival that of the big names in the industry today. On August 25 2001, the singer left the Bahamas via a small plane with her team and a few members of her record company. The group ascended from Marsh Harbor Airport after Aaliyah had filmed a music video, and were on their way to Florida when the plane crashed 200 feet from the runway, taking the life of the singer and most of her team instantly.
8 River Phoenix: Collapsed outside a Hollywood nightclub
With undeniable talent as a musician and an actor, River Phoenix was destined to be a legend. His life was prematurely taken away from him when his star was still on the rise, and to the world, the singer is now frozen in time at the age of 23.
Phoenix gained fame and recognition as a teenager, starring in Stand by Me in 1986, as well as Little Nikita and The Mosquito Coast. He even earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his work in Running on Empty. The star also sang and played guitar in a band he formed with his sister called Aleka’s Attic. Before he could become a household name like the movie stars of today, Phoenix collapsed outside a Hollywood nightclub. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai, but pronounced gone shortly after as a result of “deadly levels of hard substances” in his system.
7 James Dean: Head-on car collision
You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who hasn’t heard of James Dean, even in 2017. The actor is a Hollywood icon, a symbol for American youth. He remains a legend today, despite the fact that he only starred in three major movies, which were released more than 50 years ago. The actor has been gone for more than 60 years, but his undeniable talent and charisma were so powerful that he’s left a permanent imprint on the world.
The star, who was born in 1931, was a ‘50s heartthrob. Starring in hit films like Rebel without a Cause, Dean had masses of passionate and obsessed fans by the time he was 24. In 1955, as his career was really still beginning, Dean was involved in a head-on car collision and lost his life, destroying the opportunity to share more of himself with the world and live the magical life he had the potential for.
6 Kurt Cobain: He left behind a note
Another beloved star to join the 27 Club was Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of grunge band Nirvana. Unbeknownst to fans at the time, Cobain’s life was filled with unhappiness and emptiness. The world saw a rock star who jammed on stage every night, but behind closed doors, Cobain was struggling with depression and substance addiction. He found it difficult to cope with fame and maintaining a public image, and he also had ongoing health problems that made him physically uncomfortable.
In April 1994, Cobain’s electrician, Gary Smith, found the star in his Seattle home. At first, Smith assumed Cobain was asleep, but soon found the gun near his body, which the singer had used to take his own life. He left behind a note, which famous contained the message: “It’s better to burn out than fade away.”
5 Janis Joplin: The loneliest death
Janis Joplin had one of the most unique, renowned and powerful voices the world has ever seen. The blues singer was known for letting loose on stage and getting lost in the songs she sang—in this way, she captivated audiences across America for all of her short career. Though she was blessed with immeasurable vocal talent and passion for her craft, Joplin battled her own demons behind the scenes. After being bullied at school, the singer was left with self-confidence issues, which she managed to hide from her adoring fans, and also regularly used recreational drugs.
On October 4, 1970, Joplin was found dead in her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood after taking a bad batch of drugs. At the time of her death, it was believed that Joplin was feeling disappointed and betrayed after two of her friends promised to meet her and keep her company at the hotel, and both failed to show up without an explanation.
4 Simone Battle: Took her own life
Anyone who saw Simone Battle in 2014 would have thought she was on top of the world. The 25-year-old singer was part of the rising girl group G.R.L., and it seemed like her hard work and talent was finally taking her to the places she’d always dreamed they would. But in secret, Battle suffered from depression which was brought on by the financial issues she was facing. This led her to take her own life by hanging on September 5, 2014.
The outpour of love from Battle’s fellow entertainers, including her G.R.L. band mates, proved that she had left an unfillable hole in the music business. The hashtag #RIPSimone started circulating until tributes to the lost star were trending globally. After her death, G.R.L. released the single “Lighthouse” which is dedicated to Battle and the legacy she left behind.
3 Sawyer Sweeten: Chose to end his life
Sawyer Sweeten didn’t have a lot of prominent roles later in his life, but fans forever remember him as one of Ray Barone’s twin sons on Everybody Loves Raymond. Together with his brother and sister, Sweeten appeared on the show for its entire run and helped to entertain millions of viewers for nearly a decade.
At the age of 19 in 2015, ten years after wrapping up on the show, Sweeten chose to end his life on his family’s property in Texas. His sister Madylin took to Facebook after his death to encourage others to learn from her experience with her brother: “At this time I would like to encourage everyone to reach out to the ones you love. Let them have no doubt of what they mean to you.” The cast of Raymond also reached out to express their sadness at the devastating news.
2 Matthew Garber: Died in the hospital
Anybody who calls themselves a Disney fan has seen Mary Poppins. Matthew Garber, who starred in the film as Michael Banks, entertained audiences with his cheeky smile and witty comments. Unlike many other Disney stars, however, Garber didn’t go on to appear in any other Disney flicks He didn’t appear in much else at all, since at the age of 20, he fell ill with hepatitis while on a trip to India.
Several months later, he returned home to London, but by that time, the illness had moved to his pancreas, leading him to be hospitalized. In 1977, at the age of 21, Garber died in the hospital from hemorrhagic necrotising pancreatitis, resulting from his hepatitis. Before his untimely death, Garber brought joy to millions of fans in Mary Poppins, and sadly, many of them never realized what happened to him.
1 Heather O’Rourke: Real-Life Horror
Heather O’Rourke is best remembered for her role in the Poltergeist films, where she played Carol Anne Freeling, the youngest daughter of a family living in a house plagued by ghosts. Even those who haven’t seen the films can recognize O’Rourke’s face, since she appeared on the famous movie poster with her hands on a static television screen.
Months before filming the last film of the series began, O’Rourke was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The doctors didn’t realize that this was actually a misdiagnosis, and on January 31 1988, O’Rourke collapsed from stomach-related issues and was taken to hospital. There was a severe obstruction in her bowel, and although surgeons attempted to remove it, nothing could be done. She eventually suffered cardiac arrest and septic shock, and lost her life at just 12 years old, leaving behind a promising career on the horizon.