Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe was found dead on August 5, 1962 lying facedown on her bed in Brentwood, California, with a telephone receiver in hand and an empty bottle of Nembutal beside her.
A toxicology report released shortly after revealed that the actress had taken a lethal dose of acute barbiturate poison.
The official cause of the 36-year-old’s death was “probable suicide”, but 55 years later, alternate suggestions about what really happened are as strong as ever with new conspiracy theories continuing to materialise and old ones still being scrutinised.
Her rumoured close ties to the Kennedy family plays a large role in these theories, along with Monroe’s history of mental illness and drug abuse.
We look at the many conspiracy theories surrounding the famous starlet’s death.
Robert Kennedy did it
One of the first conspiracy theories after Marilyn’s death was that Robert F. Kennedy had her killed.
The theory suggested that he did it but of fear that she would expose their rumoured affair and put his political career and image in danger.
Marilyn was also alleged to have been keeping records of conversations detailing highly confidential government information in a “little red book”.
It was first suggested by Frank A. Capell in The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 and then again by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn.
In his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Summers, a tabloid journalist claimed that Kennedy and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford encouraged Monroe’s drug and alcohol use and that she died on the way to the hospital, leading to them covering it up as suicide.
His evidence for this was an interview he did with with Monroe’s housekeeper Eunice Murray.
According to Summers, there was a moment Murray “said words to the effect of, ‘Oh, why do I have to keep on covering this up?’”
When probed further, Murray allegedly said, “Well of course Bobby Kennedy was there, and of course there was an affair with Bobby Kennedy.’”
Then in 2007, Australian filmmaker Philippe Mora discovered a partially redacted FBI document that suggested Kennedy may have been complicit in a plot to “induce” her suicide.
The document suggests she was given the barbiturate Seconal by the alleged conspirators and then was then left to die.
Her doctors did it
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In yet another book, Donald Spoto suggested in 1993 that Marilyn had suffered an accidental overdose after lying to her doctors about her medication.
He suggests that the doctors staged her death as a suicide with the help of a housekeeper.
Spoto cites her committing suicide as being improbable because Marilyn had signed a new movie deal with 20th Century Fox that year and reportedly had intentions to remarry Joe DiMaggio.
Spoto sourced police reports and statements given by Monroe’s staff and her publicist, but his theory hasn’t picked up any traction in the years since.
The CIA did it
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One theory suggest that the CIA ordered Marilyn’s death to get revenge on the Kennedys for the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba.
The reason why is that as Matthew Smith notes in his 2003 book, Victim: The Secret Tapes of Marilyn Monroe, based on tapes the actress made with her psychiatrist weeks before her death, the CIA likely knew about Monroe’s affair with Robert Kennedy and saw her death as a blow to the Kennedy family.
This theory gained traction in 2015 after retired CIA officer reportedly admitted on his deathbed that he had killed Marilyn, but this was revealed to be hoax.
The Mafia did it
In 1982, private detective Milo Speriglio made the stunning accusation that Monroe had been murdered by labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa and Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, so the Kennedy family would leave the mafia alone.
While a thin theory, his book led to a reopening of the case, but nothing new was found and Marilyn’s death remained a probable suicide.
Darwin Porter then suggested in 2012 that the actress was also killed by Sam Giancana but for because the mob boss had coerced the screen siren’s first Hollywood contract in return for her seduction of powerful men that the mobster wanted to blackmail.
She claims five Mafia hitmen entered Monroe’s home and administered a chloroform-soaked washcloth on her face, injected her with barbiturates, and moved her to her bedroom to make the scene look like a suicide.
“A lot of people had a lot to lose if Marilyn spoke out,” Porter said. “She was making a lot of dangerous statements and didn’t realise she was playing with the big boys. I think Marilyn got in over her head.”
In another twist, Porter suggests it could also have been one of the Kennedys that hired the Mob boss to get rid of Monroe.
She knew about UFOs
One of the crazier conspiracy theories was that Marilyn Monroe learned about the existence of aliens while sleeping with President John F. Kennedy and was planning to reveal all.
The theory was outlined in documentary Unacknowledged by conspiracy theorist Dr Steven Greer, who claims Marilyn knew about the Roswell UFO crash in New Mexico in 1947.
He produced a memo in the documentary that he claims is is a classified CIA memo written just two days before Monroe’s death.
In it JFK is said to have told Monroe he witnessed evidence of "things from outer space" at a secret air base.
“We have a number of smoking gun documents, including a wiretap of Marilyn Monroe the day [sic] before she died, which has never been declassified,” Greer said.
"She was threatening to hold a press conference to tell the world what Jack Kennedy had told her during pillow talk about having seen debris from an extraterrestrial vehicle at what the document calls a 'secret air base'. She was murdered for this."
She faked it
With every celebrity death there is a conspiracy theory that they somehow faked it, and Marilyn remains a popular one.
John Alexander Baker, author Marilyn Monroe: Alive in 1984? claims that Marilyn’s death was stage and her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, committed her to a mental institution in New Brunswick, Canada because of a breakdown she experienced due to the threats on her life.
He believes she stayed at the institution for 20 years without being recognised, before being released.
Baker says he picked up a hitchhiker in Nova Scotia in 1984 who claimed to be Monroe, now a “homeless, frightened, paranoid schizophrenic”.
She told him of her days as a former movie star, and Baker was struck by her resemblance to Marilyn, as well as the similarity in her singing voice.
While most would raise their eyebrows at such an outlandish theory, he said: “I believe 99 percent that she really was who she claimed to be.”
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