Unraveling The Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe

Initially ruled a suicide, the death of Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe is still a hotly-debated topic among her fans.

Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait laying on the grass in 1954 in Palm Springs, California.

Actress Marilyn Monroe poses for a portrait laying on the grass in 1954 in Palm Springs, California. [Baron/Hulton Archive via Getty Images]

Photo by: Baron

Baron

She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles, California, but she found her success as a 1950s movie star going by the name of Marilyn Monroe.

Childhood was rough for Norma Jeane. Her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, suffered from mental illness and was regularly admitted to mental institutions. Norma Jeane’s father was absent, and the instability from her mother’s illness essentially orphaned Norma Jeane. When she was just eight years old, her mother’s friend, Grace McKee, became her guardian, but Norma Jeane was still shuffled between almost a dozen foster homes and orphanages until she married her neighbor when she was 16 in 1942.

Actress Marilyn Monroe then known as Norma Jeane Mortenson poses for a portrait in 1946 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

1181950876

Actress Marilyn Monroe then known as Norma Jeane Mortenson poses for a portrait in 1946 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

Photo by: Donaldson Collection

Donaldson Collection

Hollywood or Bust

Despite the abuse and neglect from her childhood, Norma Jeane had her sights set on becoming an actress from a young age. Her plans caused her marriage to crumble after just a few years, and Norma Jeane became a model for area photographers. She began using the name Marilyn Monroe and went on to land roles in several Hollywood classics, including "How To Marry a Millionaire," "Some Like It Hot," "The Seven Year Itch," and "The Misfits."

Personally, Marilyn was dealing with rocky marriages to and messy divorces from baseball great Joe DiMaggio followed by playwright Arthur Miller. She was reportedly plagued by substance use disorders, causing her to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs in her 30s. The drug abuse only escalated in the summer of 1962 as her death unknowingly crept closer.

Goodbye, Norma Jeane

On August 5, 1962, Less than three months after she sang "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe was found dead at 36 in her Los Angeles home.

When police arrived, Marilyn was lying in her bed covered by a sheet. Her nightstand was littered with pill bottles, many of them prescribed for sleeping. Immediately, authorities suspected she had overdosed, but Marilyn’s closest friends were incredulous.

Marilyn had spoken with friends earlier on August 5, and she seemed upbeat. There was no indication that she felt suicidal when she hung up the phone.

Her body was taken for an autopsy where the initial report showed fatal levels of barbiturates, a type of sleeping pill, in her bloodstream, but a closer examination of her stomach contents revealed something surprising — there were no pill fragments in her stomach at the time of her death.

But if it wasn’t a suicide, how did she die?

NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Actress Marilyn Monroe rides in the back of a car with Dick Shepherd on March 30, 1955 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Ed Feingersh/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

73996554

NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Actress Marilyn Monroe rides in the back of a car with Dick Shepherd on March 30, 1955 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Ed Feingersh/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Photo by: Michael Ochs Archives

Michael Ochs Archives

Several conspiracies still swirl around her demise, including a theory that she was killed in order to keep her quiet about an illicit affair with John F. Kennedy.

Could the secret to her death be within the Hollywood Museum? Find out on Mysteries at the Museum streaming now on discovery+.

Next Up

Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping: Was The Famous Pilot Responsible For His Missing Son?

Charles Lindbergh was five years past his record-breaking transatlantic flight when his 20-month-old son was kidnapped from their Hopewell, New Jersey, home on March 1, 1932.

Was The Hindenburg Disaster A Tragic Accident Or Nefarious Plot?

Investigators from two countries determined that the Hindenburg zeppelin disaster was just an unfortunate accident, but the pilot went to his grave swearing his massive airship had been sabotaged.

10 Bigfoot Sightings That Made The News

The Patterson-Gimlin film made Bigfoot a household name, but that’s not the only famous Bigfoot encounter.

Meet the Investigators

Meet some of America Declassified's investigators.

Just Announced! "Expedition Bigfoot" Returns With New Episodes in 2021

The team believes an advanced algorithm is the missing key to solving the Bigfoot legend.

Everything You Need to Know About Travel Channel's ‘Witches Of Salem’

The new miniseries delves into the infamous witch trials like never before.

Tonight's 'Ghost Nation' Finale Will Reveal Some of the Best Evidence Ever Captured by the Team

Jason Hawes, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango talk all about season one ahead of tonight's electric finale.

'Ghost Nation' Will Be Back For A Season Two

The freshman series, featuring Jason Hawes, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango, premiered in October 2019.

'Expedition Bigfoot' Explores the Missing Key to Solving An Iconic Legend

An elite team of researchers believe they have found clues to the whereabouts of bigfoot.

6 of The Most Fascinating Artifacts Found on 'America Unearthed'

For over 4 seasons, Scott Wolter has uncovered and discovered some of the world's most fascinating artifacts.

What's New from TRVL

On TV

Stream discovery+

Your favorite shows, personalities and exclusive originals. All in one place.

Subscribe Now

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.