10 celebrity autopsies, revealed

It's always a shock when a pop culture icon dies. But the real revelations can come with the autopsy report, as these 10 tales show us…

10 celebrity autopsies, revealed

Michael Jackson

The dramatic cause of his death – too much anaesthetic administered by a doctor who got jailed for manslaughter – was only one of many surprises revealed by Jacko's autopsy. We also learnt he tattooed his lips pink, and the front of his scalp was permanently inked black to blend in with wigs. The man who gave us the moonwalk also suffered from arthritis and enlarged prostate. But the biggest twist was that he really DID have a skin disorder that whitened his skin. Just like he'd said all along.

Whitney Houston

Tragic Whitney's autopsy revealed just how damaged she really was. She had a hole in her nose and 11 false teeth, presumably due to chronic drug abuse. She also had signs of heart disease, lung ailments, and her body was riddled with scars from surgery, falls and possible self-harm. As she'd lost consciousness in a scalding hot bath, patches of skin had also been burnt off her body. She also had a wig tightly stuck to her head, despite having a full mane of hair underneath.

Cory Monteith

Glee fans could hardly believe it when heartthrob Cory was found dead in a hotel room aged just 31. Actually, though, it came after a long struggle with drugs that started when he was just 12. An autopsy revealed the full, ugly truth: that Cory had been overloading his system with a fatal cocktail of injected heroin and booze. This "mixed drug toxicity" was what killed him.

Amy Winehouse

When the troubled songstress died, many initially assumed it was suicide or a drug overdose. An autopsy was needed to get to the truth, but – in a weird twist – the first report was thrown aside after it was revealed the coroner hadn't actually been qualified to oversee things. So a second investigation was carried out. It confirmed Amy, who'd been quaffing vodka the night she died, had accidentally drank herself to death, with over five times the legal drink-driving limit in her blood.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe remains the most notorious early-celebrity-death. Many believe her affairs with high-profile men (including the US president) led to a conspiracy to kill her. But, if we stick to the official autopsy, she'd nuked her body with sedatives, in amounts large enough to indicate suicide. She also had a surgical scar on her abdomen – a boring point with anyone else, but any detail is fascinating when it comes to an icon like Marilyn.

Anna Nicole Smith

Blonde bombshell Anna Nicole Smith was often likened to Marilyn Monroe in life, and there are eerie parallels with their deaths as well. According to the autopsy, Anna Nicole succumbed to sedatives including chloral hydrate – the substance that contributed to Marilyn's death. Anna Nicole had nine other potent prescription chemicals in her system, and it was the combo that killed her. She also had a grisly abscess in her buttock, probably due to injections of human growth hormone.

River Phoenix

The Ryan Gosling of his day, moody movie star River Phoenix came to an infamous end after taking drugs in The Viper Room, a club part-owned by Johnny Depp. In fact, Depp was performing on stage with Flea from the Chili Peppers when Phoenix collapsed outside. The autopsy was shocking, laying bare the fact that Phoenix – who had a squeaky clean media image – had actually taken a "speedball" mix of both heroin AND cocaine. So much, that it was hard to tell which had killed him.

Brittany Murphy

The sad saga of Brittany Murphy's death began with her sudden collapse and cardiac arrest. Her autopsy lay the blame with pneumonia, with anaemia and a cocktail of over-the-counter drugs as secondary factors. Weirdly, her husband went on to die of pneumonia and anaemia AS WELL. Brittany's father then commissioned analysis of Brittany's hair, which seemed to point to heavy metal poisoning, but this report – and allegations of murder – have been dismissed by other experts.

Heath Ledger

Reports of Ledger's final days as a sombre recluse fuelled speculation he'd deliberately killed himself. But, after his body was found in a rented New York apartment, the superstar's autopsy pointed to an accidental overdose of a whole bunch of drugs, from sleeping pills to anti-anxiety medication. His ex-partner Michelle Williams later spoke of his chronic insomnia and inability to ever relax.

Elvis Presley

Theories still rage on about what caused Presley's undignified death on a toilet in Graceland. The official autopsy puts it down to "cardiac arrhythmia", and it's generally agreed he'd been hooked on a toxic array of prescription drugs. Chronic constipation may have also been a factor, believe it or not. The autopsy revealed his colon measured a whopping eight or nine feet, and his doctor said there was "stool in his colon which had been there for four or five months".