Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.
People Who Predicted Their Deaths
Throughout history, many famous figures have reflected on their mortality and eerily predicted their own fate. While some can simply be chalked up to coincidence, others are a bit harder to ignore. From actors to writers, musicians to politicians, a group of figures indeed foresaw their end. This article covers the following 13 famous figures who eerily predicted their deaths:
- James Dean
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ronnie Van Zant
- Bob Marley
- Mark Twain
- Amy Winehouse
- Jim Morrison
- Buddy Holly
- Jimi Hendrix
- William T. Stead
- Grigori Rasputin
- John Lennon
- Ritchie Valens
1. James Dean
Cultural icon and beloved actor James Dean was known for his renowned performances in films like Rebel Without a Cause (1955), East of Eden (1955) and Giant (1956). With such a promising career, the world was shocked when Dean tragically died in a car accident at the young age of 24 in 1955.
The actor developed a love of auto racing and purchased impressive cars like a Triumph Tiger T110 and his infamous Porsche 550 Spyder (known as the "Little Bastard"). Dean had a desire to create a career in motorsport. Sadly, this would never come to fruition. In an interview just months before his death, the star expressed a cautionary warning about America's highways:
While driving on the highway on September 30, 1955, Donald Turnupseed randomly turned left in an intersection, causing Dean and his companion to crash his Porsche. Though passenger Rolf Wütherich managed to survive the accident, Dean succumbed to his injuries.
2. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was America's 16th president of the United States and led the nation through the American Civil War, eventually abolishing slavery. Regarded as one of the greatest presidents in American history, Lincoln's life and presidency were cut short when he was assassinated on April 15, 1865, at 56.
Just a bit over a week before his murder, Lincoln had a very unsettling dream that "strangely annoyed" him. He saw a catafalque (a type of framework that supports a coffin) in the White House's East Wing and a Union soldier standing guard. Lincoln walked up to the man, asking, "Who is dead in the White House?" To which the soldier replied, "The president. He was killed by an assassin."
The terrible dream stuck with the president, and a week later, he confided in a friend about the ordeal. Three days later, on the day of Lincoln's death, he reportedly told his wife, Mary, he desired to visit the Holy Land.
Lincoln, Mary, Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone were attending a play on the evening of April 14, 1865. John Wilkes Booth shot the president in the back of the head, mortally wounding him. His body was later displayed in the East Room of the White House.
3. Ronnie Van Zant
Frontman and founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant was known for helping create hit songs like "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Simple Man." The band's promising musical career was tragically cut short when on October 20, 1977, a plane carrying the group ran out of gas and crashed, killing six passengers.
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Among those who perished were Ronnie Van Zant, bandmates Cassie and Steve Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. The rest of the band was seriously injured in the crash. Before the accident, Van Zant had predicted his death several times. According to former bandmate Artimus Pyle, the lead singer often discussed his mortality.
Eerily, the band released an album three days before the crash that seemed to show them engulfed in flames. Van Zant had also released a song before the tragic accident called "That Smell," which featured the lyrics "Angel of darkness upon you. The smell of death surrounds you." Van Zant's predictions of his fate sadly proved correct, as the singer was less than three months shy of his thirtieth birthday.
4. Bob Marley
Reggae legend and Jamaican music pioneer Bob Marley was known for his distinctive voice and songwriting talents. Throughout his career, he became a Rastafari icon and was outspoken in his support for the legalization of marijuana. According to those who knew him best, Marley was said to have been something of a clairvoyant and was often reportedly cryptic about his death.
One close friend claimed that the singer predicted he'd die the same age as Jesus, which was 36 years old. In July 1977, Marley was diagnosed with a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe.
Despite his illness, Marley continued touring and released his final album, Uprising, in May 1980. His health soon deteriorated as his cancer spread throughout the rest of his body. The music icon passed away on May 11, 1981, at 36.
5. Mark Twain
Arguably one of the greatest novelists of all time, Mark Twain was known for his ground-breaking works like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). He has also been lauded as the "greatest humorist the United States has produced."
The author was born on November 30, 1835, shortly after an appearance of Halley's Comet. It is said to pass by Earth every 75 or 76 years, and Twain strongly believed that he would pass away when Halley's Comet returned. In 1909 he once mused,
Twain's prediction did in fact prove to be true; on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley's Comet's closest approach to Earth, the lauded author passed away of a heart attack. He was 74.
6. Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse was a gifted English singer, known for her deep and expressive vocals and wide array of musical styles, including jazz, rhythm and blues and soul. At the 2008 Grammy Awards, she became the first British woman to win five Grammys for her ground-breaking album Back to Black (2006). Unfortunately, the talented Winehouse was plagued by drug and alcohol addiction for much of her life.
On July 11, 2011, the singer was found dead in her London home from alcohol poisoning. Winehouse had reportedly consumed five times the legal limit, thus rendering her comatose. According to those closest to her, the singer believed she would become a member of the 27 Club. Her stylist and longtime friend Alex Foden once said:
7. Jim Morrison
The Doors frontman Jim Morrison was both a poet and songwriter. Due to his wild personality and distinctive lyrics and voice, he is considered one of the most iconic and influential frontmen in rock history. Like many that came before him, Morrison developed a dependence on alcohol and drugs.
On September 18, 1970, rock legend Jimi Hendrix died, and on October 4, Janis Joplin, the singer's close friend, also passed away. Both cultural icons died from a drug overdose, and both were 27. Thus the infamous 27 Club was born.
Morrison was devastated by losing his musical peers, and the artist was said to be deeply disturbed. Friends hanging out with him at a Los Angeles bar in October 1970 recalled hearing him say, "You're drinking with number three. That's right, number three." His chilling words did become true, as Morrison mysteriously died on July 3, 1971, at 27.
8. Buddy Holly
Rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly was known for his rockabilly hit songs like "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue." Though his career and life were tragically cut short, Holly is often regarded as the artist who defined the traditional rock and roll lineup of two guitars, bass and drums.
The performer is said to have foreseen his own death in prophetic dreams, fears he shared with his wife, Maria Elena. One night in January 1959, both Holly and his wife were roused from nightmares. Though they didn't have the exact same dream, each involved an airplane, mass panic and Holly leaving Maria Elena. He was so disturbed by the dream he started crying.
While touring to earn money for his growing family (Maria Elena was pregnant), Holly and his band chartered a plane on February 2, 1959. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed in a cornfield in Iowa. Holly and fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and "The Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson were killed on impact.
Holly was just 22 years old. Maria Elena sadly suffered a miscarriage upon learning of the crash, and she later said, "...I blame myself because I know that, if only I had gone along, Buddy never would have gotten into that airplane."
9. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in music history and is one of the most lauded musicians of the twentieth century. Though his career only spanned four years, he delivered hit songs including "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary" and famously headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Before making it big, Hendrix recorded a song entitled "Ballad of Jimi" that featured eerie foreshadowing lyrics. "Many things he would try/For he knew soon he'd die/Now Jimi's gone, he's not alone/His memory still lives on/FIVE YEARS, this he said/He's not gone, just dead."
On September 18, 1970, almost five years to the month of this recording, Hendrix was found dead in his London Hotel room, caused by asphyxia due to a drug overdose. He, too, would go on to join the infamous 27 Club.
10. William T. Stead
William T. Stead was a British newspaper editor who pioneered investigative journalism and thus became a controversial figure of the Victorian era. His "new journalism" paved the way for the modern tabloid in Great Britain. In 1886, Stead wrote a story where an ocean liner collides with another ship, and many lives were lost due to a lack of lifeboats.
He once later expressed, "This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats." The writer would often say he would die either by drowning or lynching and wrote another story where a ship collided with an iceberg.
This chilling foreshadowing came true when Stead found himself aboard the RMS Titanic, and was reported to have helped several women and children into lifeboats. He even gave another passenger his lifejacket. Due to a lack of lifeboats, Stead drowned from the ship's sinking on April 15, 1912, at 62.
11. Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Rasputin was a Russian mystic who befriended the family of Nicholas II, therefore gaining considerable influence in late Imperial Russia. He was a self-proclaimed holy man and developed a strong relationship with Emperor Nicholas and Empress Alexandra. The Tsarina was very close to Rasputin, as she believed the monk helped heal her son's hemophilia.
Many historians believe his sinister reputation helped lead to the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. Rasputin himself knew he was on borrowed time, and he wrote a letter to Alexandra proclaiming he would be killed by New Year, and the Romanovs would suffer the same fate within two years.
Two days before New Year 1917, Rasputin was shot three times, poisoned and drowned. The entire Romanov family was brutally killed a year and a half later.
12. John Lennon
English singer, songwriter and peace activist John Lennon rose to prominence as the founder and co-lead vocalist of the Beatles. Lennon had 25 number one singles in the Billboard Hot 100 chart as a performer, writer or co-writer. His hit singles included "Imagine," "Give Peace a Chance" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over"). Lennon hinted at his death in numerous interviews.
When the Beatles' manager was shot, Lennon once said, "I'm next, I know it." When the band broke up due to stress, he also had expressed, "I don't want to be dead at age 40." However, his most eerie comment was when he was questioned on how he thought he might die. The singer stated, "I'll probably be popped off by some looney."
On December 8, 1980, 40-year-old Lennon was shot five times in the archway of his Manhattan apartment by a delusional and unhinged Mark David Chapman. The iconic figure tragically did not survive.
13. Ritchie Valens
Ritchie Valens was a forefather of the Chicano rock movement and rock and roll pioneer and had several hits, including "La Bamba" and "Donna." With such a promising career ahead of him, Valens was taking the world by storm. The artist suffered from aerophobia, which is fear of flying, and his reason was chillingly justified.
When he was 15 years old, Valens cut class to attend his grandfather's funeral. While there, a plane fell from the sky and crashed on the playground of his schoolyard. After a performance with fellow artists Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, Valens won a coin toss with Holly's backup guitarist, earning him a small aircraft seat. He reportedly said, "That's the first time I've ever won anything in my life."
Just minutes later, on February 3, 1959, the plane crashed into the frozen ground, killing all on impact. Valens was only 17 years old.
© 2021 Rachel M Johnson