A quick look through many celebrity Instagram accounts will make it clear that stars love to control their public personas. But there’s one aspect of image control that nobody has any say over: what the last picture of them will be. They could get lucky, like Muhammad Ali, and be snapped in a loving family photo captured during happier times. Or they could be unlucky – like another celebrity on this list – and be glimpsed in the background of somebody else’s vacation photos. There’s simply no way of knowing. But after these 20 celebrities passed away, fans pored over the final photographs of them for evidence of what was to come. And those vacation snaps proved particularly intriguing…
20. Steve Irwin
The whole world was shocked when Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin died after being stabbed by a stingray. After all, Irwin spent so much time around dangerous animals that he had the nickname of “The Crocodile Hunter.” So it was astounding to his fans that such a larger-than-life figure was suddenly gone.
Because Irwin was filming for a TV show at the time, his last minutes and his death were caught on camera. The footage of the actual moment of impact was examined by cops before later being destroyed, as per his family’s request. But video still exists of the time leading up to the accident, and Irwin can be seen poignantly making the “Okay” sign.
19. Princess Diana
Photographers featured heavily in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. She was fleeing from the paparazzi in her car while in Paris on August 31, 1997. But her driver lost control of the vehicle at high speed. And Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, and the chauffeur, Henri Paul, were all killed. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones survived.
One photo exists of the events leading up to the crash. In it, Diana’s blonde hair can be seen as she turns around in the backseat. In the front are Trevor Rees-Jones and Henri Paul. The photo was taken by photographer Jacques Langevin, and it was actually presented as evidence at the inquest into the deaths.
18. Anton Yelchin
The death of young actor Anton Yelchin came as a terrible shock. The Star Trek star was killed in a freak accident on June 18, 2016. His Jeep Grand Cherokee had rolled down its driveway once Yelchin had got out of it and struck him, trapping him between the car and a brick mailbox. He was only 27.
Yelchin was a talented photographer as well as an actor. Fittingly, the last photo on his Instagram, posted June 17, 2016, was a self-portrait. It was a picture of him looking pensively into the camera while standing on Nantasket Beach. After his death, fans flooded the comments section with grieving messages, and they still do.
17. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe, one of the most iconic figures in modern-day American history, wasn’t much like the bubbly blondes she played on screen. Her personal life was a terrible struggle. Although multiple conspiracy theories surround her 1962 death, the obvious scenario appears to be the most likely one: she committed suicide.
Such was the interest in the life and death of the movie star that photographers were dispatched to photograph Monroe’s dead body. These photos still exist, but so do pictures of Monroe living life before she died. This shot from the film Something’s Got to Give was taken a few months before her suicide. The movie was never finished.
16. Cory Monteith
Actor Cory Monteith had his whole life ahead of him. He was one of the stars of the smash-hit TV show Glee, and he was starting to branch out into film as well. But tragically he had battled addiction since a very young age. On July 13, 2013, he died after taking a mixture of alcohol and heroin.
The last known photo of Monteith was taken on July 11 by his manager, Elena Kirschner. The actor had been dining with her and casting director Maureen Webb. Monteith must have liked the moody picture because he set it as his profile pic. Even now, multiple years after he passed away, it’s still there.
15. Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman starred in big movies such as Die Hard, Galaxy Quest and of course the Harry Potter series. But he kept his personal life very private. In August 2015 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he told only his closest friends that it was terminal. He died on January 14, 2016.
Rickman’s last major public appearance was at the musical Hamilton. There, in New York, he went backstage and posed with the show’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He would have been battling cancer at this point – but you’d never have guessed it. After Rickman’s death, Miranda was one of many who paid tribute on Twitter.
14. Dolores O’Riordan
Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of The Cranberries, passed away at the age of just 46. On January 15, 2018, she was found unresponsive in her bathtub at London’s Park Lane Hilton hotel. There was a great deal of alcohol in her blood, and the death was ruled a tragic accidental drowning.
The last photo O’Riordan ever posted on social media was a saddening one. It was of her holding her pet cat, Gio, and she captioned it, “Bye bye Gio. We’re off to Ireland.” Saddened fans took the tweet to be a sort of goodbye to them as well, leaving messages on the Twitter account about what O’Riordan meant to them.
13. Christina Grimmie
Christina Grimmie was an up-and-coming singer in 2016. She had millions of subscribers on YouTube and had finished third on TV singing competition The Voice. But on June 10 of that year, it was all cut short in the most horrible of ways. You see, an obsessed fan murdered Grimmie after a concert of hers in Orlando.
People had naturally been taking photos of the singer at the concert where she was fatally shot. One young woman posted a picture on Instagram and captioned it, “Never would I of thought that not even 5 minutes after we took this picture you would of been shot. #PrayForChristina.” Grimmie herself had been a mere 22 years old.
12. Amy Winehouse
The last concert of singer Amy Winehouse, which took place in June 2011, was slammed by the media. Throughout it all, the singer seemed to be drunk and struggling to remember things. The performance took place in Serbia and even the country’s defense minister called it a disappointment.
But a few weeks later critics may have regretted their words, because Winehouse passed away from alcohol poisoning on July 23. Suddenly her last concert wasn’t something laughable, but a saddening demonstration of what addiction looked like. Today, Winehouse is remembered as an immensely talented singer who unfortunately couldn’t overcome her demons.
11. Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball was one of the biggest stars of her era. She was an actress, producer and executive all in one and created shows including I Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. She was also the first female to head a production studio – and that studio gave the world Star Trek.
Ball attended the 61st Academy Awards in March 1989. But she couldn’t have known she had only weeks to live. On April 18, she suffered chest pains and had to have a major operation. But unfortunately, it didn’t save her. A week later, on April 26, she had an aortic aneurysm and died. The Oscars was probably the last time a lot of people ever saw her.
10. Muhammad Ali
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali had been ill for some time before his death in 2016. And when he passed away on June 3, the whole world mourned for him. World leaders and sportspeople alike paid tribute, and his name trended on social media for days. But obviously his family were the most affected.
One of Ali’s daughters, Hana, posted a photo on Twitter of the last time she had talked to her dad. She captioned it, “My last photo of my beautiful father… telling him I love him on May 22, 2016.” Underneath the post, many people offered their condolences and their memories of the sporting icon.
9. Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury is still considered one of the greatest rock stars who ever lived. He was the frontman of Queen and the man behind most of their biggest hits. But he died at a tragically early age. He contracted AIDS in 1987, at a time when it was still a death sentence, and lived for only a few more years.
Not long before he died, Mercury recorded footage for Queen’s hit song “These Are the Days of Our Lives.” In it, ever the showman, he’s wearing make-up to hide the effects AIDS had on his body. But in the end, Mercury only revealed to the world that he had the condition a day before his death on November 24, 1991.
8. Bill Paxton
Actor Bill Paxton was in some of the most beloved films ever made: The Terminator, Aliens, Apollo 13 and Titanic, to name just some. But in February 2017 he mentioned in an interview that he had a damaged heart valve. He couldn’t have known that just weeks later that it would result in his death.
Earlier in February, Paxton opened up about his bout with rheumatic fever – which caused heart damage – during a podcast with Marc Maron. The star had contracted the illness when he was in the seventh grade. He said, “I woke up one night. I had been to a hockey game, and I woke up one night, and I had a lot of pain in my left wrist.”
7. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart, the iconic American pilot, famously disappeared along with her navigator during an attempt to circumnavigate the Earth in 1937. She was such a famous figure that to this day conspiracy theories circulate about what “really” happened to her. But the likelihood is that she simply died during that last flight.
Before the flight took place, though, Earhart did a photoshoot to show off the luggage she’d be taking. This was mostly clothes and maps folded into two lightweight cases. Just a couple of months later, on July 2, 1937, her plane disappeared. Search efforts lasted until July 19, but nobody ever found her.
6. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was a hugely influential designer and businessman. He co-founded the company Apple and also assisted in the runnings of both Pixar and The Walt Disney Company. And he might have done more, but in 2003 he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Eventually, many years later, it would kill him.
Jobs’ last public appearance was at a presentation for the Cupertino City Council on June 7, 2011. There, he talked about his plans to build a new sustainable office complex for Apple. Footage from the event chronicled his last presentation, and it was noted how frail he looked. Just four months later, he was dead.
5. Chester Bennington
The frontman of Linkin Park had always been open about his mental health problems. Yet it still came as a shock when he took his own life. After all, he’d just been on holiday with his wife and kids, his career was going great, and he had lots to look forward to. But he was found dead on July 20, 2017.
Bennington’s wife, Talinda, chose to share one of the last photographs ever taken of him. It looked like a happy vacation snap, with Bennington smiling in the background. Talinda explained that although he looked happy in it, he’d obviously been struggling, and no-one had known. In the comments, she wrote, “Read tweets and reach out with love and support to those that are having a bad day. #MakeChesterProud.”
4. James Dean
Many spooky stories surround the death of movie star James Dean. He died in a car crash on September 30, 1955, at the age of only 24. At the time he’d only made three films – Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant – but ironically his early death cemented him as an immortal pop culture icon.
At the time, Dean was driving a silver Porsche – and rumors have persisted that the vehicle was cursed. But whatever the case, Dean was heading to a racing competition when he was killed. On the way, some photos were taken of him and the car. And to this day, no-one is completely sure what became of the car.
3. Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley was the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. The world went absolutely wild for him, and he conquered both the music charts and the world of television. But his health deteriorated as time went on. And in 1977, people were calling him a parody of his former self.
Presley’s concerts turned into short, garbled affairs – and in March 1977 fans were starting to get angry. This photo, taken that year, shows how different he’d started to look. Drug abuse and a poor diet were beginning to take their toll. And on August 16, Presley’s girlfriend found him dead on the bathroom floor. He was only 42.
2. The crew of the Challenger
The voyage of the Challenger was to be a landmark moment in American space travel. For the first time, a civilian – high school teacher Christa McAuliffe – was going on a space shuttle. Alongside her were pilot Mike Smith, commander Francis Scobee, payload specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialists Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair and Judith Resnik.
Everyone knows what happened to those people. On January 28, 1986, the Challenger shuttle exploded less than two minutes after taking off, and all aboard were killed. The last photograph of the crew shows them walking out of the Kennedy Space Center Operations Building to the launchpad, all smiles and waves.
1. President John F. Kennedy
Multiple photographers were there to cover President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas on November 22, 1963. That date would, unbeknown to any of them, go down in history. The president was shot and killed as he rode in a motorcade alongside Governor John Connally, Nellie Connally, two agents and first lady Jackie Kennedy.
As President Kennedy’s car went down the road, Nellie Connally said, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” and he responded, “No, you certainly can’t.” Those transpired to be his last words. Minutes later, as cameras were still going off, Lee Harvey Oswald fired from a building and killed the president.
But it’s not just celebrities who have left behind intriguing final images. Because while it’s become ever easier to get that great selfie – filter or no filter – this in itself may come with its own risks. And some unlucky individuals have actually died in the pursuit of capturing themselves on camera. In fact, the number of people who have perished in the act of taking selfies is shockingly large.
It’s now practically effortless to grab a photo or two on the move, of course, and that’s largely thanks to the smartphone. Today, you don’t have to lug a bulky camera around to document the splendor that surrounds you; instead, you only need reach into your pocket. And one type of photograph has proven incredibly popular in recent years.
For close to two centuries, people have been taking self-portrait photos using various types of cameras. But as devices started to become more portable, selfies became much simpler to achieve. Now, amateur photographers could capture shots of themselves while still clutching their own cameras.
And owing to how readily available smartphones are today, it’s believed that millions of such photos are snapped each week. Unfortunately, though, it also appears that more people are willing to risk danger – even death – to capture the perfect snap. Indeed, when a research paper on the inherent dangers of the high-risk selfie was published in 2018, it recorded some startling results.
Throughout our lives, we’ll all experience a number of pivotal moments that help to define us – the day we graduate from college, perhaps, or the time we get married. But sometimes we don’t just have to rely on our memories when we’re reminiscing.
Yes, thanks to cameras, special occasions can be documented and relived for decades to come. And while in the past just about any snap would have to go off to be developed before the result was revealed, that all began to change when the first digital cameras hit the shelves in Asia in the late 1980s.
In contrast with more traditional devices, digital cameras don’t rely on film to capture photographs. What’s more, a digital camera user can immediately view the pictures that they’ve taken on the device itself – something that they also couldn’t do previously. As a result, then, we now have the ability to keep both physical and digital copies of our precious images.
And while greater numbers of people started to use digital cameras throughout the 1990s, an arguably even more significant breakthrough was made in 2003. That year, camera phones first became available to consumers. And it didn’t take long for the public to show their appetite for this brand-new product.
Incredibly, camera phones outsold digital cameras across the world within the first 12 months of their release. After that, more cellphones went on to include camera functions. And in 2010 – just seven years on from the camera phone’s debut – more than a billion of the devices were being operated by users.
Fast-forward to the present day, then, and we can now snap photographs of pretty much anything at any time. As far as sharing photos is concerned, though, a revolution of sorts took place in the 2000s. During that period, you see, social media websites such as MySpace began to emerge on the internet.
At that point, people could upload their pictures to their respective social media accounts. Since then, sites such as Instagram that primarily focus on sharing photos have come to the fore, too. And, increasingly, one type of image continues to crop up online.
We’re talking about selfies, of course, which have become virtually ubiquitous on social media. Before smartphones arrived, people had to rely on functions such as remote controls or timers in order to snap self-images with their cameras.
But owing to the front-facing option on camera phones, users can now see what their pictures will ultimately look like on their screens. After that, a selfie-taker typically holds their device at a certain distance from their body before finally making the shot. And given how simple the selfie-snapping process is, the sheer number of such photos on social media shouldn’t be that surprising.
But while the practice of taking selfies is largely harmless, there are individuals who have put themselves at real risk to snap the “perfect” picture – whether that’s by standing on the edges of buildings or teetering on the precipices of cliffs. And regardless of the quality of the image, it’s arguably not worth it when one wrong step could prove disastrous.
Noting this emerging trend, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences conducted some intriguing research into the subject of selfies. And when the resulting paper was published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in the second half of 2018, the results contained within proved rather alarming.
Titled Selfies: A boon or bane?, the paper took an in-depth look at the number of “selfie deaths” that have occurred over a certain period. The article begins, “Selfie is a recent phenomenon and was named as the word of the year [in] 2013 by [the] Oxford Dictionary. Google [has] estimated that 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Google Photos in 2015.”
The fascinating statistics didn’t end there, either. The research paper continued, “About one million selfies are clicked per day in [the] 18 to 24-year-old demographic.” The findings also quoted work by think tank Pew Research Center, which has claimed that around 55 percent of millennials had posted selfies on social media services.
During the researchers’ investigation, moreover, they noted that certain sites on the internet contained information about “how to have a perfect selfie.” And the article shed some light on the genre’s developing terminology to boot, using examples such as “dentisfie” and “restaurantfie.”
“[The] introduction of ‘selfie sticks’ and ‘selfie shoe[s]’ have enhanced [the] obsession among people for selfies,” the paper announced, going on to claim, “These days, the choice of smartphones is based on their selfie-picture quality. In addition, there are certain events held at school or college level that promote selfies, like the ‘Best Selfie’ prize.”
Following that introduction to the article, however, the researchers outlined their aims for the study. For example, they highlighted that certain people do put themselves at risk to capture personal snaps, and that this in itself can lead to tragedy. And the authors made sure to point out that they weren’t the only ones to take an interest in the phenomenon.
The report noted, you see, that Google’s first search queries for “selfie deaths” had been made in January 2014. This had come in the wake of the death of a Lebanese citizen who had died from a car bomb moments after posing for a self-portrait.
Yet while the process of taking a selfie can lead to someone’s untimely passing, the authorities don’t always recognize the action as the actual cause of death. The paper continued, “It is believed that selfie deaths are underreported, and the true problem needs to be addressed. For example, certain road accidents while posing for selfies are reported as death due to road traffic accident.”
So with that in mind, the researchers explained how they had approached conducting this particular study. As revealed in the paper, they had endeavored to compile a list of stories from across the internet that suggested an individual had died while taking a selfie. Then the group attempted to see whether those links could be backed up by newspaper reports.
And with all the pieces in place, the researchers eventually shared their results. “From October 2011 to November 2017, there have been 259 deaths while clicking selfies in 137 incidents,” the final paper read. “There have been three selfie-related deaths reported in 2011, two in 2013, 13 in 2014, 50 in 2015 [and] 98 and 93, respectively, in 2016 and 2017.”
And the research team went on to break down those numbers even further. The article continued, “The mean age [of death] was 22.94 years, with [a] range from 10 to 68 years. About 72.5 percent (153) of the total deaths occurred in males and 27.5 percent in females.”
According to this in-depth analysis, half of the selfie deaths had taken place in India, while Russia possessed the second-highest figure. The U.S. and Pakistan, meanwhile, rounded off the list of the top four nations for selfie fatalities.
And the group would reveal a bit more about the nature of these deaths. The paper explained, “Drowning, transport and falls form the top three reasons for deaths caused by selfies. The most common drowning incidents include [getting] washed away by waves on [the] beach, capsizing of boats while rowing [and] clicking selfies on shore while not knowing how to swim or ignoring warnings.”
In addition to these fatalities, the researchers flagged up yet another notable cause of death. Perhaps inevitably, there had been lethal accidents when people had attempted to snap themselves holding guns – most notably, as the study revealed, in the U.S.
But the All India Institute of Medical Sciences report also made a distinction between the “risky behavior” and “non-risky behavior” involved in selfie deaths. Risky behavior covered someone teetering on the edge of a high location; non-risky behavior, on the other hand, encapsulated situations where the danger wasn’t immediate or apparent.
The research paper noted, “Risky behavior caused more deaths and incidents due to selfies than non-risky behavior. Our study has shown that the number of deaths in females is less due to risky behavior…. while [death by risky behavior] is approximately three times [higher] in males.”
And even after the data on selfie deaths was shared with the world, more people have unfortunately passed away in the process of making self-portraits. In 2018, for example, a missionary named Gavin Zimmerman was involved in an accident while traveling around New South Wales, Australia. At that time, he had been attempting to take a selfie from one of the cliffs in the nation.
Zimmerman then lost his balance and tumbled off the edge into the water below. And, tragically, the Utah native had already succumbed to his injuries when the authorities found him. Following the teenager’s untimely passing, then, one of his friends touched upon what he’d planned to do prior to the fall.
“[Zimmerman] sent me pictures of him on pdays [preparation days],” Gio Grillo told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2018. “[He was] going to cool hikes and showing me the beautiful views of Australia. He emailed me…telling me [that] they were going to the cliffs, and he was going to take lots of pictures to show me.”
And in the wake of the tragedy, Zimmerman’s parents Jeanette and Raymond paid a loving tribute to their son through a press release. The message read, “[Zimmerman] was a great example to us all, and he loved his mission very much. He enjoyed teaching people and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The Zimmermans’ statement added, “He loved the savior Jesus Christ and his family, and we loved him. Gavin was a bright light in our lives. Our family will miss him greatly until we meet again.” To ensure that tragedies such as this one happened less frequently, however, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences had a suggestion.
Yes, as the researchers started to wrap up their paper, they discussed the potential ways in which selfie deaths could be reduced. And, in fact, one of the mooted solutions was already being implemented by a few countries across the globe, as so-called “no-selfie zones” had been brought in to help keep people safe.
“In Mumbai, 16 areas have been declared as ‘no-selfie zones,’” the article revealed. “In Indonesia, administrative officials are preparing a safe selfie spot for foreigners and tourists at Mt. Merapi, taking into consideration the risk of selfie deaths.” The report also noted that Russian authorities had erected signs warning of the dangers of taking selfies in particularly risky areas.
However, while the All India Institute of Medical Sciences had tried its best to raise awareness on this issue, there was one other problem. Although the study had compiled the largest list of selfie deaths and reports to date, the paper stated, “This is just the tip of [the] iceberg. Many cases are not reported.”
In conclusion, then, the researchers suggested that further “no-selfie Zones” needed to be introduced around the world in order to discourage the public from putting their lives in danger. But that wasn’t the research paper’s only recommendation.
The team added, “Individuals need to be educated regarding certain risky behaviors and risky places where selfies should not be taken. ‘No-selfie zones’… should be declared across many tourist [spots] – especially places such as water bodies, mountain peaks and tall buildings – to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths.”