Beyond its inherent procrastination capabilities, Wikipedia has the power to trigger strong emotional reactions. Fear: Take your pick from these spooky stories. Excitement: Getting details on that new album or film you’ve been clamoring for. Wonder: Re-discovering fascinating factoids your schoolteachers were trying to teach you all along. And, of course, sadness.
You know the feeling. One second you’re casually looking up the name of some child star from your favorite old film. The next, you’re plunged into despair as you’re confronted with tragic tales of abuse, addiction, depression, disease, accidents — the lot. It’s genuinely heartrending, and all too often involves a pop culture figure with more talent than luck, as well as the horrific price that fame exacts.
If you think you can handle it, grab some tissues and brace yourself for some of the saddest stories in pop culture history.
You know him as Michael Banks, one-half of Mary Poppins’ adorable and cheeky charges. Alas, Garber died at age 21 after contracting pancreatitis. Devastated.
The details of Redding’s death in a 1967 plane crash are just unbearable. You’ll never hear “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” quite the same again.
After making the first Air Bud film in 1997, this lovable pooch had his right hind leg amputated and died from complications of cancer soon after.
Any ’80s kid will recognize this sweetie pie from 1982’s Savannah Smiles or the 1986 sequel to The Parent Trap. Sadly, she fell out of touch with her family, started abusing heroin, and died of an accidental overdose in 1997. She was 21.
Famed for playing Addison DeWitt in All About Eve and voicing Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, Sanders has own of the most devastating “later years and death” sections you’ll find on Wikipedia.
The T. Rex frontman was two weeks shy of his 30th birthday when he died in a car accident. His partner, Gloria Jones, had been driving because Bolan had a fear of dying prematurely in a car crash and had therefore never learned to drive.
Cars is dedicated to the memory of this Pixar superstar, who co-directed and voice-acted in the animated film. Ranft died in a car accident during the film’s production.
Still so fresh. Still so awful.
This research chimp’s life was a heart-wrenching tale of multiple abandoment and abuse. Nim’s story inspired the 2011 documentary Project Nim.
The nation was stunned when the My Sister Sam star was fatally shot by her longtime stalker in 1989. She was 21.
Pictured here with frequent duet partner Marvin Gaye, this Motown star collapsed in Gaye’s arms during a 1967 performance. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1970 after several surgeries. The “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” singer was 24.
This soapy spy drama from the mid-’80s is perhaps best remembered for the fact that both of its two leading men met tragic ends.
His A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer Prize, but John Kennedy Toole never lived to see its successs. The book was published seven years after he committed suicide.
Cazale, engaged at the time to costar Meryl Streep, died of lung cancer shortly after shooting his scenes for The Deer Hunter. He is currently the only actor who has starred in multiple Best Picture-nominated films exclusively.
A tragic reference to the age Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse were at the time of their deaths.
Punky Brewster’s big crush and kid brother to the Bee Gees, Gibb died at 30 after battling depression and drug addiction.
More commonly known as “Fatty,” the silent film star was embroiled in one of the most mysterious scandals in Hollywood history.
Though her killer tried to stage Shelly’s 2006 death as a suicide, he eventually confessed to murdering the actress after she caught him stealing money from her. Waitress, the Keri Russell film she wrote, directed, and starred in, premiered a few months after her death.
A reference to the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and pilot Roger Peterson in a plane crash on February 3, 1959.
The Beach Boy was 39 when he drowned in Marina Del Rey.
The theater legend’s career took a dramatic hit as punishment for his political views, from which Robeson never really recovered.
Poor Scarlett from Four Weddings and a Funeral didn’t get her happy ending after all.
Though her sister Dorothy’s story was made into a film starring Halle Berry, Vivian Dandridge’s life was equally tragic.
Writer Dominick Dunne’s actress daughter died five days after being brutally attacked by an ex-boyfriend. Her death has been linked to the so-called Poltergeist curse in reference to her 1982 film.
Speculation into the tragic setbacks of Superman stars like Christopher Reeve and George Reeves.
The twinkle-eyed star of Misery and Anne of Green Gables took his own life.
Bruce Lee’s son was 28 when he was killed in a shooting accident on the set of The Crow.
Easily one of the most horrific on-set accidents in history.
Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioneess of Hartington
JFK’s socialite sister suffered one tragic incident after another before ultimately dying in a plane crash at age 28.
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