Many of us might like to live as our parents lived, but would we want to die the same way they did? Whether it is genetics or fate, history is peppered with examples of people who have suffered a similar fate to their parents. And conversely, people succumbing to the same fate as their children.
Here is a list of ten examples of such people. In some cases, the manner of death has been the same—suicide, drugs, or a medical condition. In other cases, though the manner of death differs, eerie parallels can be seen in the circumstances surrounding the demise of parent and child.
10 – Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee
Was it a family curse? The Hong Kong-based triads? The Chinese mafia? Rumors swirled in the aftermath of Bruce Lee’s death in 1973. The supremely talented actor and martial artist’s untimely demise at the age of 32, was officially attributed to a brain edema (brain swelling) caused by an allergic reaction to a prescription painkiller, but the conspiracy theories persisted. Many simply could not accept that the invincible, ultra-fit action hero could be neutralized by something so utterly mundane.
When his son, Brandon, was killed during filming on the set of the movie The Crow in 1993, the rumors resurfaced with renewed vigor. Though Brandon, aged 28, was killed by a bullet from a gun that was supposed to have been loaded with blanks, the coincidences that surrounded the father and son’s deaths are difficult to ignore.
Their lives were tragically short. Both were filming their fifth feature film when they died (Enter the Dragon for Bruce Lee and The Crow for Brandon), and neither saw the release of the films that would catapult them to stardom. However, the most compelling evidence, for those that subscribe to the curse theory, comes from one of Bruce Lee’s other movies. In the movie Game of Death (released posthumously in 1978), Bruce Lee plays an actor. In a pivotal scene, his character is shot during filming when the prop guns are replaced with real ones. Whether coincidence or some mystical, sinister foreshadowing, this iconic scene will continue to taunt fans and conspiracy theorists alike.
9 – Tim Buckley and Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley never liked talking about his father. That is totally understandable. It would be difficult to find much to say about someone you had spent only nine days with. Tim Buckley walked out on his wife and son when Jeff was six months old. When Jeff was eight, he met his father and spent the Easter holidays with him. Nine days.
Two months later, Tim Buckley died of a heroin overdose at the age of 28. And though Jeff spent his life trying to sidestep the musical parallels drawn between him and his famous father, he could not avoid a similarly premature end. He died when he was just 30. Two prodigiously talented musicians gone too soon. Both deaths considered accidental.
Tim Buckley had been a hard user of drugs in the early days but was not, according to the coroner, an addict at the time of his death. According to his wife, Judy, Tim was “incredibly healthy.” Following an afternoon visit to a friend’s house, Tim suffered an “acute heroin-morphine and ethanol intoxication” that led to his death. His friend, Richard Keeling, was subsequently charged with murder under California law for supplying the drugs that caused Tim’s death. The charge was later downgraded, and Keeling served 120 days jail for involuntary manslaughter.
Jeff drowned after an impromptu night swim in Wolf River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, in 1997. A friend watched him swim, fully clothed, for about fifteen minutes before a tugboat appeared. Jeff swam clear, but when a bigger boat followed, he disappeared from sight. His friend, Foti, called for help and a full search was underway within thirty minutes. Jeff’s body was found six days later after a passenger aboard the American Queen spotted something caught in a tangle of bushes floating in the river.
8 – Whitney Houston and Bobbi Kristina Brown
Both mother and daughter drowned in bathtubs, their bodies riddled with drugs, within three years of each other. Whitney was 48; her daughter, only 21.
Some say that Bobbi Kristina did not stand a chance. The daughter of singer celebrities Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown—both well known for their drug use—certainly lacked the modeling of a stable family life. By the time Bobbi Kristina was born in 1993, Whitney’s career was past its peak. She had married Bobby the previous year, and the pair continued to fuel each other’s drug and alcohol addictions. Having a baby to care for proved no incentive for the couple to get clean. A family friend was quoted as saying, “Sometimes Whitney would be so out of it, the baby wouldn’t be changed for days at a time. That’s what drugs will do to you, and it doesn’t matter how rich you are. An addict is an addict.” The blame cannot all be laid at Whitney’s feet though. Bobby was often in trouble with the law, was jealous of his wife’s fame, and relied on her to pay the child support he owed to his exes.
After Whitney and Bobby divorced in 2007, mother and daughter formed a closer bond. Whitney might have thought she could moderate Bobbi Kristina’s drug-taking at the parties and nightclubs they attended together, but she was powerless to save her daughter. Unknowingly, Whitney left Bobbi Kristina another toxic legacy. Nick Gordon. While outwardly Bobbi Kristina and Nick’s relationship seemed happy (they let the world believe they had gotten married), things were different behind closed doors. Nick, who had been unofficially adopted by Whitney and had grown up with Bobbi Kristina, was subsequently held “legally responsible” for her death.
7 – Nancy Benoit and Daniel Benoit
Nancy Benoit and her son Daniel, died at the hand of their husband and father, Chris Benoit, in June 2007. Chris Benoit, a champion wrestler with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), strangled his wife and suffocated his son before hanging himself in his gym. And while the evidence for the heinous murder-suicide was clear, the motive was not. Why would a successful professional athlete kill his pro-wrestling wife and young son?
Nancy Benoit had had her own career in wrestling, though not in the ring. A former model, Nancy was variously a ringside character, a valet, and a manager. Chris Benoit was her third husband. After the birth of their son, Daniel in February 2000, Nancy began managing her husband’s career from home. A seemingly idyllic life. But three years later, Nancy filed for divorce, saying their relationship was irrevocably broken. In 2004, when Chris Benoit won the Wrestlemania 20 World Heavyweight title, Nancy and Daniel joined him in the ring in celebration. And within another three years, they were all gone.
A post-mortem examination concluded that Chris Benoit’s brain was similar to that of an 85-year-old Alzheimer sufferer—possibly due to repeated concussions, or alcohol or steroid abuse. But no one will ever know what motivated his murderous assault. In the years since, the WWE has gone to great lengths to expunge Chris Benoit’s name from the history books, but that will never ease the hearts of the family, friends, and fans of the Benoits.
6 – Sylvia Plath and Nicholas Hughes
Nicholas Hughes took his own life in 2009, forty-six years after his mother, Sylvia Plath, did the same. Sylvia Plath married fellow poet, Ted Hughes in 1956 after a brief romance. Her first collection of poems, Colossus, was published in 1960, the year the couple’s daughter, Freida was born. Two years later, when their son Nicholas was born, Hughes left Plath for his mistress, Assia Wevill.
In early 1963, Plath’s novel The Bell Jar was released, the semi-autobiographical work revealing her long struggle with depression and suicide. The tormented poet, unable to cope with her husband’s infidelity, gassed herself in her London apartment as her children slept.
Nicholas Hughes followed a scientific, rather than literary, career. A fisheries scientist with the University of Alaska, he cultivated diverse hobbies including pottery, woodworking, boating, cycling, gardening, and cooking the perfect pecan pie. Two years prior to his death, Nicholas gave up his professorship to focus on his pottery. Despite his devotion to this therapeutic pastime, he lost his battle with depression. It was his sister, Freida, who announced his death, by hanging, to the world.
The tragedy of Nicholas Hughes is that he endured not one maternal suicide, but two. His father’s mistress, Assia Wevill, moved in with the family after Sylvia’s death, filling in as mother, until she too committed suicide.