Death of Marilyn Monroe

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Death of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits trailer 2.jpg
Monroe in her final completed film The Misfits (1961)
Date August 5, 1962 (1962-08-05)
Location Los Angeles, California, United States
Deaths Marilyn Monroe, 36

On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead, aged 36, in the bedroom of her Brentwood home by her psychiatrist Ralph Greenson after he was telephoned by a woman named Eunice Murray, whom he paid to spend the night with Monroe out of apparent concern for her well-being. Her death was ruled to be a barbiturate overdose.

Monroe's death has been the subject of conspiracy theories. Some authors and researchers have stated that Monroe was murdered because of her alleged sexual relationships with then-president John F. Kennedy and/or his brother, then-attorney general Robert F. Kennedy.


The August 6, 1962, front page of the New York Daily Mirror, a Hearst tabloid, declared Monroe's death as a suicide.

Many questions remain unanswered regarding the circumstances of and timeline for the hours before and after Monroe's death. Elements of this timeline have been brought into question. Most notable are the discrepancies in the times Monroe either made or received her last phone call and at what time during the late night and early hours of August 4 and 5 her body was discovered.[1]

On August 3, Monroe filled a prescription for twenty-five Nembutal tablets. Nembutal, which is also known as Pentobarbital, is a strong barbiturate that was prescribed to her by her personal physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg,[2] for the purpose of inducing sleep on many of her sleepless nights. (Monroe's third husband Arthur Miller said about her after her death, "Sleep was her demon.")[3] The bottle for this Nembutal prescription was found empty at the scene of death when the police arrived in the early hours of August 5.

  • Around 5:00 p.m.: Monroe's psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson, leaves her Brentwood bungalow home after the latest in a series of treatments for her ongoing depression.
  • 7–7:15 p.m.: Joe DiMaggio Jr., son of baseball player Joe DiMaggio (and thus Monroe's former stepson) phones her about his broken engagement to a woman in San Diego.[4] DiMaggio Jr. said when interviewed that Monroe sounded cheerful and upbeat. On duty with the Marines at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, 97 miles southeast of Monroe's home, DiMaggio was able to place the time of the call because he was watching the seventh inning of a Baltimore Orioles – Los Angeles Angels game being played in Baltimore. According to the game's records, the seventh inning took place between 10 and 10:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; thus, Monroe received the call around 7 p.m. California time.
  • 7:30–7:45 p.m.: Actor Peter Lawford telephones Monroe to invite her to dinner at his house, an invitation she declined earlier that day. According to Lawford's later statements, Monroe's speech is slurred and is becoming increasingly indecipherable. After she tells him goodbye, the conversation abruptly ends. Lawford tries to call her back again but receives a busy signal. Existing telephone records show that this is the last phone call Monroe's main line received that night.
  • 8 p.m.: Lawford telephones Eunice Murray, who is spending the night in Monroe's guest house, on a different line asking if Murray would check in on her. After a few seconds Murray returns to the phone telling Lawford that she is fine. Unconvinced, Lawford will try all night long to get in touch with Monroe. Lawford telephones his friend and lawyer Milton A. "Mickey" Rudin, but is advised to keep away from Monroe's house to avoid any public embarrassment that could result from Monroe possibly being under the influence.[citation needed]
  • 10 p.m.: Housekeeper Eunice Murray walks past Monroe's bedroom door and later testifies that she saw a light on under the door but decided not to disturb Monroe.
  • 10:30 p.m.: According to actress Natalie Trundy (later Mrs. Arthur P. Jacobs), Monroe's publicist Arthur P. Jacobs, who was her boyfriend at the time, hurriedly leaves a concert at the Hollywood Bowl that he is attending with Trundy and director Mervyn LeRoy and his wife, after being informed by Monroe's lawyer Mickey Rudin that she has overdosed.[citation needed] Trundy's claim fits with undertaker Guy Hockett's estimation that Monroe died sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Jacobs drives Trundy to her home, drops her off and does not see or communicate with her for two days, during which time she notices in news reports such details as Monroe's nude body being discovered next to an empty pill bottle sometime after the Hollywood Bowl concert ended.[5] When Jacobs and Trundy reunite, he hints that he has helped officials "fudge" the media reports.[citation needed] Though they later marry, he dies in 1973 without ever going into detail with her or telling anyone else what he knows.[5]
  • 12 a.m.: Murray notices the light under the door again and knocks several times but gets no reply.
  • 3:00 a.m.: Eunice Murray calls Marilyn's personal psychiatrist, Dr. Greenson, on the second telephone line, she still cannot awake Monroe. She is sure something is very wrong after peeking into her barred bedroom window.
  • 3:40 a.m.: Dr. Greenson arrives and tries to break open the door but fails. He looks through the French windows outside and sees Monroe lying on the bed holding the telephone and apparently dead, so he breaks the glass to open the locked door and checks her. He calls Dr. Hyman Engelberg.
  • 4:30 a.m.: Police are called and arrive shortly after. Jack Clemmons is the first Los Angeles Police Department officer to arrive at the death scene.[6] The two doctors and Murray are questioned and indicate a time of death of around 12:30 a.m. Police note the room is extremely tidy and the bed appears to have fresh linen on it.[citation needed] They later claim Murray is washing sheets in Monroe's washing machine when they arrive.[citation needed] Police note that the bedside table has several pill bottles but the room contains no means for Monroe to swallow pills or capsules because they do not see a drinking glass or cup and the water supply is turned off.[citation needed] Monroe is known to gag on pills even when drinking to wash them down.[citation needed] Later a glass is found lying on the floor by the bed but police claim it was not there when the room was searched.[citation needed]
  • 5:40 a.m.: Undertaker Guy Hockett arrives and notes that the state of rigor mortis indicates a time of death between 9:30 and 11:30 p.m.[citation needed] The time is later altered to match the witness statements.[citation needed]
  • 6 a.m.: Murray changes her story and now says she went back to bed at midnight and only called Dr. Greenson when she awoke at 3 a.m. and noticed the light still on.[citation needed] Both doctors also change their stories and now claim Monroe died around 3:50 a.m.[citation needed] Police note Murray appears quite evasive and extremely vague and she would eventually change her story several times.[citation needed]

Despite being a key witness, Murray travels to Europe and is not questioned again by authorities, though she does talk openly to several book authors and researchers in the 1970s and 1980s. The author Anthony Summers learns in the early 1980s that Murray's son-in-law Norman Jeffries worked as a handyman in 1962 and participated in the remodeling of Monroe's home. When Summers tells Murray (in the early 1980s) he has discovered that Jeffries joined her at Monroe's house throughout the morning, afternoon and evening of August 4, 1962, she becomes "oddly reluctant to assist me in reaching Jeffries," (Summers' words).[7] Eventually, Jeffries is questioned by one of Summers' researchers[7] and then, in the early 1990s, by another book author named Donald Wolfe.[8] Jeffries tells Wolfe that his former mother-in-law Eunice Murray is innocent of murder, but she spread false information about the events of August 4 and 5, 1962, to assist those who did murder Monroe and to protect the reputation of psychiatrist Ralph Greenson.[8]

The pathologist at the Los Angeles County coroner's office, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, could find no traces of capsules, powder or the typical discoloration caused by Nembutal in Monroe's stomach or intestines, indicating that the capsules that killed her had not been swallowed.[citation needed] If Monroe had taken them over a period of time (which might account for the lack of residue), she would have died before ingesting the amount found in her bloodstream.[citation needed] Monroe was found lying face down.[citation needed] There was also evidence of cyanosis, an indication that death had been very quick.[citation needed] Noguchi asked the toxicologist for examinations of the blood, liver, kidneys, stomach, urine and intestines, which would have revealed exactly how the drugs got into Monroe's system.[citation needed] However, the toxicologist, after examining the blood, did not believe he needed to check other organs, so many of the organs were destroyed without being examined.[citation needed] Noguchi later asked for the samples, but the medical photographs, the slides of those organs that were examined and the examination form showing bruises on the body had disappeared, making it impossible to investigate the cause of death.[citation needed]

The toxicology report shows high levels of Nembutal (38–66 capsules) and chloral hydrate (14–23 tablets) in Monroe's blood. [9] The level found was enough to kill more than 10 people.[citation needed] An examination of the body ruled out intravenous injection as the source of the drugs.[citation needed] Coroner Dr. Theodore Curphey oversaw the full autopsy.[citation needed] Apart from the cause of death as listed on the death certificate, the results were never made public and no record of the findings was kept.[citation needed]

The funeral[edit]

Marilyn Monroe's crypt at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles

The funeral arrangements for Monroe were made by her former husband, retired baseball player Joe DiMaggio.

Marilyn Monroe was buried in what was known at that time as the "Cadillac of caskets" – a hermetically sealed antique-silver-finished 48-ounce (heavy gauge) solid bronze "masterpiece" casket lined with champagne-colored satin-silk; the casket had been manufactured by the Belmont casket company in Shadyside, Ohio. Before the service, the outer lid and the upper half of the divided inner lid of her casket were opened so that the mourners could get a last glimpse of Monroe. Hollywood makeup artist Whitey Snyder had prepared her face, a promise he had made her if she were to die before him.

The service was the second one held at the newly built chapel at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in West Los Angeles,[10] and only 25 people were given permission to attend. Monroe's acting coach, Lee Strasberg, delivered her eulogy. An organist played "Over the Rainbow" at the end of the service.

Monroe is interred in a pink marble crypt at Corridor of Memories, #24. Hugh Hefner owns the rights to the crypt next to it. Monroe had visited the cemetery more than once as a struggling actress because Ana Lower, the adult to whom she had been closest during her juvenile years, had been buried there in 1948. Lower was related to Grace Goddard, Monroe's official guardian during much of her childhood. When Goddard committed suicide in 1953,[11] Monroe, by then wealthy, arranged for her burial at Westwood.

DiMaggio had a half-dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for the next 20 years. He never spoke publicly about his relationship with Monroe and never remarried for the remaining 37 years of his life.

Publicity in the 1970s[edit]

In 1973, Norman Mailer received much publicity for having written Marilyn: A Biography, the first bestselling book to suggest that Monroe's death was a murder staged to look like a drug overdose. The 1968 book titled The Mysterious Death of Marilyn Monroe, authored by James A. Hudson and published by Volitant Books, had received very little publicity. The Mailer book has no footnotes and does not cite any interviews with witnesses, police officials or coroner Thomas Noguchi, who performed the autopsy, although there are many references to the Kennedy brothers. In a 60 Minutes interview first telecast in August 1973, Mailer said to Mike Wallace he could not have interviewed Monroe's housemate Eunice Murray because Murray was dead before he started work on the book. Wallace said on camera that Murray was alive and was listed in the West Los Angeles telephone directory.

In a 1974 book on Monroe's death that was not publicized on television at the time, author Robert Slatzer made controversial claims about not only a conspiracy, but also his alleged brief marriage to Monroe in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1952. (During that year her romance with Joe DiMaggio was reported by gossip columnists, although they did not marry until 1954.) Unlike Norman Mailer, Slatzer interviewed an authority whose name, which was unknown to the public at the time, appears in official documents from 1962. Slatzer's source was Jack Clemmons, a sergeant with the LAPD who was the first officer to report to the death scene. According to Clemmons' statements in Slatzer's book, Eunice Murray behaved suspiciously, doing laundry at 4:30 am and answering his questions evasively. When Slatzer approached Murray with questions, she denied any wrongdoing by herself or by Monroe's psychiatrist Ralph Greenson, who had hired Murray to watch the actress for signs of drug abuse or suicidal tendencies.

Greenson himself refused to talk to Robert Slatzer, having reacted with outrage to Norman Mailer's highly publicized book by doing interviews with Lloyd Shearer for Parade[12] and with Maurice Zolotow. The piece by Zolotow, author of a Monroe biography that had been published while she was alive, originated in the Chicago Tribune in four installments and was syndicated to other newspapers in 1973.[13] Zolotow quoted Greenson as saying Monroe was not sexually involved with either Kennedy brother "or with any other man" at the end of her life.[13] Most of Greenson's statements in 1973 had to do with the last time he saw Monroe alive, which was at her home in the late afternoon of August 4, 1962, and the instructions he gave to Eunice Murray (during his visit) about the circumstances under which she could allow Monroe to leave the house.[12][13] Greenson depicted Monroe as a loner after her divorce from Arthur Miller in January 1961.

BBC investigation[edit]

In 1985, the American media publicized an investigation by British journalist Anthony Summers. That year, BBC viewers saw a documentary titled Marilyn: Say Goodbye To The President that was narrated by Christopher Olgiati. The programme contained soundbite interviews with, among others, Jack Clemmons and Eunice Murray, who was still alive 12 years after Norman Mailer's erroneous claim that she was dead. A former district attorney named John Miner is also seen being interviewed. He refused at the time to say anything about his interview with a grief-stricken Ralph Greenson in 1962, citing a policy of confidentiality at the district attorney's office and Greenson's doctor/patient confidentiality. Summers also came out that year with the book Goddess, which quoted Miner as saying he was aware that Greenson was now dead, but their 1962 conversation was still confidential.[11]

A People Weekly cover story in 1985 reported that 20/20 had canceled a segment about Monroe's relationships with the Kennedys and the circumstances of her death. Barbara Walters, Hugh Downs and Geraldo Rivera were reported to have reacted angrily to the cancellation. The staffs of both the BBC and 20/20 had worked closely with Anthony Summers. All of these investigations had started after the 1979 death of Ralph Greenson. For the BBC program Eunice Murray initially repeated the same story she had told Robert Slatzer in 1973 and the police in 1962. She apparently noticed the camera crew starting to pack up and then said, "Why, at my age, do I still have to cover this thing?"[11] Unknown to her, the microphone was still on. Murray went on to admit that Monroe had known the Kennedys.[14] She volunteered that on the night of the actress' death, "When the doctor arrived, she was not dead."[14] Murray died in 1994 without revealing further details.

21st-century investigations of Monroe[edit]

Rachael Bell of Court TV[edit]

According to a mini-biography of the events leading up to Monroe's death written by Rachael Bell for Court TV's Crime Library, a sedative enema might have been administered on the advice of Monroe's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, as a sleep aid and as part of Greenson's larger project to wean his patient off barbiturates.

Drawing on Donald Spoto's updated edition of his biography from 2001, Bell elaborates on the theory that Greenson was perhaps unaware of the fact that his patient's internist, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, had refilled Monroe's prescription for the barbiturate Nembutal a day earlier, and that the actress may very well have ingested enough Nembutal throughout the day such that it would lethally interact with the chloral hydrate later given to her. Bell writes:

Spoto makes a very persuasive case for accidental death. Dr. Greenson had been working with Dr. Hyman Engelberg to wean Marilyn off Nembutal, substituting instead chloral hydrate to help her sleep. Mickey Rudin claimed that Greenson said something very important the night of Marilyn's death: "Gosh darn it! He gave her a prescription I didn't know about!"

Bell goes on to suggest that the suspicious circumstances surrounding Monroe's death are very possibly the result of an elaborate cover-up for what was, essentially, a tragic medical mistake.[15]

John Miner's "tapes" assertion[edit]

On August 5, 2005, the Los Angeles Times published an account of Monroe's death by former Los Angeles County district attorney John Miner, who was present at the autopsy. Miner claimed that she was not suicidal, offering as proof his notes on audio tapes she had supposedly recorded for Greenson and that Greenson had played for him. Miner had refused to discuss them during Anthony Summers's 1980s investigation. In 2005, Miner did not explain why he was now willing to break the confidentiality agreement he had made with Greenson in 1962. The relationship of Greenson, an eminent figure in the history of psychoanalysis (he died in 1979), with Monroe is controversial (see L. Mecacci, Freudian Slips: The Casualties of Psychoanalysis from the Wolf Man to Marilyn Monroe, Vagabond Voices, Sulaisadiar 'san Rudha (Scotland), 2009, pp. 1–36, 181–183). Summers believes that the Miner notes are not genuine.

The CBS 48 Hours investigation[edit]

In April 2006, CBS's 48 Hours presented an updated report by Anthony Summers on Monroe's death. Through Summers, 48 Hours gained access to audio tapes of interviews conducted by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office in 1982.

According to Summers' sources, Monroe attended social events at actor Peter Lawford's beach home in Santa Monica, California, in the months before her death that also included President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The 48 Hours report quoted a former Secret Service agent as stating that it was "common knowledge" among his colleagues that there was an affair between Monroe and John Kennedy. Rumors of a relationship with Robert Kennedy were not confirmed.

According to the 48 Hours telecast, Lawford told police that he spoke to Monroe on the phone shortly before her death, that she sounded groggy and depressed, and that she said to him, "Say goodbye to Jack," and "Say goodbye to yourself." Phone records of her long distance calls that evening were lost, which was a cause of suspicion. Former Assistant District Attorney Mike Carroll, who conducted the 1982 investigation, said they found "no evidence of an intentional criminal act," and indicated that suicide was the most likely cause of death. He stated, "The bottles were there. She was unconscious. She had a history of overdose. In fact, she had a history of not only overdosing, but of being resuscitated."[16]

FBI 2006 file release[edit]

In October 2006, under the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released thousands of pages of previously classified documents. In 2007, writer Philippe Mora found a three-page report among the papers titled Robert F. Kennedy that discussed Monroe's death – which would later be included in the FBI index under Marilyn Monroe.[17]

Written by an unnamed former FBI agent working for the then-California Governor Pat Brown, it detailed Robert Kennedy's alleged affair with Monroe and claimed Kennedy had promised Monroe he would divorce his wife and marry her. After Monroe realized he had no intention of doing so, however, she threatened to make the affair public, possibly by holding a press conference. The report claimed unknown persons tried to silence Monroe, who had a history of staging publicity-seeking fake suicide attempts, by deliberately encouraging her to kill herself. The report implicated Kennedy, Peter Lawford, her psychiatrist Ralph Greenson, her housekeeper Eunice Murray, and her secretary and press agent Pat Newcomb, in the plot. The report was prefaced with a statement noting that author of the report did not know the source and could not evaluate the authenticity of the information.[18]

Mora said that he was not sure what to make of the file.[19][20]


  1. ^ Ellis, Chris & Julie (2005). Celebrity Murder: Murder played out in the spotlight of maximum publicity. Constable & Robertson. ISBN 1-84529-154-9. [page needed]
  2. ^ "Dr. Hyman Engelberg; Marilyn Monroe's Personal Physician". Los Angeles Times. December 21, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ Hitchens, Neal and Riese, Randall. The Unabridged Marilyn: Her Life From A To Z. New York: Congdon & Weed, 1987, p. 127.
  4. ^ "Joe DiMaggio Jr.; Son of Yankees Baseball Legend Led Troubled Life". Los Angeles Times. August 8, 1999. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Summers, Anthony (1986). Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. New York, NY: New American Library. pp. 266–67. 
  6. ^ Slatzer 1992, p. 212
  7. ^ a b Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, by Anthony Summers, 1985, Guild Publishing, London, ISBN 0-575-03641-9.
  8. ^ a b Wolfe, Donald H. The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe. (1998) ISBN 0-7871-1807-9.
  9. ^,%20marilyn_report.pdf
  10. ^ Hitchens & Riese 1987, p. 71
  11. ^ a b c Summers, Anthony (1985). Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. New York: Macmillan. [page needed]
  12. ^ a b Shearer, Lloyd (August 5, 1973). "Marilyn Monroe: Why Won't They Let Her Rest In Peace?". Parade. 
  13. ^ a b c Zolotow, Maurice. "Monroe's last days: Drowsy death in a barbiturate darkness." Chicago Tribune September 14, 1973, section 2 page 4.
  14. ^ a b Say Goodbye To The President. Released on DVD by Winstar Interactive Media on December 22, 1998 [1]
  15. ^ The Death of Marilyn (9. Theories) By Rachael Bell. Courtroom Television Network. Retrieved December 28, 2006.
  16. ^ "The Marilyn Tapes," 48 Hours Mystery] CBS News, August 1, 2006. Retrieved November 11, 2007.
  17. ^ "Marilyn Monroe Part 2 of 2". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Marilyn Monroe 'Cross' References" (PDF). Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 31, 2001. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  19. ^ "FBI file links Kennedy to Monroe's death" Sydney Morning Herald, March 17, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  20. ^ "How Bobby betrayed Marilyn" Sydney Morning Herald, March 17, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2013.

25. Miracle, Maniscalco Nancy From Sardi's to Sicily: the biography of Marilyn Monroe ISBN 1482341336 ISBN 978-1482341331


  • Hitchens, Neal; Riese, Randall (1987). The Unabridged Marilyn: Her Life From A To Z. Condgon & Weed. ISBN 9780865531673. 
  • Slatzer, Robert (1992). The Marilyn Files. SP Books. ISBN 9781561711475. 
  • Vankin, Jonathan; Whalen, Jon (2004). The 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. Citadel Press. ISBN 9780806525310. 
  • Miracle, Maniscalco Nancy From Sardi's to Sicily: the biography of Marilyn Monroe ISBN 1482341336

ISBN 978-1482341331

External links[edit]