Bruce Lee’s Sudden Death Drew Conspiracies From Murderous Ninjas to Ancient Curses

Bruce Lee is one of the most famous celebrities in modern history, nearly fifty years after his untimely death. Just 33 when he passed away, Lee was just coming into the A-Lost and hoping to build a career that combined philosophy, Martial Arts, and spirituality into one small package. For a seemingly healthy young man to pass away at his age, however, many have questions to this day about the details behind his tragic death. 

Bruce Lee looking away from the camera, shirtless, with his arms slightly outstretched
Bruce Lee | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Bruce Lee’s career

Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco in July of 1940. His parents were part of a traveling opera company that eventually took him overseas to the place that made him famous. There, he met Yip Man, the famed Wing Chun master that inspired countless films about his life. 

However, when Lee wasn’t practicing kung fu, he spent much of his childhood acting in films. At 18, he enrolled at the University of Washington. There, he studied philosophy with the hopes that it would help his martial arts. It was here that he started to teach Kung Fu, as well. Lee opened two schools in California and married his wife Linda in the early 1960s. They had two kids

After securing a role in The Green Hornet, Lee’s star began to rise. He parleyed the series’ success onto the big screen, making three films in Hong Kong that helped bring the kung fu genre to the mainstream. Lee’s most notable film to date, Enter The Dragon, was on the verge of being released in 1973 when its star mysteriously passed away. However, 48 years later, his legacy remains stronger than ever. Stories of his death, on the other hand, remain shrouded in mystery. 

What happened to Bruce Lee?

The official count of Bruce Lee’s death is simple, mysterious, and tragic. Filming Game of Death, Lee was reeling over a recent conversation with James Bond, himself, George Lazenby, about starring in his passion project. Lee visited his mistress and his business partner, Raymond Chow, and prepared for a celebration dinner. Complaining of a headache, Lee took some medication and took a nap he never woke up from.

Since Lee’s death, conspiracy theories about how and why he died range from mafia hits to poisoning. After all, a 32-year-old man known for his peak fitness should not die under those circumstances. Chow spoke with History about the onslaught of tabloid headlines. “The stories were rampant: stories about him dying from an overdose, dying from screwing too much, dying with an erection, dying from being hacked to death by young thugs, poisoned by his servant. There was one story that he wasn’t really dead.”

To this day, his death remains a mystery. After Lee’s son, Brandon, was killed on set at the onset of his career, many posited that a curse was behind it all. Others, perhaps confusing his on-screen persona with the real-life Bruce Lee, thought that ninja assassins took him out, according to Buzzfeed. Chow, himself, wonders if the water Lee drank had something in it. Others attribute his lack of sweat glands in his armpits, a personal decision, as the culprit.

Regardless, the official cause of death is shrouded in mystery. However, some posit that Lee was killed by an allergic reaction to the aspirin he was given. Despite his tragic death, Lee’s life, teachings, and movies of Bruce Lee remain as big as they ever were.

A widow speaks 

His widow, Linda, spoke about it in an interview with The Bruce Lee Foundation. In it, she said that Lee would rather be known for his philosophies and teachings than as a celebrity. His message was the most crucial part of everything he did. If you asked Lee, he wasn’t a celebrity but a philosopher and teacher. 

“He wanted to be accepted as just a normal person who had looked deeply into his own life and did what he could. In other words, he wanted to seek his own truth, and would hope that other people would be motivated to do that as well,” she said in the interview. 

In many ways, he got his wish. While his death is shrouded in mysteries, conspiracies, and other figments of the unknown, Lee is not defined by this. His movies, writings, quotes, and stylings are still being studied by fans and grandmasters alike. While his story was cut too short, his legacy shows no signs of slowing down.