Elizabeth Taylor Had a Near-Death Experience That Inspired ‘the Best’ Premature Obituaries

Icon Elizabeth Taylor married eight times to seven men throughout her six decades in Hollywood, which meant her name was in the press often. Of course, not all the stories about her were accurate when it came to her life and eventual death.

In her one and only interview with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, the legendary actor told him how it felt to read her own obituaries following a near-death experience when she was only 29. But what ailment put her in such grave condition in the first place?

Elizabeth Taylor in a white dress and hat, standing with a pen in her hand
Elizabeth Taylor | Tom Gallagher/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

Elizabeth Taylor joked early obituaries after her near-death experience were her best reviews

In a clip available on YouTube, Taylor told Carson on The Tonight Show in 1992 that she was nearing a milestone birthday. Due to her medical history, she felt it was “kind of a miracle” she’d made it to 60. As she explained, she almost died a couple of times and doctors had even once pronounced her dead by then.

“I’ve read my own obituaries,” she told Carson. “They were the best reviews I ever had.”

Though she landed a great line, she didn’t get into details with Carson and The Tonight Show audience. But she did tell another iconic host more about what led to a near-death, out-of-body experience.

Elizabeth Taylor had pneumonia and doctors pronounced her dead four times

While speaking with Oprah Winfrey in a video available on YouTube, Taylor described her near-death experience a bit more.

In 1961, she arrived at a London hospital in grave condition with pneumonia. Doctors pronounced her dead four times and she stopped breathing without vitals for five minutes at one point. According to The Desert Sun newspaper, she underwent a tracheotomy and an electronic lung also assisted to help her breathe.

Taylor said during her interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show that she had an out-of-body experience during her time near death. She said she was above herself, watching the medical staff work while they were losing hope. Then, she recalled floating into a tunnel with other “figures” in a “welcoming” place of “sun and warmth.”

That’s where she encountered her deceased husband, Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash about three years before her hospitalization.

“I wanted to be with him more than anything in the world,” she said, adding she was still in mourning over his death. Notably, she began an affair with and married Eddie Fisher after Todd died and before her hospitalization. But she said she tried to stay with Todd, who told her, “It’s not your time.”

Elizabeth Taylor ‘was reported dead on the bulletin board’ during near-death experience

Elizabeth Taylor is carried by stretcher into a London hospital where she received treatment for pneumonia in 1961
Elizabeth Taylor | Bettman/Getty Images

Taylor explained to Winfrey that she had clenched her hands so tight in her near-death experience, the medical staff could not unclench them. Doctors noted on the bulletin board in the hospital that she had died and it was in the papers soon after. And she hadn’t even starred as Cleopatra yet.

Fortunately, she eventually made a full recovery and lived another 40 years, roughly. But apparently, she didn’t mind reading what some reporters had to say about her when they thought she’d died at 29.

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