Marilyn's Botched Autopsy
Not long after 5:30 AM on the morning of August the 5th in 1962, two men rolled a gurney into the range of cameras being held to the eyes of the curious and frenzied press. Flash bulbs exploded, popped and faded as those two men loaded the physical remains of Marilyn Monroe, which they had strapped to the gurney and covered by a sheet and cheap blanket, into a modified white Ford station wagon. As the noisy chattering motors of movie cameras pulled unexposed film past their unblinking lenses, the curious and frenzied press moved aside as the white station wagon departed and transported Marilyn’s body to the mortuary at Westwood Village Cemetery, where it remained briefly. Why her body was taken to a mortuary at a cemetery has never been completely explained.
Donald Spoto surmised and opined that the detour to Westwood Village mortuary was ordered by Marilyn’s attorney, Milton Rudin, who needed time to contact Inez Melson, Marilyn’s business manager. Inez was also the guardian and protector of Marilyn’s institutionalized mother, Gladys Pearl. And too, according to Spoto, Rudin needed time to contact Joe DiMaggio, who, Rudin knew, was the best person to arrange and manage Marilyn’s funeral (Spoto 579-580). Perhaps; but since Marilyn was the most famous celebrity in Hollywood, arguably the world, an autopsy would necessarily be required, an autopsy that could only be performed at the Los Angeles County Morgue. A curious detour, the delay in transporting Marilyn’s body to the morgue for an immediate autopsy was the first strange event that transpired and clouded one of the most controversial and criticized autopsies performed during the twentieth century.
Some conspiracists have latched onto that odd detour and used it as proof that Marilyn Monroe actually faked her death. During that delay at Westwood’s mortuary, the real Marilyn escaped a life she could no longer tolerate while another unfortunate dead woman’s body was substituted for the world’s sex symbol, not unlike what happened in Memphis with Elvis Presley, who also faked his death, and at many other locations where high-powered celebrities also faked their deaths. It has been difficult to determine if any of the celebrities previously reported dead are actually dead. Andy Kaufman still lives somewhere. And yet, the most significant corpse switch occurred in Dallas, Texas, some conspiracists have asserted, not because John Kennedy faked his assassination, but because those involved in the assassination needed a corpse on whose body the wounds allegedly caused by the president’s grotesque execution could be created.
Frequently, magazine articles and websites report that Dr. Hyman Engelberg, Marilyn’s internist, performed her autopsy; but those reports are not correct. Dr. Thomas Noguchi, a deputy coroner for Los Angeles County at the time, performed her autopsy. Later in his career, he became Los Angeles County’s Chief Medical Examiner and was involved in more than a few celebrity deaths and autopsies, including autopsies on Sharon Tate, William Holden, Natalie Wood, Janis Joplin, John Belushi and Robert Kennedy.