Death Defying Celebrities

We love to follow the powerful, the filthy rich, and the famous. Why? Because these exalted few among us live large. Some would even call them larger than life. But are they larger than death? Not so much.

In 2016, many bright stars fell – including beloved mother-and-daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. This loss and others is a tragic reminder of the people behind the legends. Still, our celeb obsession knows no boundaries. It seems we love them to death, even when they haven’t died yet. There are even several websites devoted to predicting which celebrities will be next to exit the limelight and enter the white light. This morbid fascination with the timing of celebrity deaths is nothing new, and it may even be a decades-old tradition.   

We scoured these sites to find out which celebrities defied the odds the longest, how accurate the sites’ predictions were, and who was considered next up to exit stage left. Have fans gone too far? Keep reading to find out.

The Aftermath of After-Life Wagers

DeathList.net provides a humorous take on the fate that ultimately awaits us all by forecasting the top 50 celebrities most likely to die in a given year and then tracking its success rate. The site is dead serious about accurately predicting celebrity departures. For 2016, it boasted a 24 percent success rate – 12 out of the top 50 celebrities on its list went on to the Great Beyond.

While the site’s mission might seem irreverent to some, the practice of laughing at death or at least joking about it – as well as other things we find to be scary – is probably very healthy. It’s in this spirit that we conducted our analysis.

Who managed to defy DeathList’s odds the longest? The answer: English entertainer Clive Dunn (19202012), who outlasted the site’s predictions by a total of 16 appearances on the list. However, Kirk Douglas (born in 1916) is closing the gap at second place with 15 appearances while a tie for third place exists between U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) and the Queen Mother (1900–2002). Comedian Bob Hope (1903–2003), Cuban leader Fidel Castro (1926–2016), retired boxer Jake LaMotta (born in1921) and notorious English thief Ronnie Biggs (1929–2013) are all tied for fifth place.

Tallying the Untimely

The inaugural DeathList was in 1987. Since then – with just a few exceptions – its accuracy has increased steadily. Most specifically, the list’s best years were 2003, 2008, and 2015 – with a 28 percent accuracy rate all around. In fact, the list has been so intuitive its accuracy has been 14 percent or higher since 1994. Overall, the list has been right nearly 19 percent of the time.

Predicting the Unpredictable

Ranker’s Celebrity Death Pool takes morbid prognostication to the next level by allowing anyone to predict which celebrities they think will die that year as part of a collaborative and ever-changing list. Not only can visitors to the site vote as they please, but they can also add new names. These votes then influence the list rankings.

When we looked at the accuracy of the 2016 Ranker Death List, seven people out of the top 200 celebrities predicted to die kicked the bucket. Overall, our snapshot shows that nearly 97 percent of the top 200 celebrities on Ranker survived 2016.

Grim and Geographic

Those who are wagering money on celebrities most likely to die might want to stick with the results on DeathList. Nevertheless, Ranker provides interesting insight into the personalities and bigwigs we’re concerned about. When we looked, singer and notorious troublemaker Justin Bieber ranked highest among Canadians, while actor Kirk Douglas (100 years old as of Jan. 2017) was foremost among American personalities.

Too Young to Die?

The young and famous are also, sometimes, the young and reckless. They can also be the young and deeply troubled. Cultural icons like James Dean, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, and Tupac Shakur – among a great many others – all died quite young.

Nevertheless, according to our findings, the youngest people to pass away on DeathList were all aged 43 or older. So while some may predict hard-living young celebs will meet their maker before their time, it seems difficult to predict who among the young and daring or disturbed will die as a result. This is why it is so shocking whenever news breaks about a young celebrity’s death.

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Methodology

We pulled rankings of celebrities most likely to die per year since 1987 from DeathList.net. We also used the Ranker API to pull the top 200 crowdsourced rankings to see which of the celebrities on the list were still alive. Due to the ranking structure of Ranker, their data is a snapshot. The data used in this project were pulled on Jan. 11, 2017, to ensure we had all 2016 stats.

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