James Dean was the king of cool for his time, an icon in the same class as Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley.
But it wouldn’t last, as the young actor met a sudden end just as he was approaching the peak of his popularity.
He’s not alone in that respect. But when you examine the details surrounding his death, Dean’s case stands out.
Strange coincidences and grim premonitions have led some to speculate that Dean’s death was no mere accident. Instead, many claim that James Dean’s car bore a curse that sealed his fate.
The Strange Case of James Dean’s Car
Dean did not initially plan to pursue a career in acting. A gifted musician, dancer, and sculptor, he could have done anything he liked.
But Dean’s first and greatest love would be for racing.
Love of the Road
When the family settled in California, Dean became enamored by the car and motorcycle culture there.
These days, the closest that most can get to hands-on time with high-performance vehicles are playing video games. If you’re lucky, you might have a top-tier racing set-up like the Fanatec CSL Elite.
For Dean’s part, he proved a capable mechanic, and his early experiences with motorcycles would grow into a lifelong passion.
He expressed an interest in becoming a professional racer but had a change of plans after a teacher convinced him to pursue acting in New York.
After several years of taking small parts, he got his big break with 1955’s East of Eden.
All signs indicated that Dean was ready for the big time. But he would never get to prove it.
Despite a career change, Dean never lost his need for speed.
Preparing for an upcoming race, he purchased a Porsche 550 Spyder, which he christened Litte Bastard.
On the afternoon of September 30, 1955, Dean was headed to the Salinas Road Race with his mechanic. A Ford was approaching from the opposite direction, about to take a left turn at an upcoming junction.
For reasons that are still unclear, the Ford did not turn and the two cars collided head-on. The mechanic survived being ejected from the Spider, and the other driver survived with minor injuries.
But Dean remained in Little Bastard as it flew into the air before crashing to the ground. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital.
Rumors of a Curse
This event was tragic, but not unusual. An accident could happen to anybody. But in time, there began to be whispers that something fouler was at work.
According to rumors, some parts were salvaged from the totaled Spider. Several of these supposedly carried the curse of Little Bastard.
Multiple victims are said to have been killed or injured after using parts from Little Bastard. But many dispute these stories. Tracking down what happened to these parts has proven difficult, so there’s no way to substantiate any of these cases.
However, one other source claimed to have also sensed something ominous about Little Bastard.
In a 1977 interview, Sir Alec Guinness claimed to have met Dean shortly before his death. Dean was pleased to show off his new car, but something about it made Sir Guinness’ blood run cold.
“Some strange thing came over me,” he recalled. “Some almost different voice and I said…Please do not get into that car, because…if you get into that car at all, it’s now Thursday… 10 o’clock at night and by 10 o’clock at night next Thursday, you’ll be dead if you get into that car.”
And sure enough, Dean would be dead by the following Thursday evening.
A Tragic Accident or Something More Sinister?
So even if there was some way to detect a curse, the parts from Little Bastard would be difficult to trace. And while Sir Guinness’ premonition is eerie, it’s hardly proof positive.
But all the same, James Dean’s car and the events surrounding his final ride are almost as famous as his films. Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, it certainly makes for a fascinating ghost story from the days of old Hollywood.
For more tales of the strange and the unusual, be sure to keep up with The Human Marvel’s ever-increasing archive of oddities.