Celebrity deaths do not come in threes

domA year ago, I wrote this post attempting to debunk the superstition that deaths come in threes.

With the passing of Ed MacMahon on Tuesday, along with Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson today, I’ve seen this superstition resurface. Yet my arguments from a year ago still stand.

I’d also like to add this refutation: Dom DeLuise died alone.

Take this list from Wikipedia of celebrities who died in May. I’d argue that Dom was the “most famous” of all the names listed there, but please feel free to assert differently if you disagree. So, where are the other two, if deaths do indeed come in threes?

We can repeat the exercise for other months.

RIP, Ed, Farrah, Michael and Dom. Please don’t cheapen their memory repeating a baseless superstition that tries to find a pattern where none exists.

UPDATE June 28th: Billy Mays has also passed away today, breaking the pattern for even the current three.

19 Responses to “Celebrity deaths do not come in threes”

  1. girlygirl Says:

    who the fuck is Dom DeLuise?

  2. Stephen Says:

    You don’t know who Dom DeLuise is, but you’ve heard of Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon?

  3. That Lady from Snopes Says:

    What is strange is that debunking of this myth does come in threes.

  4. Stephen Says:

    So I’m destined to make a third blog post on this topic?

  5. devin Says:

    obiviously there are many “celebrities” that pass away every month, but i do believe there is a pattern of threes. for instance dom was the third- natasha richardson march 18th, Beatrice Arthur april 25th, and then dom may 4th. Sometimes they happen in one week, a couple days or maybe a few weeks but I do see a pattern of celeb deaths happening in threes. It doesnt cheapen their memory, or lives to notice or comment on this weird coincidence.

  6. Kage Says:

    According to celebritydeath.net here are three:

    Dom DeLuise
    May 4, 2009: Dom DeLuise, comedic US actor best known for his roles in the films Cannonball Run, Silent Movie, Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles.

    Marilyn French
    May 2, 2009: Marilyn French, 79, US feminist and author of the bestselling The Women’s Room.

    Danny Gans
    May 1, 2009: Danny Gans, 52, US comic and impressionist who was named Las Vegas entertainer of the year 11 times.

  7. George Says:

    Kages post helps prove that this is nonsense. The last 2 hardly qualify as celebrities. A celebrity is someone who the average person on the street knows. Despite their accomplishments, those 2 do NOT qualify. At any rate, there is no consensus on who qualifies. And devin..you can’t call it a pattern and a coincidence in the same post! It IS a coincidence. Who’s to say Dom was the third of the Richardson-Arthur-Deluise trio or the first of the Deluise-McMahon-Farrah trio? Is there an official list? It’s all so random and ridiculous

  8. Stephen Says:

    Well put, George.

    Also, Kage, celebritydeath.net is in Spanish and not updated, so I’m thinking you get this from somewhere else. What about Jack Kemp in the same time frame? Now there’s four. Ruh-roh!

    Devin, there was over a month between Natasha and Bea. That’s hardly a few weeks. If you give yourself a month for the series of three to occur, what predictive power does this superstition have?

  9. DaveZatz Says:

    It’s really no coincidence at all. Everybody dies.

  10. Stephen Says:

    “But not everybody truly lives.”

  11. winnie Says:

    A highly educated friend really believes that death comes in threes. When we wre talking about this today she reminded me that David Carradine passed away on 6-3-09. Then today Gale Storm died and Sky Saxon from The Seeds died on 6-28-09. She is satisfied that 6 celebrities have now passed, she doesn’t count Billy Mays. Me thinks she is just picking and choosing to fit her views and beliefs. But then that is true of a lot of people.

  12. Stephen Says:

    Hi Winnie! From 6/3 to 6/28 is 25 days. That’s a long period of time. If you count fairly unknown people like Gale Storm, I’d think it would be impossible to find any recent period of 25 days where you don’t have more than three celebrity deaths.

    Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_deaths — ask your friend why she gets to pick and choose? My newspaper had a large obituary for Billy Mays but nothing for Gale or Sky.

  13. Stephen Says:

    Also: Sky Saxon, Michael Jackson, and Farrah Fawcett all died on the same day. David Carradine and Ed McMahon died before that day, while Gale died two days later. Why would the two series of three deaths be split up that way?

    Everyone has a different idea of what a celebrity is. To my sister, the most shocking death was that of Indian musician Ali Akbar Khan on June 18th.

  14. winnie Says:

    Oh, I agree that at this time Billy Mays was more well known than Gale Storm or Sky Saxon and that everyone has a different idea of what a celebrity is. I just find it somewhat amusing that this otherwise intelligent friend of mine chooses to see these deaths to fit her belief that death comes in threes. But she’s not the only one. There is only one online forum that I follow and with every death there is a handful of people who start keeping track of who died and some have different ideas as to who should be counted as being one of the three. There is nothing logical about superstitions.

  15. devin Says:

    But it is interesting enough that we all talk about it and notice that over the years it can be common for very well known celebrity deaths to occur in threes. Could just be the media, could be nothing…but enough people notice it and obviously find it worthy of all this discussion. I was not trying to, and will not try to convince anyone of anything I dont even fully believe. I was just posting some death dates of well known celebs that seem to fall in threes to me. Its just something I (and others) have always noticed…I am sure there is no science behind it or proof, that would be silly….ITS JUST INTERESTING.

  16. Stephen Says:

    But it’s only interesting as an exercise of selective perception. Try this: Convince yourself that celebrity deaths come in fours instead. Try picking out those patterns. You’d do equally well with that theory in the long-run.

    What’s really interesting to me is how the human mind works and how we can delude ourselves so easily.

  17. winnie Says:

    I wonder how the death of a celebrity dog fits in with the pattern of three that some people like to belive in.


  18. Stephen Says:

    Good question, Winnie. Let’s watch and see if two more celebrity dogs suddenly pass away.

  19. For Dom... Says:

    For Dom…

    A Prince of a man.


    Do not weep for me when I no longer dwell among the wonders of the earth; for my larger self is free, and my soul rejoices on the other side of pain…on the other side of darkness.

    Do not weep for me, for I am a ray of sunshine that touches your skin, a tropical breeze upon your face, the hush of joy within your heart and the innocence of babes in mothers arms.

    I am the hope in a darkened night. And, in your hour of need, I will be there to comfort you. I will share your tears, your joys, your fears, your disappointments and your triumphs.

    Do not weep for me, for I am cradled
    in the arms of God. I walk with the angels, and hear the music beyond the stars.

    Do not weep for me, for I am within you;
    I am peace, love, I am a soft wind that caresses the flowers. I am the calm that follows a raging storm. I am an autumns leaf that floats among the garden of God, and I am pure white snow that softly falls upon your hand.

    Do not weep for me, for I shall never die, as long as you remember me…
    with a smile and a sigh.

    © Joe Fazio
    jfazio@gmail.com /Joe Fazio,
    Beverly Hills, California

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