The history of mankind is riddled with the weird and the wonderful; bizarre people, strange places and odd events. For centuries, we’ve told each other fantastic stories around campfires and in darkened rooms. Tales of ghosts, UFOs, and conspiracies, but are these stories exactly that: Stories? There’s only one way to find out! Join me as I dive down the rabbit hole and into… the Unexplained Files.
This time: The Death of James Dean
On 30th September 1955, James Dean was on his way from LA to Salinas, California. He was set to take part in a sports car race in his Porsche 550 Spyder - a car nicknamed "Little Bastard" when he crashed. The 24-year-old was rushed to hospital. By the time the ambulance reached its destination, James Dean was dead. Since then and so began the story of the curse of Little Bastard.
The first inkling came on 23 September 1955, from fellow actor Alec Guinness. Dean was showing off his newly customised ride outside of a restaurant. Guinness was far from impressed. He said the car looked “sinister”. If that was too subtle a hint at what was to come he then told Dean: “If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.” Seven days later, Dean was dead. Little Bastard would not only claim the life of James Dean. More were either injured or killed and here’s where things start to get creepy…
George Barris, who (allegedly) carried out the aforementioned custom job (and famously did the work on the original TV Batmobile), forked out $2500 for the wreck of “Little Bastard”. Shortly after the purchase it slipped off its trailer breaking a mechanic’s leg.
Before long Barris sold parts of Little Bastard to racers Troy McHenry and William Eschrid. The two were racing against one another, each in cars that had parts from Little Bastard, when of course things went wrong. The latter entered a turn when his car locked up and rolled over, leaving him seriously injured. Bad enough, but McHenry lost control and drove straight into a tree. He was killed instantly.
Two tyres from the accident which claimed Dean’s life were somehow untouched. Barris decided to sell them. Both blew out simultaneously forcing the new owner off the road. The bits of Little Bastard that Barris hadn’t sold caught the eye of two thieves. The theft, of course, went awry. The first thief tore open his arm trying to nab the steering wheel while his compatriot was injured attempting to remove a bloodstained seat.
California Highway Patrol borrowed the cursed wreck for a highway safety campaign. Misery followed. While being transported the truck carrying the car lost control. What happened next was truly bizarre. The driver fell out of his cab and was crushed by Little Bastard after it fell off the back. More disaster was to come. The garage that housed the car burned to the ground in a fire which somehow left the car undamaged. Highway Patrol hoped for more success at the next exhibition at a local high school. That ended abruptly when the car fell off its display. An unfortunate student was left with a broken hip. And speaking of “highway safety”…
In a cruel twist of irony, just weeks before his fatal crash, James Dean took a break from filming epic Western "Giant" to record a public service announcement. The announcement was to promote safe driving. During the message he uttered the fateful words, "Take it easy driving, the life you save might save might be mine."￼
Embellishment? Coincidence? Curse? You decide. I just know if someone asked me to get in a car that had anything to do with Little Bastard, I’d take the bus instead.
In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.