April 8th 1994, the lifeless body of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain is found in a greenhouse above the garage of his Seattle mansion. A 20 gauge shotgun, drug paraphernalia and a note lay scattered across the blood soaked floor. Forensics deemed his death to be suicide as a result of a “contact perforating shotgun wound to the head”. He had been there for three days.
Reaction to the grunge star’s death came in multiple forms. Thousands gathered outside his home for candlelit vigils, while copycat suicides quickly became common amongst the more hardcore fans.
Others, however, began to question the legitimacy of the apparent ‘suicide’, causing one of the most interesting conspiracy theories that is still disputed today, almost 23 years on.
Of course, it’s no secret that Kurt Cobain was a seriously troubled individual.
He began acting out against authority figures from an early age, being sent from family member to family member with each one ultimately failing to tame the wild Cobain.
Kurt had little interest in anything academic and would often practice his drawing and song writing during classes.
In a 1993 interview, he noted the divorce of his parents to be the defining moment in his life, kick starting the downward spiral that led to years of angst, bullying and drug abuse;
I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn’t face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that.
Although largely uninterested in sports, at the insistence of his father, Cobain was enrolled in the junior high school wrestling and Little League Baseball teams. He despised the experience and as a result of the ridicule he endured from his teammates and coaches, he allowed himself to be pinned and would intentionally strike out in an attempt to sadden his father.
Cobain became friends with a homosexual student at school and suffered bullying from heterosexual students who concluded that he too was gay. Despite this, he said that he liked being associated with a gay identity. In one of his personal journals he writes; “I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homophobes.”
Kurt’s first drug experience came at age 13 when he began smoking marijuana. This became a regular occurrence throughout adolescence and into adulthood, with alcohol, LSD and solvents becoming his drugs of choice.
However, if we have learned anything from the stories of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, we know that there is one drug that is a constant player in the downfall of the iconic musicians of the past, and that is heroin.
Lithium- Nirvana (1992).
Cobain’s first experience with heroin occurred in 1986 and he abused it sporadically for several years after. By the end of 1990, this had developed into a full-fledged addiction.
However, he began to justify his heroin abuse as a way to self-medicate his long ongoing stomach condition;
It started with three days in a row of doing heroin and I don’t have a stomach pain. That was such a relief
By now, Nirvana were beginning to make strides on the global stage, with their second studio album Nevermind gaining incredible popularity.
Kurt’s heroin addiction quickly began to affect the album’s tour and promotion. One such example came the day of a 1992 performance by Nirvana on Saturday Night Live when Cobain fell asleep several times during the photo shoot having taken heroin beforehand.
Kurt discussed the event with biographer Michael Azerrad:
I mean, what are they supposed to do? They’re not going to be able to tell me to stop. So I really didn’t care. Obviously to them it was like practicing witchcraft or something. They didn’t know anything about it so they thought that any second, I was going to die
His first attempt at rehab was made in early 1992. Immediately after leaving rehab, Nirvana embarked on their Australian tour. Cobain appeared pale and gaunt while suffering withdrawal. Not long after returning home, his heroin use resumed.
He suffered a heroin overdose in July 1993 before a performance at the New Music Seminar in New York City. Rather than calling for an ambulance, Kurt’s wife, Courtney Love injected him with naloxone to bring him out of his unconscious state. Cobain proceeded to perform with Nirvana, giving the public no indication that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.
Even to this day, the facts surrounding the suicide of Kurt Cobain come under continuous scrutiny.
Following a tour stop in Munich, Germany, on March 1st, 1994, Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and severe laryngitis. He flew to Rome the next day for medical treatment, and was joined there by his wife on March 3rd.
The next morning, Love awoke to find that Cobain had overdosed on a combination of champagne and Rohypnol. He was immediately rushed to hospital, and spent the rest of the day unconscious. She later stated that the incident was Cobain’s first suicide attempt.
On March 18th, 1994, Love phoned the Seattle police informing them that Cobain was suicidal and had locked himself in a room with a gun. Police arrived and confiscated several guns and a bottle of pills from Cobain.
He insisted that he was, in fact, not suicidal and had locked himself in the room to hide from Love.
Following on from this second attempt to take his own life, Love arranged an intervention for Kurt. The people involved included musician friends including Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, record company executives, and one of Cobain’s closest friends, Dylan Carlson.
The intervention was initially unsuccessful. Cobain lashed out, insulting and berating those involved and eventually locked himself in an upstairs bedroom. However, by the end of the day, Cobain had agreed to undergo a detox program.
One of Kurt Cobain’s final interviews (1993).
Cobain arrived at the Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles on March 30th, 1994. When visited by friends, there was no indication to them that he was in any negative or suicidal state of mind. He spent the day talking to counsellors about his drug abuse and personal problems, happily playing with his daughter, Frances.
The following night, Cobain walked outside to have a cigarette, climbed over a six-foot-high fence and escaped the facility. He took a taxi to Los Angeles Airport and flew back to Seattle.
Most of his close friends and family were unaware of his whereabouts, however, Cobain was spotted in numerous locations around Seattle. On April 3rd, Love contacted private investigator Tom Grant, and hired him to find Cobain.
On April 8th, Cobain’s body was discovered at 171 Lake Washington Blvd East Seattle, Washington by an electrician named Gary Smith who had arrived to install a security system. Apart from a minor amount of blood coming out of Cobain’s ear, the electrician reported seeing no visible signs of trauma, and initially believed Cobain to be asleep.
However, in the years following on from Kurt’s untimely death, there has been serious questions asked regarding the legitimacy of his suicide, with multiple inconsistencies and conspiracy theories emerging.
Indeed, the majority of these theories revolve around one person; Courtney Love.
Many believed that in the weeks prior to Cobain’s death that he was planning to divorce Courtney.
In Nick Broomfield’s 1998 documentary Kurt & Courtney, Eldon Hoke, also known as “El Duce,” lead singer of Seattle band The Mentors, claims Courtney Love approached him at a record store in Hollywood and offered to pay him $50,000 to kill Kurt Cobain.
“You had some deal with Courtney, right?” asks Broomfield. “Yeah, she offered me 50 grand to whack Kurt Cobain.” ;
Interview with ‘El Duce’ from “Kurt and Courtney” (1998).
Two days after filming the interview with Broomfield, El Duce was mysteriously run over by a train in Riverside, CA and killed. There were no witnesses, and his death was pronounced an accident.
The toxicology report carried out on Cobain’s body concluded that he had injected himself with over three times the lethal dose of heroin prior to his death, causing many to question his ability to roll down his sleeve, pick up a heavy shotgun, turn it on himself and pull the trigger.
Police reports following the investigation into Cobain’s death stated that there were no legible fingerprints found on the gun cartridge, the shotgun itself, or the pen used to write his alleged suicide note.
Many believe the note itself to be forged. The theory lays out that the note doesn’t hint at suicide at all until its final lines.
Instead, it was in fact a pre-written letter from Cobain informing his fans that he had decided to end Nirvana and leave the music industry, with the final lines being added in by the supposed ‘killer’ in an attempt to suggest suicide.
Perhaps the largest advocate for the reinvestigation into Cobain’s apparent suicide is in fact Tom Grant; the private investigator hired by Courtney Love following the initial disappearance of Kurt.
Grant told the New York Daily News in 2016 that he believes Courtney Love is a “psychopath” and a “sociopath.” He claims that “Love was involved in a conspiracy in the death of Kurt Cobain.”
A former detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Grant ultimately came to that conclusion citing several motives – one most likely being money and Cobain’s supposed plans to divorce Courtney.
He runs a website cobaincase.com, a very thorough resource in which he divulges evidence collected in both written and audio form since 1995.
Twenty-three years on, Grant as well as thousands of Nirvana fans still hold out hope that Seattle Police Department will one day take a harder and more in depth look at the death of Kurt Cobain.