The Mysterious Circumstances Surrounding Bruce Lee’s Death
Published in Jul 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
Bruce Lee was at the top of his game before the world got the shocking news that The Dragon was no more. It’s puzzling that on the day Bruce Lee died, he had woken up healthy and had acted several movie scenes for his fatefully titled upcoming movie, Game of Death.
Raymond Chow was producing the film.
Bruce Lee was born in 1940 in San Francisco, and he started studying Wing Chun Gung Fu when he was 13. He was raised in Hong Kong before going back to the United States when he was 18 to study philosophy. However, he would go back to Hong Kong for his movie career.
What Went Wrong?
The fateful day was July 20, 1973. There was nothing unusual about his day, which also involved a meeting with producers to discuss his upcoming film. Then he visited a friend, and before the day was over, he was gone forever. To this day, the mystery of the movie star’s death continues.
Bruce Lee died under very mysterious circumstances, and to this day, some people wonder how the martial arts legend and famous actor lost his life at such an early age. How did the accomplished and explosive martial arts star lose his life at the prime of his life?
The truth is that a small decision cost one of the greatest martial arts legends of all times his life and brought to life one of the most debatable autopsies in popular culture. Apparently, Bruce Lee’s fate was sealed much earlier, on May 10. On that day, he was taken to hospital with a severe headache.
According to doctors, he had cerebral edema, which refers to a situation where there’s excess fluid in the brain. That causes swelling and pain.
The issue was quickly treated with medication, and Lee was able to leave the hospital feeling a lot better. He told his friends that this was not how Bruce Lee would die.
After the short stint at the hospital, Bruce Lee went back to his normal life: a fitness program and a strict diet.
From that time until the day he drastically passed away, his health appeared to be improving. Nobody had a reason to worry.
Events Leading Up To the Death of Bruce Lee
On the day of his death, he was as active as ever, filled with his usual enthusiasm despite the scorching summer heat in Hong Kong.
After that, he went to Betty Ting Pei’s apartment. She was apparently his friend, but some explained she was his mistress.
Betty was an actress from Taiwan.
At about 7:30 in the evening, moments before they parted ways, he said he had a headache. His friend gave him an Equagesic, a popular aspirin-containing painkiller.
After that, he decided to lie down. Eventually, a couple of hours had passed, and he hadn’t gotten up.
When Betty went to check on him, he was unresponsive. Her attempts to wake him up did not succeed. Betty called Raymond Chow for help.
At this point, they called a doctor, who also took about 10 minutes trying to revive Bruce Lee. Their next move was to have him go to a hospital. Unfortunately, it was already too late.
Bruce Lee was already dead by the time he got to the hospital.
Lee's Mysterious Death Turned Into A Trial
The world was in shock when Chow announced Lee’s death.
In his report, he claimed that he had died at home beside his wife, Linda C. Emery, and his wife supported this story in an attempt to uphold her husband’s respect.
He was physically fine, but an autopsy showed that his brain was 13 percent larger than normal due to fluid buildup.
Chow argued that he had an allergic reaction to the drug he was given, causing his death. The autopsy backed this claim to some extent.
According to the coroner, Bruce Lee died of cerebral edema caused by Equagesic he had taken. His fate was described as “death by misadventure,” implying that a dangerous and voluntary risk had claimed his life.
Still, it’s worth noting that taking Equagesic is not supposed to be life-threatening.
Many things didn’t seem to add up concerning his death, which resulted in a trial. For instance, there were contradicting reports on where Lee was when he lost consciousness and died.
Although the closest hospital was just a minute away from Betty’s house, he was taken to a hospital that was half an hour away. The doctor later claimed he did not think it was necessary to take him to the nearest hospital, which is quite strange considering that the doctor had no idea how serious the actor's condition was.
Other Conspiracy Theories About His Death
Some people were not satisfied with the coroner’s report. As a result, a bunch of conspiracy theories emerged.
For starters, his personal physician, Donald Langford, did not believe that Lee could have died of the painkiller:
“Nobody dies for an Equagesic pill. No painkiller killed Bruce.”
Apparently, no Chinese doctor wanted to be blamed or connected with the death of the most popular hero in Hong Kong, however, remotely. Therefore, they left as soon as he got into the emergency room. Their goal was to avoid embarrassment and offer an explanation that was as acceptable to the public as possible.
For that reason, the role of hash in his death was downplayed.
Similarly, a doctor who had treated him before he died also said something that might back this theory. Apparently, the martial arts star was taking a lot of hashish, plenty of which was extracted from his stomach. This substance had been shown to result in neurological disorders such as cerebral edema. As it turns out, Bruce Lee chewed it because he was under a lot of pressure.
Chuck Norris, his friend, argued that the drug he had taken had a dangerous interaction with the muscle relaxants he was taking.
According to another crazy theory, Bruce Lee had taken an aphrodisiac that made him violent towards a prostitute, who ended up killing him while trying to defend herself.
Many of his fans also believed that Betty Ting Pei had purposely given him a lethal dose of Equagesic. Apparently, she was doing this for a secret society that was trying to kill Bruce Lee.
Also, while some people said Lee was in the best shape of his life just before his death, others claim that he was paranoid, forgetful, confused, and walking ungainly before he suddenly lost his life.
Other theories claimed that the Triad, the Chinese mafia, got him. Apparently, he did not pay them protection money, as was the tradition among Chinese millionaires, which had deadly consequences.
Then some argue that Bruce Lee faked his death, and the reason why is an even bigger mystery.
Lee’s Family Curse And The Death Of Brandon Lee
There were even crazy theories saying that his family had something to do with the untimely death of Bruce Lee. This theory was fueled by his wife’s claim that he confessed to having a premonition that he would not live to be half as old as his father did, who had died at 64.
Curiously, he died at half his father's age.
Apparently, his family also believed that the fact that he was born after the death of his older brother was a bad omen. Her mother had born a son in the past, but he had died. Before Lee was born, his parents had three other kids, including a son who had died. Another child, a boy, was born after Lee's birth.
In fact, as per the Chinese culture, he was given a girl’s name, Sai-Fon, which means “little phoenix,” in recognition of this fact. Giving him a feminine name would fool the evil spirits into thinking he was a girl and therefore make them leave him alone. Apparently, his defiance to this tradition when he changed his name to “little dragon,” Xiaoling, might have sealed his fate.
Bruce's brother had also died under mysterious circumstances.
Of all the stories trying to explain his death, this is the theory that most of his admirers seem to believe. Apparently, the martial arts star succumbed to the Lee family curse.
This theory only gained traction 20 years after he died when his son, Brandon, also died suddenly. Brandon Lee, who was also an actor and martial artist playing a big role in The Crow, died on set when he was just 28.
He died young like his father after being shot in the abdomen with a prop gun mistakenly loaded with a live round. After the incident, some people were fully convinced that Lee’s family was under a curse.
As it turns out, the film producer had decided to use real bullets instead of fake bullets to save time. Therefore, both Lee and his son were denied a chance to enjoy their success.
In all likelihood, the simplest explanation is that the painkiller he took worsened his cerebral edema and cost him his life.
The Aftermath Of Lee's Death
Two months after Lee died, his popularity grew more than ever. Enter the Dragon, his latest film became incredibly popular, and Lee himself turned into a mythical legend.
Martial arts schools started popping up all over the United States.
Some think this might explain why there were so many conspiracy theories about him, including those offered by those closest to him, such as Chuck Norris.
Bruce Lee remains a huge inspiration today, and for a good reason. He put his all into everything he did, which is why his films are cult classics.
Lee single-handedly started a movement by proving to the world that films based on martial arts had a place in Hollywood. With such dedication and control over his life, it was quite shocking that a man who had given up drinking and smoking could die in such a seemingly reckless manner.
That is why his death will, in all likelihood, remain a mystery even in the years to come.