April 5 is the anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994. But 24 years later, conspiracies surrounding Cobain’s death remain.
On April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain, the 27-year-old lead singer of Nirvana, died. He committed suicide in a greenhouse above the garage of his Seattle home; a 20-gauge shotgun lay across his chest, while a suicide note was placed on top of a planter.
His body was found three days later, on April 8, by an electrician who arrived to install a security system. A co-worker of the electrician who found Cobain’s body called Seattle’s KXRX-FM with the scoop of the century. Eventually, the whole world found out.
The coroner ruled that Cobain, husband of rocker Courtney Love and father to then-one-year-old daughter Frances Bean Cobain, killed himself. His body was found to contain high traces of heroin and a small amount of diazepam. Cobain had also long suffered from clinical depression, having been diagnosed with it in high school.
While Cobain’s bandmates accept suicide as the official verdict, not everyone agrees. In fact, many of Cobain’s family, friends, and fans have expressed doubts, saying it’s simply not possible that he committed suicide. Even former Seattle Police Chief Norman Stamper called for the investigation into Cobain’s death to be reopened.
While many conspiracy theories blame Courtney Love for his death, a number of other conspiracy theories have emerged. Why? Because there are a lot of unanswered questions about the untimely death of Kurt Cobain. Even some of the most basic pieces of evidence, including his suicide note and the shotgun he used, have their inconsistencies.
Until all of these questions are answered, many will continue to wonder about who really killed Kurt Cobain.
Kurt Cobain: Stiff Woodies, Pen Cap Chew, Skid Row, Nirvana
Nirvana changed the face of rock, but the iconic band from the small timber town of Aberdeen, Washington wasn’t always known as Nirvana. Before opting for “Nirvana,” it went through a number of names, including “Stiff Woodies,” “Pen Cap Chew,” and “Skid Row.”
In 1985, the 18-year-old guitarist met bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, and the pair instantly bonded over their love of the punk-metal band Melvins. The two formed a band and after a revolving door of drummers, eventually settled on Chad Channing.
In 1989, Nirvana released their first record, Bleach. Famously recorded for just $606.00, it sold around 35,000 copies and showed the early primitive, dark, raw angst and melodic feel Nirvana came to be known for. The album has since gone on to sell close to two million copies.
It wasn’t until two years later, on September 24, 1991, when Nirvana, which now included Dave Grohl on drums, changed the world with their seminal album, Nevermind.
Fame Gets to Kurt Cobain
After an initial shipment of 50,000 copies, Nevermind continued to sell, mostly on the heels of the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It eventually bumped new albums by U2, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, and MC Hammer off the top of the charts.
The album went on to sell more than 30 million records worldwide, and propel the small-time band from Aberdeen, Washington into the biggest band on the planet.
Unfortunately, Kurt Cobain could not foresee what the price of that fame would be.
By early 1992, Cobain was disillusioned by the group’s success. He was a bona fide rock star and multi-millionaire, but was afraid Nirvana’s fans were missing the point of the band’s message.
Where MC Hammer was telling people they “can’t touch this,” Cobain was singing songs in support of social issues, including feminism and homosexuality.
Cobain even put this unease with some of his fans into his lyrics (from “In Bloom”):
He’s the one
Who like all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he don’t know what it means
Don’t know what it means
And from the linear notes to the 1992 compilation album Incesticide:
“At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us – leave us the f**k alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.”
Cobain’s relationship with Courtney Love, lead singer of the band Hole, was also fodder for the gossip columns.
Façade Starts to Crack
Nirvana continued to rule the airwaves and so-called “grunge” music was even influencing the catwalks in Paris. But cracks were starting to appear that would eventually portend the demise of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.
Cobain long had issues with drugs and depression (he was prescribed Ritalin as a child). He also had chronic stomach pain that he said would make him vomit and want to kill himself. He would self-medicate with heroin, which brought him temporarily relief, but his addiction blossomed.
His addiction to heroin escalated during the recording of Nevermind, and questions about his health remained when Nirvana returned to the studio in 1993 to record their follow up album, In Utero.
On May 2, 1993, Kurt Cobain overdosed on heroin in his Seattle home. Love called police and injected Cobain with buprenorphine, an illegal drug used to revive someone after a heroin overdose. Love told Seattle police that this happened before.
One month later, on June 4, Cobain was charged with domestic assault after Love called police while they were arguing over guns in the house. He was booked on domestic assault. Cobain spent three hours in jail, with police also confiscating three guns found at the home. Cobain later admited that the fight was not over guns, but his drug use.
Two months later, on July 23, Cobain overdosed again. Love found him on the bathroom floor of the New York hotel they were staying in. He recovered and played that night at the Roseland Ballroom; fans were none the wiser.
Over the ensuing months, Cobain became increasingly withdrawn and, according to friends, suffered dramatic mood swings.
On September 14, Nirvana’s third album, In Utero, was released. Cobain swore he would not “go on any more long tours” unless he could keep his stomach pains from acting up. But the band went on to perform a large number of U.S. dates and interviews.
On February 2, 1994, Nirvana left for Europe; they began their In Utero tour in Lisbon, Portugal three days later. In early March of that year, Nirvana performed their last show in Munich, Germany. Cobain lost his voice halfway their show.
A specialist told Cobain he had to rest his voice for at least a couple months. Nirvana performed 15 shows, with the remaining 23 being postponed. The rest of the band members did their own thing while Cobain stayed in Europe.
Rome: March 4, 1994
Kurt Cobain checked himself into the five-star Excelsior Hotel in Rome on March 3. The next day, he was joined by Courtney Love, Frances Bean, and Cali (one of Frances Bean’s nannies, whose real name is Michael DeWitt).
That evening, Cobain had the hotel bellboy fill a prescription for Rohypnol. He also ordered up champagne. At 6:30 a.m. the following morning, Love found Cobain unconscious.
The incident was portrayed as an accident, but it was later revealed that as many as 50 pills were found in Cobain’s stomach. Janet Billig of Gold Mountain Entertainment, who managed Courtney Love’s band Hole, says a suicide note was found, but Cobain insisted it wasn’t one. Rather, it was more of a farewell note; Cobain “took all of his and Courtney’s money and was going to run away and disappear.”
Cobain was rushed to the Umberto I Polyclinic Hospital and underwent emergency treatment before being transferred to the American Hospital. He woke from his coma 20 hours later. The couple then returned to Seattle.
The Hectic Month before Kurt Cobain Committed Suicide
It didn’t take long for the troubles of Rome to follow Kurt Cobain back to Seattle. On March 18, while still recuperating, he and Love got into another fight. Love called police after Cobain locked himself into a room with a 38-caliber revolver and said he was going to shoot himself. Seattle police confiscated four guns that night, along with some pills. Later, Cobain confided in Love, telling her he wasn’t really going to kill himself.
The events of March 18 clearly shook Love, and she was in fear for his life. She, along with family members, bandmates, and friends, decided to conduct an intervention. However, someone tipped Cobain off and the intervention had to be cancelled.
March 25: A Final Intervention
Courtney Love and around 10 friends gathered together to attempt an intervention with another intervention counselor. The friends included bandmates Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic, Nirvana band manager John Silva, Janet Billig, and friends Dylan Carlson and Danny Goldberg.
Love threatened to leave Cobain while Smear and Novoselic said they would quit the band if Cobain didn’t check into rehab.
At the end of the first day of the two-day process, Love, who hoped to coax Cobain to fly back to her with Los Angeles so they could check into rehab together, left.
On March 30, Cobain asked his friend Dylan Carlson if he could borrow a gun because, Cobain said, he was concerned about people trespassing on his property. It appears as though Cobain wanted Carlson to get the gun because he was afraid police would confiscate it if he did; it hadn’t even been two weeks since police took his guns after his domestic dispute with Courtney Love.
Carlson and Cobain went to a gun shop and bought a Remington 20-gauge shotgun, and a box of shells for around $300.00. Police now believed Cobain dropped the gun off at his home before leaving for California to check himself into rehab.
Pat Smear and an employee from Gold Mountain met Cobain at the Los Angeles airport, and drove him to the Exodus Recovery Center, located at the Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey, California.
Kurt’s Short Stint in Rehab
Kurt Cobain spent two short days in rehab. On April 1, he called Courtney Love. It was the last time the two would speak.
“He said, ‘Courtney, no matter what happens, I want you to know that you made a really good record,’” she recounted. “I said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Just remember, no matter what, I love you.’”
Hole was due to release their second album, Live through This, 11 days later.
A short while later, at 7:25 p.m., Cobain told the staff at the Exodus Recovery Center he was going out onto the patio for a smoke. Instead, he climbed over a six-foot brick fence.
“We watch our patients really well,” said a spokesperson for Exodus. “But some do get out.”
Kurt Cobain’s Last Week
Kurt Cobain left rehab on April 1, 1994 and his body was discovered on April 8. Little is known about what Cobain did in the days leading up to his death, but there have been a few confirmed sightings that can attest to his frame of mind.
On the evening of April 1, 1994, he bought a ticket on Delta Flight 788 to Seattle. He ended up sitting next to Duff McKagen, the bassist for Guns N’Roses. The two drug addicts talked about their addiction, scoring some drugs, and quitting: “’Yeah, this is the last time right?”
Once in Seattle, Cobain scored a large amount of heroin. He also checked into room 226 at the Marco Polo Motel under the name “Bill Bailey” (the real name of Guns N’Roses lead vocalist Axl Rose).
On April 4, the day before he committed suicide, Cobain was seen at the Cactus Restaurant. When it came time to pay, though, his credit card was declined; Courtney Love canceled his credit cards the day before after learning he skipped out of rehab, and hired private investigators to track him down. Cobain allegedly fell asleep halfway through writing out a cheque.
Later that evening, the last authenticated sighting of Kurt Cobain took place outside Linda’s Bar on Capitol Hill. He walked to the back of the bar and went to the roof to relax.
April 5, 1994: Kurt Cobain Dies
According to official reports, Kurt Cobain committed suicide on April 5, 1994. He locked himself in the greenroom above his garage and propped a stool against the door. Cobain removed his hunter’s cap, which he wore to disguise himself when walking in public, and opened up a cigar box, which contained his stash of drugs.
He wrote a one-page note in red ink, placed it on top of a planter, and stabbed it with the top of a pen cap to keep it in place. Cobain tossed his wallet on the floor, open to his Washington driver’s license.
It is alleged that Kurt Cobain took more drugs, pressed the barrel of the 20-gauge shotgun (purchased for him by his friend Dylan Carlson) in his mouth, and used his thumb to pull the trigger.
Cobain’s body would lay there undisturbed for three days.
April 8, 1994: Body of Kurt Cobain Found
On April 8, 1994, the lifeless body of Kurt Cobain was found at his home at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard East in Seattle by an electrician who showed up to install a security system. He initially though Cobain was asleep on the floor, but then saw the blood oozing from his head.
A local radio station was the first to break the story. A co-worker of the electrician who found Cobain’s body called Seattle’s KXRX-FM with the breaking news.
Seattle police later said that “Kurt Cobain was found with a shotgun across his body, had a visible head wound and there was a suicide note discovered nearby.”
It is estimated that Kurt Cobain died on Tuesday, April 5, 1994 at 7:27 a.m.
Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note
A note was found close to Kurt Cobain’s body, addressed to his imaginary childhood friend Boddah. In it, Cobain spoke of his wife Courtney Love, daughter Frances Bean, and his fans:
Drugs Led to Cobain’s Suicide?
While many pointed to drugs as being the reason why Kurt Cobain committed suicide, others believe that reasoning is an oversimplification.
Krist Novoselic said he believed Cobain’s death was a result of inexplicable internal forces, and that, “Just blaming it on smack is stupid. … Smack was just a small part of his life.”
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the 2015 documentary about the man himself, goes into great detail to show the struggles of the last few years of his life and what may have led to his death: drug use, chronic stomach pains, and relationship issues.
The documentary also reveals that Cobain was bullied in high school and tried to commit suicide in his teen years.
All of these scars could have led to the events of April 5, 1994.
Intriguing Conspiracy Theories about Kurt Cobain’s Death
While Kurt Cobain’s death has been officially ruled a suicide, it has been suggested that he didn’t actually kill himself. Instead, some evidence allegedly points to murder. One of the leading proponents to this theory is Tom Grant, the private investigator hired by Courtney Love to find her husband after he jumped the wall at Exodus Recovery Center.
According to his website, Grant is a former detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and private investigator, and was hired on April 3, 1994 by Courtney Love.
While Seattle police immediately concluded Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Grant said he wasn’t convinced. Neither was Rosemary Carroll, Love and Cobain’s entertainment lawyer.
After conducting several months of investigation, including tapes interviews with Cobain’s family and friends, Grant reached the conclusion that Courtney Love and Michael Dewitt, the nanny who lived at the Cobain residence, were involved in a conspiracy that resulted in the death of Kurt Cobain.
Here is some of the evidence that Grant says he uncovered which points to Cobain’s death as a murder, not suicide.
He Wanted a Divorce
Kurt Cobain was in the process of leaving Seattle and Courtney Love when he died. On top of that, Rosemary Carroll told Tom Grant that Cobain asked her to draw up a will excluding Courtney Love because he was planning to divorce her.
This, Grant says, was the motive for Cobain’s death. To add fuel to the fire, Love allegedly knew Cobain wanted a divorce and, just weeks before he died, asked one of her attorneys to find “the meanest, most vicious divorce lawyer” she could.
The official report about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the one that has gone down in history, is not quite accurate. Cobain did not barricade himself inside the room and wedge a stool against the door; the stool was found in front of the two unlocked doors that led out to a balcony.
Cobain also did not leave his Washington State Driver’s License out for identification as reported. The first police officer on the scene found Cobain’s closed wallet, and opened it to remove his driver’s license in order to take a photograph.
Grant believes the suicide note is not a suicide note at all, rather, a letter announcing his intent to leave Courtney Love and the music industry.
A line from the suicide note, the contents of which, at that time, were known only to the police, Courtney Love, and Tom Grant, read, “I can’t live my life like this any longer.” Except, as we now know, this line isn’t in the note. It is speculated that the sentence was fabricated to make it appear as though the Nirvana frontman killed himself.
Grant went on to assert that the last few lines at the very bottom of the note are the only parts that imply suicide. These lines are written in a distinctively different style than the rest of the note.
Handwriting experts are divided, though. Some agree with Grant, saying the last four lines look suspicious; other experts concluded the entire note was written by Kurt Cobain; and others say it is inconclusive.
A linguistic expert also noted that the opening of the note and the end of the note are significantly different.
Interestingly, when Grant interviewed Carroll after Cobain’s death, she is alleged to have given Grant a note she found in Courtney Love’s backpack that was left at her home. The handwriting on the practice note is similar to the last four lines of Cobain’s suicide note. Carroll has not publicly commented on the matter, no doubt citing client/attorney confidentiality.
Courtney Love Kept a Second Note Secret
Grant contends that Courtney Love had a second note and didn’t tell anyone. At least not until she let it slip several months later, when she was being interviewed in Rolling Stone.
The second note written by Kurt Cobain states matter of factly that he was leaving Love and Seattle–not the planet.
Not Even Suicidal
Many of Cobain’s friends, as well as his attorney Rosemary Carroll, said that Cobain was not suicidal and was planning for the future. He was excited about being a father, saying it was the best time of his life.
Moreover, just days before he was found dead, Cobain was part of an online Q&A event. In it, he said he was excited to be working on new material: “Hope you people are ready for a calmer moodier album. Yep, Nirvana’s going back into the studio at the end of the summer. I’m already working on the new songs and artwork for the new album.”
At the same time, in the last few weeks before his death, Cobain and Michael Stipe, the lead singer of R.E.M., were in constant contact about a new project.
“In the last few weeks, I was talking to Kurt a lot,” Stipe said in a statement. “We had a musical project in the works, but nothing was recorded.”
At the time, the police said there were no legible fingerprints on the shotgun. More accurately, Seattle police didn’t even check it for fingerprints until May 6, 1994, one month after Cobain’s body was found.
For Grant, the autopsy report presented a number of issues that were difficult to reconcile. The amount of heroin injected into Kurt Cobain’s body was more than three times the lethal dose for even a hardcore heroin addict.
Pathologists noted that such a high dose would have immediately rendered Cobain unconscious, making it impossible for him to shoot himself. It would have also been impossible for Cobain to neatly place his heroin gear back into the cigar box, which was photographed on scene by police.
If true, this means someone else was with Cobain at the time, forcibly injected him with a massive dose of heroin, and then pulled the trigger.
On top of that, if Kurt Cobain had shot himself up with a lethal dose of heroin, whey go to all the trouble of shooting yourself in the face and leaving your daughter, the love of your life, with that as the last memory? Why not just overdose and be found “asleep?”
A Credit Card Was Missing from Cobain’s Wallet
A credit card was missing when Cobain’s body was discovered. However, someone tried to use it after he died. The attempts stopped when his body was discovered.
The Rome Incident
But what about Kurt Cobain’s suicide attempt in Rome back in March 1994? His management team said it was an accidental overdose due to influenza and fatigue. Only after his death did Courtney Love say it was a suicide attempt.
Recall that, at the time, a note was left behind. Janet Billig said it was a suicide note, but Cobain himself said it was a farewell note, saying he was leaving Love. This is very similar to the note found by Cobain’s body, minus the last four suspicious lines.
Two journalists allegedly contacted the doctor who treated Cobain after the incident. Dr. Galletta contends that Cobain did not try and commit suicide, stating, “We can usually tell a suicide attempt. This didn’t look like one to me.” He also denied Love’s claim that 50 Rohypnol pills were removed from Cobain’s stomach.
Some contend that Courtney Love may have mixed a large enough quantity of pills into the champagne Cobain ordered up to the room, causing him to unknowingly ingest large amounts of the drug.
Moreover, in interviews, Love said Cobain was “gobbling” the Rohypnol pills. But this would have been difficult to do, as Rohypnol is sold in tinfoil packets and each pill has to be unwrapped individually.
Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper
Tom Grant isn’t the only one who thinks there is more to the death of Kurt Cobain than meets the eye. Former Seattle Police Chief Norman Stamper (1994-2000) also called for the investigation to be reopened.
Stamper was interviewed in the 2016 film Soaked in Bleach, which looked into the death of Kurt Cobain. “If we didn’t get it right the first time, we damn well better get it right the second time,” Stamper said. “And I would tell you right now if I were the chief of police, I would reopen this investigation.”
Stamper went on to say they should have taken steps to study the behavior of key individuals who had a motive to kill Kurt Cobain.
“If in fact Kurt Cobain was murdered, as opposed to having committed suicide, and it was possible to learn that, shame on us for not doing that,” he added. “That was in fact our responsibility. It’s about right and wrong. It’s about honor. It’s about ethics.”
Did Courtney Love Hire Someone to Kill Kurt Cobain?
If the reliability of the narrator is important, this one might be open for debate. After the death of Kurt Cobain, Eldon “El Duce” Hoke claimed in the 1998 documentary Kurt & Courtney that Love offered him $50,000 to kill the Nirvana singer. Hoke says he turned Love down and passed the job off to a friend.
Hoke maintained that Cobain was, in fact, killed and that he knew who the killer was, but offered no evidence and did not provide a name. Instead, he just said he’d “let the FBI catch him.”
Two days after that interview was filmed, El Duce was killed when he was hit by a train in the middle of the night.
Was El Duce lying and just trying to get some attention, or is there more to the story? We’ll never know.