There’s an old urban legend that states that blonde bombshell, Jayne Mansfield, was decapitated in a fatal 1967 automobile accident. While that might not be precisely how she died, the truth of the story is far more troubling and dismal than you can imagine.
Much like Marilyn Monroe, her rival, Jayne Mansfield passed away tragically young, leaving behind a wake of rumors that still intrigue inquisitive minds to this day.
On June 29, 1967, right around 2 in the morning, Mansfield’s car which was carrying her three children, including actress Mariska Hargitay, careened into the back of a tractor-trailer on a dark highway in Easter New Orleans, Lousiana. The entire top of the vehicle was sliced off killing all three adults in the front seat instantly.
Somehow, be it by miracle or sheer stroke of luck, the sleeping children in the back seat of the car all survived.
The accident sent shock waves across the world. The press and the public were both disturbed and obsessed with her death. Speculation about decapitations and supposed satanic curses still persist to this present day. The truth of the story however is far more ghastly and heartbreaking than anything that the rumor mill could conjure up.
This tale that you’re about to hear isn’t for the faint of heart. What happened to Mansfield on that fateful evening was so unsettling that it even inspired the federal government to issue new safety regulations to prevent similar accidents from happening. We’ll touch on that in a second, but first, let’s see how Mansfield found fame and fortune in the first place.
Who Really Was Jayne Mansfield
Back in the 1950s, Jayne Mansfield gave Marilyn Monroe a run for her money. She was a dazzlingly sexy, seductive, blonde actress that quickly rose to fame shortly after she arrived in Hollywood at the age of 21.
She was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Her father was Herbert Palmer and her mother was Vera Jeffrey Palmer.
Mansfield was privileged from the get-go. She inherited some $90,000 from her grandfather and another $36,000 from her grandmother. Adjusted for inflation, that’s around $1.1 million dollars today.
She grew up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey where her father was working as a lawyer with Robert B. Meyner, the future governor of the state. Her father tragically passed away in 1936 of a heart attack. Her mother remarried three years later and her family moved to Dallas, Texas.
Even as a child, she always knew that she wanted to be an actress. Shirley Temple was one of her biggest heroes. Little did she know someday she would be idolized to an equal degree.
While in high school, Jayne took violin, piano, and viola lessons. She also had a passion for ballroom dancing. She did fairly well in her schooling – receiving grades in the high Bs – before graduating from Highland Park High School in 1950.
At just 17, she married her sweetheart Paul Mansfield. Just six months later, they welcomed their daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield, into the world. After Jayne and her husband discovered that they both had a love for acting, they enrolled in Southern Methodist University to studio theater.
The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1951. Jayne took summer classes at UCLA and even entered the Miss California pageant but was forced to drop out after her husband found out. After moving to Austin, Texas with Paul, she studied drama at the University of Texas at Austin. While there,, she joined the Curtain Club, an on-campus theater society that included members like Tom Jones, Rip Torn, and Pat Hingle.
She spent the next year at Camp Gordon, Georgia, an Army training base, while her husband served in the Army Reserve in the Korean War. In 1953, she moved back to Dallas where she mentored under actor Baruch Lumet. Thanks to him, Mansfield got her first screen test at Paramount in 1954.
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And stay tuned to find out how one of Mansfield’s daughter has been carrying on her mother’s legacy long after her death.
She Found Success and Scandal In Hollywood
Mansfield starred in films like Too Hot to Handle in 1960 and The Girl Can’t Help it in 1956, but what she is best known for is her persona off-screen. She loved to play up her curvaceousness and sell herself as the naughtier alternative to Marilyn Monroe.
When asked what Monroe thought of Mansfield she expressed frustration for how she perceived Jayne as always trying to imitate her. She told reporter Lawrence Quirk that her imitations were an insult to both of them.
Monroe acknowledged that imitation is sometimes seen as flattering, but she found Mansfield’s mimicry to be gross and vulgar.
“I wish I had some legal means to sue her.” Monroe lamented.
Mansfield wasn’t timid about the rivalry with Monroe. Rather, she embraced it. After bedding John F. Kennedy, she famously exclaimed “I’ll bet Marilyn is pissed as all get out!”.
Mansfield married her second husband Mickey Hargitay in 1958. Not only was Hargitay a fellow actor, but he was also a bodybuilder. The two brought three children into the world together, including Mariska Hargitay, whom Mansfield eventually starred in several movies with.
In total, Mansfield married three times. All three of these marriages ended in divorce. She also mothered five children.
She Was A Proud Sex Symbol
Perhaps, her marriages didn’t work out because of the numerous high-profile affairs that she indulged in over the years. She certainly got around and wasn’t ashamed of it.
She was a sex symbol and damn proud of it. She was one of the very first Playboy Playmates and considered sex to be a healthy part of life. She was very sex-positive and firmly believed that people shouldn’t have so much guilt over it.
Her tumultuous love life was constantly being lambasted in the tabloids, but she could care less what people thought of her. She loved pushing the boundaries of what was considered socially acceptable at the time. She infamously exposed her bare breasts to photographers on the street on numerous occasions and was one of the first actresses to get nude for the camera in a mainstream film.
Jayne also wasn’t exactly conservative when it came to her home decor. She lived in a bright rose-tinted Hollywood mansion that she referred to as The Pink Palace. The garishly campy manor was equipped with its very own heart-shaped swimming pool. In short, Mansfield had a strong affinity for excess and extravagance.
When Marilyn Monroe passed away suddenly in 1962, Mansfield foreshadowed her own death in a particularly eerie way when she speculated that maybe she would be next. In truth, she wasn’t too off base. She would meet her own death just 5 years later in 1967.
The Car Accident
It was in the wee hours of the morning on June 29, 1967, when tragedy struck. Mansfield was driving from Biloxi Mississippi towards New Orleans after performing at a nightclub. She was on her way to New Orleans for a television spot that she was scheduled to take part in the next day.
Mansfield sat in the front of the vehicle with her driver Ronald Harrison and her boyfriend Samuel Brody, as her three children slept soundly in the backseat. It was a fairly long drive. The distance between the two towns is about 100 miles, so they were likely on the road for about 2 hours before the accident took their lives.
It was right around 2 AM when their Buick Electra smashed into the back of the semi-truck. Everyone in the front seat was instantly killed. Ronald Harrison, the driver, probably didn’t see the truck until it was already too late. A machine designed to kill mosquitoes producing a thick fog likely impeded his vision.
Her Death Left Behind More Questions Than Answers
When the vehicle crashed into the semi, it slid under the back of the trailer completely severing the top of the car clean off the rest of its frame.
When police arrived on the scene they found Mansfield’s three children alive, yet horrified, in the backseat of the Elektra. All three adults and Mansfield’s dog were all killed.
After photos of the accident scene leaked to the press, the rumors began to spread that Mansfield had been decapitated in the accident. In one photo, Mansfield’s wig can be seen thrown from the car, further fueling speculation that her head had been cut off.
According to the police report and her death certificate, however, Mansfield was not actually decapitated. The top of her skull, though, was sheered off. Her injuries closely resembled a scalping. Her skull was totally crushed and part of her cranium was separated.
Another rumor began to spread following her death. Because Mansfield had once dated Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, it was speculated that LeVey had placed some kind of curse on her boyfriend Brody. Of course, there is no way to substantiate that rumor, but it was the subject of a 2017 documentary titled Mansfield 66/67.
Mariska Hargitay Carried On Her Mother’s Legacy
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Mariska went on to find success in the entertainment industry with her role as Olivia Benson on Law And Order: Special Victims Unit. Mariska was one of the three children asleep in the backseat that survived the deadly accident that took the life of their mother. Her brother Zoltan, who was six at the time of the crash, and her brother Miklos Jr, who was eight also survived.
Even though she survived the accident, Mariska was left with a visible scar on her forehead – an ever-present reminder of that awful night. She told People magazine that the way that she’s dealt with the loss was to lean into it instead of evading it. According to her, the only way out is through, and that sooner or later everyone has to pay the piper.
She remembers her mother a bit differently than most do. While she acknowledges that she was a glamorous sex symbol, she also recalls how her mom loved to play the violin, had an IQ of 160, and loved her dogs.
Her Death Inspired A Change In Federal Law
The deaths of those three people in the front seat of that Buick inspired the federal government to step in and make sure that future accidents like that didn’t have to happen.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued regulations that required all tractor-trailers to change their design to avoid similar accidents. Today, semis require a steel bar underneath their tailors to prevent vehicles from rolling underneath. These safety bars are known as Mansfield Bars.
Well, here we are once again at the end of another facts-packed video.
Jayne Mansfield’s death was absolutely tragic. The young starlet was just 34 years old when her flame was snuffed out. She had so much life left to live and she left behind her 5 children who no doubt struggled to find their way after her death.
Anyway, we’d love to hear from you! Which Blonde Bombshell’s death do you find to be the most shocking, Marilyn Monroe’s or Jayne Mansfield’s? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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