So what did happen back in 1959 that led a recent documentary to point to the set location as a possible cause to Michael Landon’s cancer? We will explore more in the following investigative video. You may remember Michael Landon from his many famous on-screen appearances and his most notable roles. What was shocking was the brief time the actor and his fans had between his diagnosis and demise. What caused the star to shine so bright and to pass much too quickly? To begin, the Reelz Channel’s show “Autopsy: The Last Hours of” may shed some light on the tragic origins of Michael’s cancer. To explore this possibility, we have to travel back to the year 1959 when Michael Landon was only 22 and starting in his first major TV role as Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza. Little unbeknownst to the star at the time was that the Santa Susana Nuclear Laboratory suffered a “partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor” as released by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. Pay attention here because this was not light leakage. This catastrophic event led to about two thousand deaths related to cancer and an uptick as high as a sixty percent increase in a number of cancers including liver cancer, according to information provided by a forensic pathologist named Dr. Michael Hunter who previously spoke in an interview with PEOPLE. But what does this tragic event have to do with Michael Landon? Well, Michael’s next major role after Bonanza was that of Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. And it was on this set, of this much beloved TV series, where Michael may have gained fame and become more susceptible to cancer. The set was only 15 miles away from the Santa Susana Nuclear Laboratory, the site of the “worst radioactive disaster in U.S. history” according to the narrator in the Reelz documentary. There has been further coverage on this site and cleanup continues to this day to remove significant contamination. Many lives have been impacted by this nuclear accident, is it such a stretch to conclude that Michael Landon’s may have been among them?
Michael Landon was diagnosed in 1991, when the cancer had in fact already traveled to his liver (one of the areas Dr. Hunter had mentioned in the increased rates of cancer in the area, coincidence?). Despite this, Dr. Hunter didn’t believe there was enough scientific evidence to directly relate the star’s cancer with the iconic location.
Moving away from the location, there was other press speculation as to Michael Landon’s Cancer. As with any large star, news of this sort was bound to cause a large stir. Landon wanted to handle his treatment on his own terms. Landon put on a game face in the short months following his diagnosis and did his rounds with the media. In a compelling interview on The Today Show, Michael even ended saying tragically how he’d like to return with George Foreman in August to do another segment. Foreman was the other guest at the time and had an upcoming fight himself, though with much weaker stakes. An August goal was a steep one for Michael at the time and sadly he passed on July 1st. He did open up in the interview however about his life, his struggle with the big C and the one element of media coverage Michael found particularly troubling. Stay tuned to learn more. In the meantime, if you’re enjoying this story so far, be sure to like the video and subscribe to our channel for more videos.
Despite holding his own press conference and appearing on television so as to handle the news himself, Landon was troubled to hear a rumor after his diagnosis. Word got out that the star wanted a child for his wife to remember him by. Michael Landon, known for his fatherly role on-screen was presently a father to nine children and three grandchildren with one more on the way. The man was far from needing more to be remembered by. After running through the litany of his many children, pets and grandchildren, Landon scoffed at this rumor on the Tonight Show, sarcastically telling the host that after all he already left behind among his loved ones “my wife, Cindy, needs something to remember me by?” Michael was never fond of the rumor mill and this last one irked him strongly. Michael Landon did still try to put a strong face forward for fans and for the press. Appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Michael tried to be jovial and show his good spirits despite his dire prognosis. Fellow star, Melissa Gilbert, noted that in this interview with Johnny Carson, that Michael didn’t look well. She called out that “His big, strong chest was gone. His voice was also thinner.” Despite watching her on-screen father put up his best, Gilbert felt that the man she saw being interviewed for the Tonight Show “wasn’t Mike.” The only thing to keep her laughing was an anecdote on Michael’s surprising self-treatment which we will delve into next. For now, it’s back to Michael and a remedy you may never have heard of for a cancer of this sort.
Through his short time between his diagnosis and demise, Michael Landon even tried a few questionable alternative therapies along with the traditional route of chemotherapy. Most interesting of which was coffee enemas which the star admitted to on The Tonight Show. He made a humorous point to add that he used organic coffee. The star tried nearly everything to combat the Big C as he called his pancreatic cancer. He began after his diagnosis with a diet rich in vitamins. He avoided chemotherapy to start and tried a more holistic approach. However, pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate and there’s several reasons why. The first of which is that pancreatic cancer is rarely detected at first. Most people suffering don’t begin to show symptoms until much later stages when the cancer has spread to other major organs. This was the case with Michael where the cancer had already spread to his liver. However Michael Landon was still young and healthy when his cancer struck, passing at only age 54. He was also healthy and in shape. Being overweight puts you more at risk for pancreatic cancer and that certainly wasn’t the case with Michael. These aspects continue to lead to the suspicion aired on “Autopsy: The Last Hours of” Michael Landon of the location of the set of Little House on the Prairie and the nuclear episode that occured in 1959.
Michael Landon filmed from 1974 to 1983, a mere 15 miles from a site responsible for thousands of cancer deaths. Though discounted by Dr. Hunter, the coincidence of the location and the nine years Michael Landon spent there still leads to speculation. With pancreatic cancer being the third leading cause of cancer death and growing fast to the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, did Michael Landon ever stand a fighting chance about combating a disease with a three percent survival rate once the cancer spread to another major organ? We may never get a conclusive answer on whether the site he filmed was to blame. The site to this day is under cleanup.
For the world, his death remains a tragedy. He will always be remembered for craft, his kindness and his larger than life personality. Along with his beloved role as Pa in Little House on the Prairie he also starred fittingly in the series Highway to Heaven. Michael Landon is marked number 33 in the sexiest stars of all time and has also been inducted into The Western Performers Hall of Fame and The Hollywood Walk of Fame. Michael is also known for his work as a writer, director and producer. His children, including his son Sean Landon who was four when his father passed, remembers him as “always wanted to help the underdog.” With pancreatic cancer often being called the forgotten cancer due to the fact that it is not among the top 10 cancers diagnosed however it is the number three for men and women combined when it comes to deaths. Hopefully his passing will help shine the spotlight more strongly on pancreatic cancer and help to speed our understanding and ability to better combat the disease. Michael Landon’s passing was tragic but he will always remain a brilliant actor and kind and loving father both onscreen and off. He will be missed and remembered for his contributions for years to come.
That concludes our exploration of the tragic origins of Michael Landon’s cancer diagnosis, the speed at which it hit him, his epic battle and the radioactive disaster that struck only 15 miles away from the actor’s main set for nine years. Doctors will not point a finger to the site of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory however the investigation still continues. The surrounding community is still seeking answers themselves as to their risk levels and the health impact that the disaster may have caused and may still be causing their families. What do you think? Was Michael Landon simply unlucky to get a particularly fatal form of cancer OR was his largest role onscreen partly the cause of his downfall? We would love to know your thoughts in the comments below. Let us know if you think the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and the contamination to the surrounding areas is to blame. And if you liked this video and want to see more make sure to hit the like button and subscribe to Facts Verse for more videos! Looking forward to seeing you next time.