Image of Kurt Cobain mural on a brick wall.

The Death of Kurt Cobain


Cobain’s Stomach Pain: Kurt’s mysterious pain is almost as iconic as the singer himself, and many believe his suicide was a way to escape chronic nausea, vomiting, and agony [7] [4]. Despite seeing several specialists, the cause was never diagnosed but there are popular theories:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): An umbrella term used to describe conditions like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis where the intestines swell in size and develop ulcers. These conditions cause pain, nausea, vomiting, food sensitivity, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. It is worth knowing however that Cobain tested negative for Crohn’s disease in November 1993 [4].
  • Hernia: A hernia occurs when an organ in the abdomen breaks through muscle tissue. Symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting, and nausea. People doubt this theory because a hernia is easily diagnosable. If there is no visible herniated bulge, doctors can run a small camera run down the throat to check the intestines. The singer had this test on the morning of November 18, 1993 (right before MTV “Unplugged”) and no hernia was discovered [4].
  • Celiac Disease (Gluten Intolerance): When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) it triggers an immune response that attacks the intestines. The result is nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. The more gluten someone eats, the worse they feel which could explain Cobain’s symptoms since his diet consisted mainly of fast food, pizza, and Mac ‘N Cheese [4].
  • Heroin Addiction: Some believe that Kurt made up his stomach pain to mask his heroin addiction. Because heroin slows everything down (including digestion), abusers commonly experience constipation and abdominal pain [6]. And if the person goes without heroin they enter withdrawal which includes nausea and vomiting. Buzz Osborne, the singer for the Melvin’s, stated that “Kurt also told me there was absolutely nothing wrong with his stomach. He made it up for sympathy so he could use it as an excuse to stay loaded” [2].

The Controversy Around Cobain’s Suicide:
Rather than wondering what led Kurt to take his own life. Others dispute the ruling that his death was a suicide. Tom Grant, a private investigator once employed by Courtney Love to find her husband after he fled his detox, believes Cobain’s death was a homicide [11]. Grant’s theory has several parts:

The Dose of Heroin:
Grant claims that the amount of heroin in Cobain’s system was so large that he would not have been able to pull the trigger after injecting it. He believes it’s more likely that this dose was used to incapacitate Cobain, and someone else fired the weapon [11].

Rebuttal: This claim is not based on the information from Cobain’s autopsy (autopsies are confidential by law). As a result, it’s impossible to know how large his final dose was. In addition, by the end of his life, Kurt had a $500/day heroin habit [4]. This means his body would be able to tolerate large doses.

The Last Four Lines of The Suicide Note:
Only the last four lines of Cobain’s note imply suicide [11]. The rest reads like an intention to leave Nirvana, or the music industry altogether [1]. Grant claims that these last four lines were added to the note as a way to stage a suicide [11].

Rosemary Carrol, Cobain’s estate attorney, provided Grant with a handwriting practice note from his wife’s (Courtney Love) handbag that had writing similar to the last four lines of Kurt’s note. Carrol also described a meeting with Kurt where he confessed plans to divorce Courtney and asked for a new will that excluded her. According to Grant, this would have left Love with a multi-million dollar motive to make sure she inherited their fortune [11].

Rebuttal: Nobody, including Carrol, ever corroborated Grant’s statement about divorce or a change of will, and this practice note has never been released or authenticated. In addition, a handwriting analysis was performed on the original copy by professional forensic document examiner Janis Parker. Then, after spending two weeks with the note, Parker concluded that Cobain had written the entire thing.

Missing Fingerprint Evidence:
Cobain’s cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Yet no legible prints could be lifted from the gun that he used to end his life. This raises the question of whether the gun was used by someone else, cleaned, and then planted [11].

Rebuttal: Eyewitness accounts say that because Kurt was found three days after his death, rigor mortis had already set in. As a result, the gun had to be pried from his hands, which ruined the finger markings on the gun [4].

The Locked Door:
The police report states that the door to the greenhouse, where Cobain died, could only be locked from the inside. However, Grant inspected the door and found that it could be locked and then shut. Meaning that someone could have shut Cobain inside after killing him [11].

Rebuttal: There is no evidence disproving this claim. But Grant stated that this only “points to a larger case” and does not prove murder [11].

Kurt’s death was a tragedy. If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), use the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741, or chat online

Even with a substance issue as serious as Kurt’s, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is always hope and you can get better. For more information on how to reclaim your life from addiction, give us a call at 855-202-2138. We can help. 

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