Time to Write Now By Julaina Kleist-Corwin

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James Dean Killed in Car Crash September 30, 1955

James DeanOn September 30, 1955, at 5:45 p.m., Actor James Dean, driving his brand new Porsche Spyder convertible, crashed into a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection in Cholame, California. His friend , the German Porsche mechanic, Rolf Wutherich in the passenger seat survived his injuries.  They were on their way to a race in Salinas. Dean was 24 years old.

The driver of the Ford, 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed,  was a California Polytechnic State University student. The glare from the setting sun made it impossible to see Dean’s Porsche when Turnupseed made a left turn right in front of it. Turnupseed was uninjured.

People say Dean’s car was cursed.  “After the accident, the car rolled off the back of a truck and crushed the legs of a mechanic standing nearby. Later, after a used-car dealer sold its parts to buyers all over the country, the strange incidents multiplied: The car’s engine, transmission and tires were all transplanted into cars that were subsequently involved in deadly crashes, and a truck carrying the Spyder’s chassis to a highway-safety exhibition skidded off the road, killing its driver. The remains of the car vanished from the scene of that accident and haven’t been seen since.”

Dean’s friend, Wutherich, never got over the accident. He tried to commit suicide twice in the 1960s, “stabbed his wife 14 times with a kitchen knife in a failed murder/suicide–and died in a drunk-driving accident in 1981. Turnupseed died of lung cancer in 1981.” (History.com/this-day-in-history)

If I wrote historical fiction, these facts plus additional research would make a fascinating story.  Anyone out there inspired?




  1. So tragic, but it just proves truth is stranger than fiction.

    • That’s for sure, Sharon. I didn’t know that the car parts were involved in accidents. Creepy, but a great story.

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