Buried deep inside in the Seattle police department’s files, a detective makes a startling discovery. Somehow, four rolls of film have remained undeveloped, despite their connection to a death that shocked the world. Nearly two decades after Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s passing, new evidence emerged that shed light on his final hours.
Cobain was born on February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, a city in Washington State. The son of a waitress and a mechanic, he developed a love of music at an early age. Initially described as a happy and sensitive child, he became withdrawn and rebellious when his parents divorced.
In 1981, for his 14th birthday, Cobain’s uncle offered him a choice of gifts. He could have a bike or a second-hand guitar. Of course, Cobain chose the musical instrument. And in doing so he took his first steps on the path that would come to define his short life.
As Cobain grew older, his dislike for authority grew. Eventually, he dropped out of high school and moved out of his mother’s house. However, throughout all the turmoil he retained his love of music – particularly punk rock, which had become popular during his formative years.
In 1987 Cobain and his friend Krist Novoselic enlisted drummer Aaron Burckhard and formed a band called Nirvana. For the next few years, though, they struggled to gain the recognition they felt that they deserved. Then, in 1990 Dave Grohl took over drumming duties for the band, and Nirvana began their unstoppable rise to the top.
On September 10, 1991, the band released “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from their second album, Nevermind. It soared to the top of the charts, cementing the previously fringe genre of grunge rock firmly in the mainstream. Suddenly, Cobain was elevated to almost god-like status, heralded as the spokesman of the new generation.
But instead of finding happiness in his glittering career, Cobain was plunged into despair. He became frustrated with the trappings of commercial success and subsequently sought refuge in illegal drugs. Although he was now married to Courtney Love, a fellow musician, Cobain still found his life spiraling out of control.
In 1992 Cobain discovered that he was going to be a father. As a result, he attempted to kick his heroin addiction. However, his efforts were unsuccessful, and he soon fell back into drug abuse. Finally, on March 25, 1994, Love staged an intervention – but by then it was too late.
On March 31, Cobain escaped his rehab clinic in Los Angeles, California, and returned to Seattle, WA. For several days, there was uncertainty as to Cobain’s precise whereabouts. Then, on April 8 an electrician discovered Cobain’s body in his Seattle home.
Apparently, Cobain had been dead for days. He had been shot in the head, and the coroner recorded a verdict of suicide. However, Cobain was also reported to have had lethal levels of heroin in his system, and over the years many people have cast doubt upon the official account of his death.
Because of Cobain’s legendary status, many fans refused to accept that he had taken his own life. Instead, they began popularizing conspiracy theories that the 27-year-old frontman had been murdered. In fact, just one week after Cobain’s death, Seattle radio host Richard Lee began sharing such theories on air.
Later, private investigator Tom Grant added to the speculation. Having been hired by Love to track down Cobain when he escaped from the rehab clinic, Grant also came to believe that the shooting was a homicide. He doubted that Cobain could have shot himself after injecting so much heroin and suspected a third party had pulled the trigger.
Over the years, everyone from veteran journalists to internet forum users have tried to get to the bottom of Cobain’s death. Many claim that Love may have had a hand in the tragedy and have theorized that she plotted revenge after Cobain asked for a divorce. However, no solid evidence has been found to link Love to the crime.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped the public from maintaining an obsessive interest in the case. In fact, the Seattle Police Department claims that even today it is asked to reopen the investigation at least once a week. So, as the 20th anniversary of Cobain’s death approached, officers knew that they would soon be facing an onslaught of renewed interest in the case.
Then, in March 2014 the Seattle Police Department made a shocking announcement. While reviewing the case in preparation for the anniversary, detective Mike Ciesynski discovered four rolls of undeveloped 35mm film. Although they contained photographs from the controversial crime scene, they had sat gathering dust for almost two decades.
According to Ciesynski, however, the reason why this happened is not at all sinister. Apparently, it was common practice back in the 1990s to take Polaroid photographs at crime scenes to back up the images captured on 35mm film. Instead of waiting for the film to be developed, detectives often used the Polaroids while working on cases.
However, Ciesynski knew that some parties had latched on to the department’s decision to not develop the 35mm film. Hoping to dispel rumors of a conspiracy, he decided to finally release these images to the public. The result is a fascinating glimpse into a tragedy that still resonates to this day.
In total, the Seattle Police Department released 26 of the 35mm photographs, along with nine previously unseen Polaroids taken at the scene of Cobain’s death. Shockingly, they depict some gruesome details, including the gun that fired the fatal shot. Most tellingly, they also show Cobain’s suicide note, impaled through its center with a pen.
Although these newly released photographs sparked fresh debate about the case, the Seattle Police Department was quick to point out that its position hasn’t changed. In fact, Ciesynski said in a 2014 interview with CBS News that the photographs confirmed the department’s “textbook perfect investigation.”
Others, however, were not so convinced. Grant, for example, believes that the delay in developing the film is further evidence of an incompetent investigation. Whatever the real truth behind Cobain’s death, there’s no denying the haunting power of these images – the last echoes of a man who charmed the world.