“They’ve got a power and a force that you’ve never seen before,” went the lyrics to the Power Rangers theme tune, “No one will ever take them down.” Sadly, however, many cast members who donned those skin-tight color-coded bodysuits proved to be anything but invincible – as this chilling story reveals.
Since first airing in 1993 the superhero series appears to have been struck by a curse more malevolent than anything Lord Zedd could muster. Tragic accidents, unexplained deaths and shocking murders have turned the story behind the kids’ phenomenon into a real-life adult horror.
David Yost, who played Blue Ranger Billy Cranston for four seasons, survived the curse – but he was arguably its first victim. The actor left in 1996 after being bullied about his sexuality; after undergoing so-called conversion therapy he later suffered a nervous breakdown.
Fortunately Yost later recovered; today he remains a regular face on the convention circuit. However, it wasn’t long before the apparent curse took its first life. In 2000 Robert L. Manahan, who voiced intergalactic floating head Zordon, died of a cardiac aneurysm aged 43.
Erik Ray Frank, who played David Truehart in Power Rangers Zeo, was even younger when he also succumbed to heart problems. The real-life brother of Jason David Frank – aka Green Ranger, and later White Ranger, Tommy Oliver – passed away in 2001 aged just 29.
In 2001 27-year-old Thuy Trang became the first actual Power Ranger to die following a car accident near Bakersfield, California. The Vietnamese-American actress, who played Yellow Ranger Trini Kwan for 80 episodes, was fatally injured when the vehicle she was travelling in ploughed into a cliff.
The Power Rangers family lost another member in 2005 when Jack Banning, who played the brilliantly named Professor Phenomenus Ingenious, died of pneumonia-related complications. He was 73.
The death of Bob Papenbrook, 23 years Banning’s junior, was far more premature. The prolific voiceover actor, who brought a slew of Power Rangers characters to life, including the skeletal Rito Revolto, died from long-term lung problems in 2006.
Machiko Soga, who played Rito’s sister Rita Repulsa in the first series, was next to succumb to the curse. The Japanese actress – a regular in Power Rangers precursor Super Sentai – lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 2006 aged 68.
The disease also took the life of Red Ranger Wesley Collins’ father Mr. Collins, aka Edward Albert, in the same year. The actor, who had a Golden Globe Award under his belt for his role in 1972’s Butterflies Are Free, died of lung cancer aged 55.
The story of Richard Genelle – aka Ernie, the Angel Grove Youth Center’s jovial owner – may be the curse’s saddest. The larger-than-life actor, who left in the fourth season to tackle his health problems, managed to lose 40 pounds. In 2008, however, the 48-year-old suffered a fatal heart attack.
The most disturbing case concerns Skylar Deleon, who appeared as a Power Rangers extra aged 14. In 2009 the former actor was sentenced to death for murdering Arizona couple Jackie and Thomas Hawks in 2004. He is currently awaiting execution by lethal injection.
Deleon, who appeared in the “Second Chance” episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, committed his first murder a year earlier when we slashed the throat of Jon Peter Jarvi. His crimes were described by a prosecutor as “diabolical and heartless.”
Walter Jones, who played Black Ranger Zack Taylor, also found himself on the wrong side of the law in 2009 – but for a far less grisly offence. He was arrested for drunk driving in Huntsville, Alabama, though the case was later thrown out.
Peta Rutter, who played White Mystic Ranger Udonna in Mystic Force, held the record for being the oldest ever Power Ranger. Tragically, a brain tumor claimed her life in 2010. She was aged just 51.
Even those who made only fleeting visits to the Power Rangers universe weren’t immune from its curse. Japanese-American actor-cum-martial-artist Richard Rabago, who played Master Lee in 1994’s Plague of the Mantis episode, died in his sleep in 2012. He was 68.
The cause of Maurice Mendoza’s death, meanwhile, has never been officially revealed. The actor, who played Trini’s love interest Richie in the second Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season, died in Mesa, Arizona in 2013. He was just 39.
Later that year Alissa Ann Smego, who played Shawna in the 1994 “Forever Friends” episode, lost her life in truly tragic circumstances. The actress, who had since become the presenter of her own online cookery show, took her own life at home in Back Bay, Boston. She was only 38.
Ricardo Medina, Jr. could become the show’s second real-life killer. The former Red Ranger was arrested in February 2015 after allegedly fatally stabbing Josh Sutter, his house guest, with a samurai sword. Despite claiming self-defense, Medina, Jr. was formally charged with Sutter’s murder around a year later.
If he’s convicted the actor could face life imprisonment; further, Medina, Jr. wouldn’t be eligible for parole for 26 years. His attorney, however, has said he remains “as innocent now” as he was when he was first arrested.