We love our mysticism and intrigue. Everyone loves to point to curses to explain behavior and why bad things happen to beloved icons. Case in point: The Sports Illustrated and Madden Cover curses are two of the most discussed and most believed-in curses. Whenever someone goes down with an injury, it is that old Madden/SI curse rearing its ugly head again.
So today I have a treat for you – the melding of two of our most loved institutions in this country: The Little Rascals Curse.
We love the Little Rascals, an indisputable institution of American Entertainment. Who doesn’t crack a smile when they see someone with bed-head that that includes Alfalfa’s signature callick, or when they hear Eddie Murphy’s classic “HI! I’M BUHWHEAT!!” from Saturday Night Live, or even the pickle song from the fantastic early 90s remake of my childhood?? The Little Rascals evoke a warm nostalgic feeling in everyone, a visage of a simpler time and the hilarious hijinx of little kids.
What most people do not know is that many of the original Little Rascals (originally called “Our Gang”) were murdered or met other untimely ends within a couple decades of the show airing. It truly borders on ridiculousness, sounding like the type of thing that you would see in a terrible conspiracy theory murder mystery novel that inevitably concludes that an Our Gang reject bent on revenge carries out the kind of crime spree usually reserved for criminal masterminds. Unfortunately, at least for entertainment’s sake, that was probably not the case. The trend is shocking nonetheless.
The Our Gang TV show debuted in 1922 and ran for 26 years, and even included extra TV specials and feature films. After that, many of the stars continued to try to make in Hollywood as grown-ups, but only one of the Rascals ever made a much career for himself. A great majority of the former child stars met gruesome ends, and the following died before the 40, which is what initially led to the spread of the existence of the Little Rascals Curse
Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) – Switzer was shot in early 1959 attempting to recover a debt $50 he believed was owed to him for finding the man’s lost hunting dog. After getting fairly liquored up with a friend, he went to the man’s house, banged on the door demanding the money and proceeded to get into a heated discussion with the man. Things escalated to the point that the man ran at Switzer with a .38 caliber pistol and shot Switzer in the groin while Switzer had him pinned down with a knife to his neck. Switzer ended up dying at the hospital due to massive internal bleeding
Spanky (Scotty Beckett) – Beckett apparently slid into a deep depression during his post acting life that was riddled with drugs, violence, and arrests. In 1968, he died due to complications of a serious beating. At the time, many people suspected suicide, but the coroner was unable to determine whether drugs played any part in the death.
As an interesting side note – Spanky’s character was reprised by Robert Blake from 1939-1944. Robert Blake is still alive, but in 2001 was arrested and tried for the murder of his wife. In a bit of a shock, he was acquitted of the charges. However, he was later found liable for her wrongful death in a 2005 civil trial.
Froggy (Billy Laughlin) – Laughlin died when he was just 16 years old in probably the most gruesome death of the whole gang. He and his friend were delivering newspapers on a motorscooter in 1948 when they were hit from behind from a bus. Both died instantly.
Chubby (Norman Chaney) – As his name implies, this was one portly little kid and unfortunately, he did not grow out of it. He was over 300 lbs but never grew taller than 4’7″ – quite a remarkable feat in itself. It was later discovered that he had a petuitary gland ailment. He underwent treatment in 1935 to correct the ailment, but it worked too well and he ended up losing around 200 pounds by the time of his death.
Donald Haines – After the conclusion of his time on Our Gang, Haines enlisted in the Air Force during WWII and attained the rank of First Lieutenant. He was killed in action in 1943.
Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) – Like Haines, Hutchins enlisted in the Army and remained in the army after the war, enrolling to become an air cadet. During a training exercise, he struck another pilot in mid-air and perished then and there a week before his graduation.
Other notable deaths include: Buckwheat (Heart Attack at age 49); Darla (Died of Hepatitis at age 47); Breezy Brisbane (Committed Suicide); Stymie (Had a stroke at age 55 after a life of crime and drugs); Pete the Pup (Poisoned).
So, for any parents out there with dreams of having a child actor – if anyone ever approaches you about having your child play a Little Rascal, FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!