Who Killed River Phoenix?

It was Halloween night, October 31st, 1993. A time when Hollywood stars were composed of young adult stars like Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder and River Phoenix. Plus, The Red Hot Chili Peppers were the go to band of the moment.

River Phoenix once said in an eerily consistent phrase with the day of his passing: “Acting is like a Halloween mask that you put on”. 

Halloween night is known to be one day of eight annual days of the Sabbath, and is considered to be somewhat of a party night, with sacrifices being common as offerings to the success of a completed ritual.

Of course, River Phoenix was said to have died of an overdose, which he did, however, he died outside of Johnny Depp’s club, the Viper Room, on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood after attending a party being hosted at the club.

River Phoenix was given a drink laced with dangerous amounts of heroin and cocaine (a “speedball”) by a so-called friend who he had taken to rehab twice, as reported by New York Daily News journalist Sherryl Connelly. Not long after ingesting the lethal cocktail, River became extremely sick, vomited, and slumped in his chair before being taken outside by security. After being ejected from the club, he stumbled and fell onto the pavement, and died from a cardiac arrest.

The Viper Room on Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Credit: Wikipedia

Toxicologist Dan Anderson later analysed River Phoenix’s blood, finding astronomical amounts of heroin and cocaine in his system, which suggests that he was given the drink by somebody that may have wanted him dead, or simply may have killed him in act of (suspicious) carelessness. River Phoenix gulped down the drink, which was referred to as a “liquid speedball” which contained eight times the lethal limit of heroin and cocaine. Basically enough to kill eight people, let alone the one.

Who gave River Phoenix that drink? That still remains unclear. Johhny Depp was reportedly performing up on the stage at ‘The Viper Room’ at the time, when River ingested the drink. Johnny Depp and River Phoenix had many mutual friends, although Johnny Depp was seven years older than River Phoenix.

Johnny Depp used to be engaged to actress Winona Ryder, and they were together for four and half years, from June 1989 until sometime in the year 1993. The breakup sent Depp into a dark place, and he used to say that nothing ever compared to the love he had for Winona. He later admitted that he “tortured” Leonardo Di Caprio after his breakup, and was very mean to him on the set of ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?‘. He had also said in interviews that he used to fly into jealous rages in his relationships with women in order to end them. Seems like Johnny had a bit of a jealousy problem. Last year, Johnny Depp divorced Amber Heard after reportedly being physically abusive and jealous towards her, accusing her of sleeping with other men. The divorce papers also cited that his ongoing drug problems were also a factor.

River Phoenix was raised in a hippy-ish type commune growing up, previously living in Venezuela as a young child. His family was part of a controversial Christian cult called the ‘Children of God’. River Dunetz, whose family later changed their name to Phoenix (as in “the Phoenix that rises from the ashes”) when they moved to Florida, was reportedly sexually abused and lost his virginity at 4-years old, as he stated in an interview with Details magazine in 1991. Needless to say, he “blocked it out” of his memory and kept it repressed for all those years. Indeed, he was somebody with a very disturbing past, which of course led onto his drug problems later in life, as a result of his checkered childhood. It’s curious that River came from a Christian cult, but later fell to an untimely death in Hollywood, where Satanism is said to be rife.

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, once engaged, called off their union sometime in 1993. Credit: Lebeau’sleBlog

River’s death was a tragedy, but despite drug problems, a lot has to be questioned regarding the drink he was given at Johnny Depp’s nightclub. Maybe it’s just another one of those Hollywood cases of yet another bright young star dying off from an overdose before his time, or perhaps there is something more to the story…

Johnny Depp famously tattooed a homage to Winona Ryder on his upper arm, which read: “Winona Forever”, which Depp then later changed to “Wino Forever” sometime after starting to date Kate Moss.

Here’s something very curious. At the time of River Phoenix death, before completing the principles of photography for the film ‘Dark Blood‘, which was only recently released in 2012, River Phoenix was to star alongside Winona Ryder in an up and coming project called ‘Broken Dreams’. River Phoenix was one year older than Winona Ryder.

River Phoenix and Winona Ryder, never did that film together, as River died on that Halloween night. Credit: Pinterest

Obviously, that film never went into production because River Phoenix died on October 31st, 1993. According to the book by Bob Forrest, ‘Running with Monsters’, the day after River’s death, Bob Forrest called Depp and asked “How’s your friend?”. Bob then informed Depp: “Dude, River is dead”, to which Johnny Depp said after a long pause “Oh my god”, after which Depp quickly hung up the phone. Forrest wrote: “The next morning, Depp, along with everyone else who knew what happened that night, left town.”

The decision of many to leave town after River Phoenix’s death could be seen by some, to be highly suspicious. Is it possible that one of the people who fled town that day, could be the true culprit who gave River Phoenix that liquid speedball? If so, why did they do it? Was it truly to kill him, or was it a critical mistake that cost a young star his life?

Who would have wanted River Phoenix dead? Did the police ever investigate River’s death as a murder rather than a simple overdose? Was it purely an accident by someone else’s hand, or was it a simple case of River just taking too much that night and killing himself?

After River’s death, Johnny Depp closed The Viper Room for one week, and people laid flowers outside the nightclub in his honour.

In 1989, Johnny Depp said in an interview in regards to Winona Ryder: “I’d die for her. I love her so much. I don’t know what I would do without her. I’d kill myself. I love her almost more than I love myself.”

River Phoenix was also an aspiring musician, and he had wanted to be in a rock band. In the days leading up to his untimely death, Phoenix was said to have been staying with John Anthony Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Phoenix was also friends with the rest of the band, along with Johnny Depp, according to Bob Forrest’s writings.

John Anthony Frusciante & The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Credit: Anthony Kiedis.net

On the night of River’s death at The Viper Room, Frusciante and Phoenix arrived at the club already high, and once they had entered and gotten comfortable in the VIP area, lots more cocaine was being passed around.

John Frusciante once said this about death in general, and about River’s death in particular: “Everybody dies. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. For instance in River’s case, I think it was more of shame that he was born than he would have died, because he didn’t like this life. He didn’t like this place and he’s in a better place now. You know and that’s… I don’t think it’s a big deal”.

In 1993, Johnny Depp also directed a short film in tribute to John Frusciante. It’s 12 minutes long, and was just entitled ‘Stuff’. You can watch it in all its weirdness on YouTube, by writing in ‘Stuff 1993’, as the link won’t play unless you yourself search for it.  Well, that’s weird….

Some people believe that River Phoenix’s death from a drug overdose is very suspicious. When a young Hollywood star dies of a drug overdose, it’s sort of a common yet deeply horrible tragedy for everybody, but can it ever be pinned down as a deliberate act by an unknown hand? As of yet, nobody knows for sure… But, it could have been a ritual sacrifice. The early nineties were surely a wild time. R.I.P River Phoenix.


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Buy ‘Running with Monsters’ by Bob Forrest here.

Featured Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

3 thoughts on “Who Killed River Phoenix?”

  1. No one put it him in drink… He was a hard drug user… It was only his own fault… Moments before his death he said, he is propably od-ing… Also his brother told in 911 call, that he took valium… He knew, it was not valium.. He lied to the 911… So pleas stop with bshit like this…

    1. VB the autopsy report doesn’t show evidence of him having been a regular hard drug user. His organs were healthy. He had come off seven weeks clean while shooting Dark Blood as well. It’s all very awful.

  2. He did take Valium as well. After the speedball, he ingested Valium. It’s noted in the toxicology report. His brother was scared and in shock, and left out most of the truth about what River had taken, but by that point it was too late for him to be saved regardless.

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