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A Psychic Warned Natalie Wood’s Mom About Her Death When She Was a Child



Hollywood legend Natalie Wood had a dark prophecy hanging over her head long before her death. A movie star since childhood, Wood was in a series of classics before her life was cut short at 43. But despite a brilliant career, the West Side Story star had a troubling private life. Her mysterious 1981 drowning was even predicted by a psychic, creating a fear of water she never let go of.

Natalie Wood’s mother pushed her into show business

On the surface, Wood’s arrival on the 1940s scene was a triumph. Her first credited screen role (Tomorrow is Forever) put her opposite influential movie magnate Orson Welles. She was only seven at the time.

Following the success of Tomorrow is Forever, Wood landed the role that would cement her status as a child star. Miracle on 34th Street was one of the most popular movies of 1947. It remains one of Wood’s most famous roles. Five years after her breakthrough, Wood already had more than a dozen screen credits — all before becoming a teenager.

Her successful career was even better than her domineering mother could have hoped for. According to The LA Times, Maria Gurdin launched Wood’s career by telling her to jump into the lap of director Irving Pichel. The stunt worked and Pichel gave Wood two uncredited roles before directing her in Tomorrow is Forever. For Gurdin, who escaped Siberia at the start of the Russian Revolution, Wood’s talent was a major opportunity.

A psychic warning terrified Natalie Wood for life

While Wood was known as a rising star in the 1940s, at home she was still Natalia or Natasha. From the Washington Post, Natalia Zacharenko (sometimes spelled Zakharenko) remained her legal name long after she became famous. The name also pointed to a darker reality lingering beneath the surface of stardom.


Wood became known for her professionalism at a young age. But it was her mother who went to extremes to make sure she stayed in line. Per the Baltimore Sun, Gurdin once ripped the wings off of a butterfly in front of Wood just to make sure she cried when she was supposed to.

But another incident proved much more damaging for Wood. From a book excerpt published by Vanity Fair, her superstitious mother once brought her to a psychic, who declared that Wood was going to die one day in “dark water.” Wood became so scared of the water that she was even afraid of using her home swimming pool, per BuzzFeed. While the prophecy haunted Wood’s life, it would take on a completely different meaning after her death in 1981.

Natalie Wood’s tragic death is still shrouded in mystery

Despite childhood abuses, Wood managed to pivot from child to adult star in the 1950s and 1960s. Her turn opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955 led to her first of three Oscar nominations. And she appeared in a string of hits after shedding her childhood persona. In 1961, Wood starred in West Side Story and received another Oscar nomination, this time for Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass.

Even though her star faded somewhat after her rebound in the 1960s, Wood remained active in movies and TV right up until her untimely death in November of 1981. The tragedy remains largely unresolved, with plenty of speculation that Wood’s death was more than an unfortunate drowning. The Vanity Fair bio excerpt even claims that her death was likely the fault of Wood’s husband, Robert Wagner, an actor known for roles in The Towering Inferno and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

After having dinner with Wagner and friend/co-star Christopher Walken near Catalina Island, Wood at some point ended up falling into the water she was so terrified of. Originally labeled an accident, Wood’s death regained national attention in 2013 when the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office changed the cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors.”

According to the LA Times, the revised report acknowledged signs of abuse from the night of her drowning. Per CBS News, Wagner was considered a “person of interest” when the case was reopened in 2018. Ultimately, Wagner was never charged and Walken was never suspected of wrongdoing.


The circumstances of Natalie Wood’s death also pointed back to the prophecy that had followed her for decades. Likely due to her fear of water, the star never learned how to swim.

Source: Cheat Sheet

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