“Okay guys, I don’t know who decided to write this article, but I’ve doubled our whiskey rations for it. Things are about to get bleak.”
~AFFotD Editor-in-Chief, Johnny Roosevelt
Our Gang helped define an entire era of early Hollywood entertainment. From 1922 through 1944, the franchise, which you may know better as The Little Rascals, put out 220 short films and one film, featuring 41 child actors during that span. They remain such an important cultural touchstone that we even decided to revisit the characters in a 1994 motion picture (which, like, did only okay). But when we started looking into the actors who played iconic characters such as Spanky and Buckwheat and Alfalfa, we discovered something a little…perturbing.
That cast is haunted, guys.
Sure, snopes has weighed in on this to preemptively tell us we’re wrong. But we’re not. To prove so, we’re going to talk about the early, non-natural demises of original cast members in what promises to be our most depressing article yet. We excluded things like overdoses and people who got heart attacks in their 50s because, well, we just don’t want to write a bunch of jokes about that kind of stuff today.
But we’ll leave it to you once you’ve seen the evidence. Was the original Little Rascals cast cursed?
(Yes they fucking were.)
The Original Little Rascals Cast Was Probably Cursed?
Hal Roach produced two smash hits in his time—Our Gang and Laurel and Hardy. Of the two, his work on Our Gang came first, but also was the most haunted. The Gang films were notable for a few reasons—they were some of the first movies that showed innocent “kid being kids” antics that actually seemed like something you’d see in real life. And they were also surprisingly racially tolerant, with black and white characters interacting as friends and equals. Like, we know that’s a bare minimum for just being basically decent humans, but in the 1920s it wasn’t a given that you were going to be dealing with basically decent humans.
Of the large, revolving cast, there were some success stories. Jackie Cooper, who appeared in some early Our Gang films, was the youngest actor at the time to be nominated for an Oscar (at the age of 9) and had a long, lucrative film career. Mildred Kornman, still alive and kicking at 92, was a successful fashion model who went under the name Rikci VanDusen. And Sidnesy Kibrick, who played Woim for a few years, is…alive at the age of 89? Like, he didn’t really do anything Wikipedia-worthy after his brief stint as a child actor, but he’s still alive and well.
It might seem like we’re stretching that last “success story” but, honestly, given the fates that befell so many of the Little Rascals, making it to 89 is a damn impressive feat. Because the rest of the gang…did not fair so well…
Froggy was Killed by a Truck While Delivering Newspapers at the Age of 16
Wow. We’re. Um. We’re just launching right into this, aren’t we? Billy Laughlin was a child actor whose character on our Gang spoke in a guttural voice, like a frog’s. Despite assumptions that his voice was dubbed (which was the case in the 1994 remake), Laughlin actually performed the voice himself. He was a part of the gang from 1940 until Our Gang stopped production in 1944, where he moved away from Los Angeles, and settled into a perfectly normal childhood. He went to school in La Puente, California. He made friends, studied for tests, and got himself a job. All in all, a lovely, carefree adolescence.
You…you know where this is going.
On August 31st, 1948, when Laughlin was sixteen years old, he was delivering newspapers from the back of a Cushman Motor Scooter (a gift from his parents he received two weeks prior). His friend, John Wilbrand, was at the wheel when he decided to pull a U-turn…which put the scooter directly in the path of a speeding truck. Wilbrand survived with minor injuries. Laughlin was not so lucky. He was the first of the gang to pass away suddenly, but definitely not the last.
God this article is so fucking dark.
Winston and Weston Doty Drowned in a Biblical Flood at 19
Winston and Weston Doty were twin child actors who were only active from 1922 to 1924. They spent a few years with Our Gang, and then went about their lives, going to USC and becoming members of the cheerleading squad there. A completely carefree existence, one that makes you think, “Naw, there’s no way the Little Rascals were cursed.”
And then some all mighty power heard that and said, “Oh fuck you, snopes, this curse is very real,” and decided to sweep the now-19-year-old teens away in a fucking biblical flood. You might not have heard about the Great Flood of 1934, but we’re pretty sure you can ascertain when it happened and how bad it was from the goddamn name. While driving home from a New Years party, the Doty twins and their dates’ car was swept away by rain water. Forty people died in the flood, including Winston, Weston and Winston’s date (Weston’s date survived, we assume being told by death to give a warning message to the other Rascals).
Wheezer Died in a Military Plane Crash at the Age of 20
Bobby Hutchins played Wheezer, so named because of either his affinity for 90s and 00s Indie Rock or because on his first day on the studio he ran around so much that he began to wheeze. He was one of the more popular Rascals, appearing in 58 shorts over six years. Afterwards, he moved to Tacoma and joined the Air Force in 1943 after graduating High School, enrolling in the Aviation Cadet Program to become a pilot.
He succeeded, and for those of you who read the title to this entry, and see the year he joined the Air Force, you probably have a good idea of what happened. But you’d not be correct. He did not get shipped off for World War II—he sadly was killed in a mid-air collision on May 17th, 1945 during a training exercise at the Merced Army Air Field in California. Which arguably seems more “cursed” than if he had simply been shot down by the Germans in battle.
Chubby Only Lived 21 Years
Chubby was played by Norman Chaney for 19 short films, as a replacement for Joe Cobb (who managed to more or less avoid the curse, living to 85 and dying of natural causes). Now, Chaney was 3’11” and 113 pounds when he was on the show, which our doctor tells us is “not a healthy weight for a child, like, obviously, we’re concerned you had to ask us for conformation on that.” After leaving the show and attending public school in Baltimore, he never grew taller than 4’7”, and weighed over 300 pounds. Again, that’s not what we’d consider normal today, and eventually doctors were able to diagnose Chaney with a glandular disorder. When he got treatment, he literally lost over 50% of his weight, and eventually dropped down to 110 pounds.
Now, that whole drop happened pretty quickly, and we’re guessing the treatment methods weren’t exactly the most sound, because Chaney became extremely ill almost immediately after losing all the weight, and passed away from myocarditis in 1936. He was 21 years old.
Donald Haines was KIA in World War II at 23
Donald Haines, who played the classic character, um, Donald Haines, appeared in films on and off as a relatively minor recurring character. But as an adult, he joined the Air Force in 1941 in order to serve in World War II. He was a first lieutenant flying in North Africa in 1943 when he was shot down and killed in action. Now, was Donald Haines an American hero? Absolutely. Was he cursed due to his role as a little Rascal? Well, dying in war is not a very “cursed” way to go, but with all the other supporting evidence, it probably at least gave the Italians slightly better aim.
Alfalfa Got Shot in the Dick Over Reward Money for a Dog at 31
Holy shit, what!?
Okay, so this is where we’re getting into super curse territory. Carl Switzer played Alfalfa, who is like the most famous of the Little Rascals. He struggled a bit with acting gigs as an adult, and eventually began breeding and training dogs as a source of income. You know, standard Hollywood success story. One of these dogs belonged to an acquaintance by the name of Moses Samuel Stiltz. When the dog got lost chasing after a bear (damn, apparently he trained dogs to be badasses), Switzer offered a $35 (about $300 today) reward for its safe return. A stranger found the dog and brought it to a bar where Switzer worked, and Switzer gave him the reward money while buying him $15 worth of drinks (which again is like, over a hundred bucks today, how trashed did they get?).
Eventually it got in Switzer’s head that his friend Stiltz should pay him back for the reward money, since it was his dog, which makes sense. He decided to go about this by showing up to Stiltz’s place, pretty drunk, and starting a fight. Over the course of the fight (accounts of it vary, but if you go by what’s in the police file, Switzer came at Stiltz with a knife, while Stiltz had a gun. Yes, he literally brought a knife to a gun fight) Switzer suffered a shot to the groin, which as far as ways to go is not what we envisioned for Alfalfa.
There remains some controversy over his death. Stiltz was never charged with a crime, with the homicide deemed to be self-defense, though some believe that it was murder. But the “shot in the dick over a dog reward” part is still 100% true. Which, yeah, the Little Rascals were cursed as fuck.
Um…And His Older Brother Kind of Did a…Murder Suicide. Okay Maybe This Article was a Bad Idea
Goddamn it why did we decide to write this article? Harold Switzer was Carl’s older brother, who often appeared alongside Alfalfa between the years of 1935 and 1940. He didn’t have as colorful of a post-child star time as Carl, but he still ended up…listen okay this one is pretty fucked up. Basically, he ran a business of installing and servicing washers and dryers for a living. Now, if you made a list of jobs where you’re most likely to kill your client, we’d say washer and dryer installer and repairman would be pretty fucking low on that list. Like, here’s our list.
Jobs Most Likely to End with You Murdering a Client
1– Hit Man
2– Lawyers for the Mob
3– Super Incompetent Doctors
492– Pet Store Receptionist
493– Washer and Dryer Repairman
495– The Pope
But guess what? Harold didn’t look at that list, because when he was 42 he straight up murdered a client in a dispute. Like, a dispute, over washers and dryers. We’re dying to know why. Like, seriously, how can you get so worked up over a washer and dryer installation that it leads to straight up fucking murder? HOW!?
Anyway, afterwards he drove to a remote area near Glendale, California and…
You know what? Let’s just go to the next one.
Bonedust Set His Hotel on Fire Smoking a Cigarette in Bed
Thirty-three year old Clifton Young managed to take his status as a child actor on Our Gang from 1925 to 1931 and turn it into a legitimate film career. He played in numerous film noir and western films, including his final film, a Roy Rodgers film called Trial of Robin Hood where he played a villain. He was doing pretty alright! Take that, Little Rascals curse!
Then he fell asleep on a hotel bed while smoking a cigarette and died in a fucking fire. Jesus fucking Christ.
Darla Passed Away at 47 Due to a Botched Appendectomy
Darla Hood played the love interest for Alfalfa from 1935 to 1941, and went on to have a successful career as a singer and performer, working on The Merv Griffin Show, Tell it to Groucho, and The Jack Benny Show, while doing voice over work for commercials, and having an altogether successful personal and professional life. Then at the age of 47 she required an appendectomy, which most of us know as “a pretty routine and generally safe procedure.” Unfortunately, she got hepatitis from her blood transfusion during the operation, and died suddenly of heart failure almost immediately afterwards. He’s not on the list, because it was a more natural death than “botched blood transfusion,” but Billie Thomas, who played Buckwheat, would die the next year at 49 from a heart attack.
Yeah, the cast of The Little Rascals was totally cursed.
Waldo Got Hit-and-Run at Age 72
On one hand, Darwood Kenneth Smith, best known as Darwood Kaye, who played the nerdy Waldo in Our Gang for three years, lived to be 72, which is a good run, especially for being on a cursed crew. On the other hand, Smith was killed by a freaking hit and run accident. Like, basically the equivalent of a car chasing you down to end your life. No, no, seriously, that’s what happened. A truck appeared out of fucking nowhere and drove onto the sidewalk to hit him. Like it knew. It knew he was a Little Rascal.
No one ever found the truck or it’s driver though. Maybe because it manifested as a curse and disappeared once its dastardly deed was done.
Jay R. Smith Lived to be 87! Yay! And Then He Got Murdered…
Jay R. Smith was a freckle-faced child actor who appeared in Our Gang films for a four year span in the 20s. He managed to live until 2002, to the ripe age of 87. For this article, and hell, for most people in general, that counts as a success story. Only he was stabbed to death by a homeless man who Smith had befriended as an octogenarian. Like, stabbed a lot. As if to point out that, even if you think you’ve outrun the curse…you’ve not.
You can never outrun the Little Rascals curse.
Yeah this was…the darkest, most upsetting article we’ve ever run on this site. This…yeah, that got a bit gritty there didn’t it? Um. Stay tuned for our next article, which will be like “Top 5 American Puppies Who Are Good Boys” or something. You know, anything to kind of. Liven up the mood in the office here. Um. Bye?