James Dean Crash Site: 60 Years Later, Fans Still Leave Cigarettes, Beer Cans and Bras
"The undergarments don't usually last too long," said Patrick Seebart, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
Sixty years have passed since James Dean was killed in a car accident along California 46, and people still visit the spot on a regular basis, leaving behind beer bottles, cigarettes, sunglasses, and even bras and women's underwear.
"It's pretty amazing," said Patrick Seebart, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. "The undergarments don't usually last too long," he added with a chuckle.
The above photo was published Tuesday on Instagram, one day before the 60th anniversary of Dean's death. "It may not be Pere Lachaise, but items left at James Dean's fatal crash site," user Charlie Robertson writes. "Yep, a bra, beer bottles, chesterfield cigs, some coins, playing cards and a pair of Ray-bans."
But fans often have more to share than just intimate articles of clothing. According to Seebart, who is based in the CHP Templeton office, many are eager to explain their presence at the crash site to police who stop to check on them, talking at length about the 24-year-old East of Eden actor who went from a rising star to a Hollywood folklore legend in the blink of an eye.
"I've learned a lot about him from the people who stop out there," Seebart said.
Dean starred in three films before his death, two of which (Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) were released posthumously.
The facts surrounding the crash, which occurred in San Luis Obispo County, are well-documented.
Dean and passenger Rolf Wutherich, a mechanic, were on their way to Salinas for a race in Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder when they hit a Ford Tudor driven by 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed at the California 41 junction. Both Wütherich and Turnupseed survived the crash. Dean's injuries proved fatal.
The late CHP officer Ernie Tripke was among the first on scene, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"[Turnupseed] just didn't see Dean coming until the last, split second, and it was too late," Tripke said, The Times reported. "We weren't qualified to say that [Dean] was deceased, but I think he was darn close to it."
Surprisingly, the area where the actor was killed hasn't changed much in 60 years, Seebart said.
That spot, referred to as "Blood Alley" due to the number of fatal crashes that still occur to this day, is located within a stretch of highway that runs through two counties.
From 2000 to 2010, there were 38 fatalities along Blood Alley, The Times reported.
In the past decade, 11 crashes have happened in almost the exact spot as Dean's; four people have been killed, Seebart said.
However, the stretch has become somewhat less treacherous as sections of the two-lane highway have been widened to four lanes, leading up to the fateful junction, Seebart said. However, that section has yet to be widened.
"People have more patience because they don't have to be stuck behind a semi the whole time and be tempted to try and go around into oncoming traffic," he said.
The area where Dean lost his life is officially marked with a sign that reads: "James Dean Memorial Junction."
It's a nice honor, but there is just one little problem, Seebart said: "It keeps getting stolen."