As one of the wealthiest people of his time, Howard Hughes was born in 1905 to an American family who ran a successful oil tool business. At 18, he inherited it and became an instant millionaire. Young Howard went off to Hollywood, producing groundbreaking and often controversial films like Scarface and Hell’s Angels, the latter inspiring his passion for flying.

He soon pursued aviation, setting an around-the-world flight record along with numerous world air-speed records. He owned his own airline and founded companies in aerospace and defense, real estate development, and medical research.

Hughes’ reclusive years emerged after he survived a devastating plane crash in 1946. He suffered chronic pain, hearing loss, obsessive-compulsiveness with germs, and drug addiction- and began to withdraw from society. His hair and nails grew long, his teeth rotted, and he spent much of his later years in a Las Vegas hotel suite, pathetically alone.

On April 5, 1976, it is reported Hughes died from kidney failure on a plane on its way to a Houston hospital. An autopsy recorded he was covered in bedsores and only 92 pounds.

With no will left behind and no immediate family, a multi-state war began with his $2.5 billion estate. Fake wills appeared out of nowhere from supposed wives, children, and strangers.

The most notable was actress Terry Moore, who finally received $400,000 after relentlessly arguing they were married in the international waters and never divorced. She went on to write the bestselling book, The Beauty and The Billionaire.

Another woman claimed to be his lovechild with Amelia Earhart. Melvin Dummar, a gas station attendant, said he had found a washed-up Hughes on the side of the desert road and had been promised money for giving him a ride home.

In the end, over one billion dollars was distributed among 22 relatives and their survivors, the majority of whom he likely never knew or met. Hundreds of millions more went to his ex-wives, professional aides, various charities, and to Dummar.

It took 34 years for his estate to be fully settled, but the myth and legends of the man will live a lot longer.

A Mind Over Mystery Question- “Why would someone with Hughes’ business success be so sloppy with his estate?”