National Enquirer publishes Whitney Houston casket photo

Feb 23, 2012 at 9:42 a.m. ET

The National Enquirer has stirred controversy by publishing what it claims is the last photograph of late legendary songstress Whitney Houston. The cover of the tabloid's March 5 edition features the acclaimed singer laying dead in her open coffin.

More controversy for The National Enquirer.

The supermarket glossy is under fire after reportedly purchasing a photo that appears to show departed pop powerhouse Whitney Houston lying in her open casket. The tab has published the snap on the cover of its March 5 edition.

"Whitney: The Last Photo," blares the headline.

The "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" singer was found dead in the bathtub of her suite at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 11.

Enquirer editors got their hands on grainy images of the late songstress supposedly taken at the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey on Feb. 17. The images where allegedly snapped via smartphone during a private wake for a handful of Houston's close friends and family members.

The Grammy-winning songbird was laid to rest wearing a purple dress with color-coordinated eye shadow and lip gloss. The platinum coffin had the singer's nickname -- "Nippy" -- embroidered in the silk lining between two treble clef symbols. The tragic star was even adorned in more than $500,000 worth of jewels.

"Whitney looked lovely… like a queen," squealed one spy.

National Enquirer hires actress to play dead Whitney Houston >>

Publishing controversial photos of deceased celebrities isn't exactly new business for The National Enquirer and similar publications.

In 1977, a death snap of music legend Elvis Presley in his casket made its way to the newsstands, courtesy of the Enquirer. The issue went on to become an international bestseller.

The Enquirer published a post-mortem photo of Beatles icon John Lennon on its cover in 1980. In 2010, Globe ran a cover photo of Diff'rent Strokes child star Gary Coleman on his death bed.

Already? Whitney Houston's stuff up for auction >>

Just last week, the Enquirer hired a model to pose as Whitney's corpse in a photographic death scene reenactment. The cover page advertised "Exclusive Crime Scene Photos," but closer examination revealed a tiny disclaimer admitting to "photo re-creation."

An unidentified Houston doppelganger was pictured lying face down on a bathroom floor, seemingly in character as the dead superstar, in the snaps.

The Houston casket scandal is reminiscent of a stunt the Enquirer pulled as recently as 2007. The magazine "obtained" (Code for "Bought") a photo of Anna Nicole Smith's dead body in a Florida morgue and ran it under the headline "Anna Nicole: The Last Photo!"

Sound familiar?

Should the Enquirer have published an open casket photo of Whitney Houston? Is it ethical for publications to run photos of dead celebs?

Photo credits: Joseph Marzullo/