Like many other technological wonders, the Internet is a mixture of good and evil…with a whole lot of fun and entertainment in between. And there’s always that bothersome subjectivity surrounding exactly what fun and entertainment are to each individual.
Joking about death is generally – although not always – considered in poor, or at the very least, questionable taste. Terminally ill people are given a pass, as are owners and directors of funeral homes and cemeteries. But what about saying people are dead when they’re not? In fact, they’re not even injured or sick.
These types of rumors have been around for over 100 years. In 1897, Mark Twain famously quipped after tales of his death raced around the world, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In 1966, rumors of Paul McCartney’s death ran rampant as Beatles fans wept for days over their perceived loss.
In 2001, as the Internet exploded, celebrity death hoaxes started gaining popularity. As we now all know, a statement on the Internet has no more validity than one made by your crazy neighbor. But back then, there was more trust…and even today, fake celebrity death reports are going strong.
You may recall some of these phony death reports or they may spur memories of some you forgot. Viva la Vida Loca!
Jon Bon Jovi
The rocker who burst onto the music scene in 1982 with the hit song Runaway reportedly died of a heart attack in 2011. As the rumors spread around the world, Bon Jovi was on the East Coast, unaware of the reports of his demise. In his charming offhand manner, he quelled the death knell yarns by posting a sign of him holding a sign that said, “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey.”
Braff, best known for starring on the hit sitcom Scrubs, was falsely reported as overdosing on sleeping pills in Beverly Hills in 2007. The guilty party claimed to be a huge fan just trying to goof on his friends with an elaborate web page template copied from CNN. The prankster apologized after Braff chided him for upsetting Braff’s mother with the false announcement.
Brown has had a slew of death hoax reports over the past few years, many long before he emerged from his prison stint, reportedly kicked his substance abuse habits, and started flashing gang signs at every public event. No one really knows if all the bogus reports are from a fan anticipating what many think is inevitable (not death, but premature death) or a real, true hater. Either way, Brown seems unscathed by the negative vibes.
He may not be in the spotlight as much as the younger celebrities but his death hoax account had some nice touches that added authenticity. Chan reportedly died from a heart attack blamed on the stress of promoting Kung Fu Panda 2 in late March 2011. The fake news story not only had quotes from Will Smith but also a heartfelt message supposedly uttered by President Obama. Chan’s official website dispelled the lie with pictures of the star meeting that day in Japan with the country’s Consul-General, Yuji Kumamaru.
It’s unclear why many death hoaxes claim people die from falling off mountains in remote areas of some far off country; no ever fake falls off a US or Canadian mountain. Crowe’s phony death notice in June of 2010 had him toppling to his death off Hahnenkamm Mountain in Austria, famous for daredevil downhill skiing. The actor’s reaction to the announcement was a humorous Tweet, a nice surprise from the commonly poker-faced star.
Long before the online sham about her death in July 2014, which claimed the twerking young woman overdosed in Los Angeles over the stress of the world’s reaction to her 10-minute performance, Cyrus was reportedly killed in a hit and run in 2008. Since she was still Hannah Montana to many young girls at the time, the hoax was particularly traumatic to her huge following of child fans.
As if the real deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett weren’t more than enough to cast a dark cloud over the world on June 25, 2009, the next day rumors of Goldblum’s death started circulating. Another victim of a mountain fall, Goldblum reportedly tumbled off the Kauri Cliffs of New Zealand while filming a movie, the exact scenario the hoax perpetrator had used to kill off Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford, among others. Goldblum used the incident to write his own obituary hailing his physical perfection and superior sexual prowess which he read a few days later as a guest on The Colbert Report.
Love her or hate her, this woman’s death has been the fodder for death hoaxes more than once. The first and most famous simulated report was back in 2007 when Hilton went to jail in LA for a probation violation and was either stabbed by an inmate after mouthing off or committed suicide over the shame of her arrest (shame?). In 2012 she was reportedly killed in a tragic traffic accident and in 2013, damn if she didn’t fall off a mountain in the same Austrian range that claimed the life of Russell Crowe! Small hoax world.
Knight’s most famous role as Newman on Seinfeld portrayed him as an easily dislikable person with no redeeming human or social qualities. Still, to have a death hoax that has you mowed down by a tractor trailer as you walked along Route 446 near the New York/Pennsylvania border seems a bit grisly, not to mention about as unlikely as falling off an Austrian mountain top. Even more macabre is the March 2014 story had roots in reality; three people were actually struck and one killed at the location. Knight immediately refuted the simulated death reports via Twitter.
Seems a name as precious as Lil Wayne would make a star immune to death hoax announcements but reports of this rapper’s death just keep coming. Seems because the young man suffers from epileptic seizures makes him a prime target for such scams. In December 2013, an RIP “tribute” video hit the Internet, urging fans and viewers to share the clip before viewing it, a blatant red flag to most. Whenever a post encourages you to spread the word, beware of identity thieves and hackers. The Lil Wayne fake death announcement was quickly quashed and the artist continues to create and record music.