Cliffs, Pretzels and Baked Beans: Our Favorite Celebrity Death Hoaxes
By Marc Schneider Posted Oct 13th 2009 10:00PM
celebrity death reports over the years turned out true (Zach Braff alive!), we'd have lost three big stars to the cliffs of New Zealand by now. Britney Spears would have met her maker thanks to a pretzel truck. And let's just say that Urkel's wake was closed casket. Hoaxes can be random, fun, disturbing. They also lift from common themes. Some of our favorites, starting with ...• After a totally fake news site reported in 2006 that Tom Hanks had fallen more than 60 feet to his death in New Zealand, it came down to logistics to debunk the story. You see, he wasn't even in NZ at the time, rather he was in California shooting 'Charlie Wilson's War.' To cap it all off, the link to the still-up news story auto-updates the date to reflect the day you land on the page. Check it out, Tom Hanks died in New Zealand today!
Deadly New Zealand Cliffs
Deadly New Zealand Cliffs
• Two years later, Tom Cruise (non) died in the very same fashion. Even the location was the same (the Kuri Cliffs). His publicist called it "erroneous and unreliable Internet garbage" and the star looked very much alive later that day when he attended his wife Katie Holmes' Broadway show, 'All My Sons.'
• The most distasteful Kiwi-cliff-death-hoax happened this year, on June 25. That of course is the day Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson both died and fans were in no mood to share their grief with yet another celeb. RIP, Jeff Goldblum. After a flurry of activity on Twitter regarding the report, Goldblum's friends piped up to do some debunking, including Kevin Spacey. He told his Twitter followers: "Jeff Goldblum is alive and well. I just spoke to his manager. Stop these stupid rumors."
Suicide Hoax Is Pointless
• Little is known how Bobby McFerrin didn't die, except that he possibly shot himself about four years after singing 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' all the way to the Grammys. Perhaps the rumor began after the singer elected to live his life quietly following all his commercial success.
• Someone with a basic knowledge on how the Associated Press structures articles wrote up a pretty darn fake obit on 'Family Matter' star Jaleel White in June, 2006. The article reported that police found Urkel at his home with a "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head." Then, debunking itself, it claims a note was found near him that said "Did I do that?" -- his catchphrase from the ABC sitcom.
• Zach Braff was not found with an "empty pill bottle" near him when he was most certainly not found dead in October, 2009. Some joker doctored a CNN article with the headline "Beloved Scrubs actor found dead in his home." The funny actor posted his reaction to it on Facebook, calling the article's author a "douchebag" for scaring his mom.
Collisions With the Truth
• In 2001, a Dallas radio station evening show spread a rumor that Britney Spears died and Justin Timberlake was seriously hurt when (we can't believe we're writing this) their car collided with a pretzel truck. Britney-centric message boards ran with the horribly hilarious news, which was linked and sourced back to a doctored BBC article. The radio station, KEGL, apologized and the DJ's were reportedly suspended. BBC News called the news item a hoax.
• Eminem met his faker in late 2000 when, hopped up on drugs and booze, he reportedly crashed his rental car. The news story said the real-life Marshall Mathers had "slammed into a grove of trees" so hard that made "extraction of Mather's body very difficult." Slim's peoples bucked the report in a statement: "Marshall is alive and at home with his family for the holidays in Detroit. And he wishes all of you shady holidays and a dirty new year."
• A good old-fashioned email chain spread false reports that 'Napoleon Dynamite' star Jon Heder perished after crashing a car in Salem, Oregon. The message read that Heder was the passenger when the car's driver "saw a deer run in front of the car" causing them to drive "off a steep ten foot embankment after rolling three or four times."
High-Flying Fake Deaths
• The non-death of Johnny Knoxville would seem ridiculous if it occurred to anyone BUT the 'Jackass' prankster. According to Web rumors, Knoxville was skydiving while holding a jar of baked beans when his parachute failed to open.
• A 2006 obit article for Will Ferrell on iNewswire was so chocked full of details, readers were confused into think it was real. The 'Anchorman' star "died" while paragliding "after a freak wind gush" blew Ferrell and a friend "towards a wooded area where they lost control before crashing into dense foilage." The article named a real hospital where he was unsuccessfully treated and quoted Ferrell's parents, who said he died doing "one of the things he loved the most."
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