14 Celebrity Death Hoaxes You Probably Fell For
No: Cher's not dead. Yes: Hashtags are confusing.
Do you believe in life after life?
Following the death of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 8, 2013, the memorial hashtag #nowthatchersdead began trending worldwide. But it didn’t take long before Tweeters misread the missive as “Now that Cher‘s dead,” improbably plopping the “Life After Love” artist into the center of the Internet news mill for a day. Cher’s not dead. And she certainly isn’t the first celebrity falsely declared deceased by dubious reportage or an out-and-out hoax. Read on for our favorite weird celebrity death hoaxes and rumors. Plus, learn the reason (real) celebrity deaths upset us so much.
The “Sorry” singer is no stranger to celebrity death hoaxes. To hear the Internet tell it, Justin Bieber has committed suicide (2009), been shot to death in a nightclub (January 2010), suffered a fatal drug overdose (June 2010), and just straight-up kicked the bucket (May 2012 —via an unexplained “RIP Justin Bieber” Twitter trend). Such celebrity death hoaxes have become routine in the age of Internet stardom—though we do extend our sincere condolences to the Biebs’ late hamster, Pac, who probably deserved better.
Rap mogul Lil Wayne actually did end up in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a seizure in March 2013, but reports that the Young Money millionaire was being administered his last rites were straight-up trash talk. Weezy tweeted the same afternoon, “I’m good everybody. Thx for the prayers and love,” and began touring his newest album (ominously titled I Am Not A Human Being II) later that year. These are the weird things that happen to your body after you (actually) die.
Within hours of its creation on August 17, 2011, the Facebook group called “Jackie Chan R.I.P.” earned nearly 150,000 likes, and spawned a global Twitter trend. Earlier, in March ’11, Chan was falsely reported dead of a heart attack—as if the Heart of Dragon could be so easily defeated.
Barbadian pop princess Rihanna has both died in a fiery plane crash (via Twitter rumors in January ’11) and “sunk into an [alcohol-induced] coma before succumbing to heart attack” (via a photoshopped article on a phony French news site in August of the same year). RiRi is actually alive and well, often appearing in daily headlines next to former abusive beau Chris Brown, who has also died once or twice.
The rumor that Paul McCartney died in 1966 remains one of the most famous urban legends of rock. Reports of a late ’60s car crash and diminished public appearances by the Cute Beatle spiraled into an international conspiracy investigation after an Iowa student newspaper released a probing article titled “Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?” The hundreds of “clues” that emerged from coded messages in The White Album and Abbey Road (the final garbled seconds of “I’m So Tired,” for example, supposedly rewind to say “Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him, miss him”) are hard to ignore—but a very much breathing 70-year-old Paul embarking on a global headlining tour in 2013 is pretty compelling evidence too.
Speaking of young money, remember in February 2012 when all those news sites started picking up the story that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un was assassinated? Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging service similar to Twitter, broke the story that the Korean dictator was shot and killed by “unknown persons,” subsequently setting the global news mill into a frenzy. The rumors were fake, as anyone within earshot of a TV set knows too well, though the Internet persists in picking on li’l Kim to this day. Here are some more things the Internet has claimed that just aren’t true.
One of America’s earliest tabloid media fails occurred in 1897, when Mark Twain was mistakenly reported dead instead of his ailing cousin, James Ross Clemens. Twain was assumed dead a second time in 1907—here by the New York Times—when reporters briefly lost track of him on a steam ship voyage from Virginia to New York. Twain’s twin brushes with the grave prompted him to later pen one of his most enduring one-liners: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
When crime-writer Agatha Christie went missing from her Berkshire estate for 11 days, friends and family feared the worst. Over 15,000 volunteers were sent to scour the countryside for the presumed-dead author; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the mind behind Holmes himself, even took one of Agatha’s gloves to the neighborhood psychic. Turns out Agatha stormed off to begrudge her adulterous husband, and may have experienced a spell of stress-induced, out-of-body amnesia known as a “fugue state” along the way. Christie was discovered alone, confused, and using an assumed name, making this disappearance the Crime Queen’s most enduring mystery. These are the oddest unsolved mysteries of all time.
Prolific comedian/voice actor Tom Kenny—whose signature titter is probably emitting from speakers somewhere in your house or car right now—has giggled through multiple false reports of his death. Most recently, in September 2012, an image beckoning “RIP Tom Kenny…retweet to say thanks for making your childhood happier” went viral on Twitter. Lies. When SpongeBob SquarePants proclaimed “I’m ready,” we don’t think he meant “for the Great Beyond.”
This was less a celebrity death hoax and more just Internet users not reading carefully enough and jumping to conclusions. After cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson died in November 2017 after over 40 years in prison, several Twitter users began mourning the wrong Manson. Tweets like “RIP Marilyn Manson, so sad to see such talent go to waste” and “RIP Charles Manson. You changed music in the 90s forever” revealed that some people mistook the deceased criminal for the heavy metal rocker.
The 96-year-old Golden Girl is still very much alive, though the Internet gave her fans a good scare in May 2017. Rumors of her death began swirling on Twitter, including one message saying that her publicist had confirmed her death. The rumors were dispelled later that same day, when White appeared on The Late Late Show With James Corden. Pretty tough to appear on a talk show if you’re dead. This is what a near-death experience really feels like, according to science.
In 2015, a CBC reporter’s Twitter account claimed that the “Smooth” singer had been found dead in his car. Commemoratory tweets began flying until Santana’s own Twitter account posted, “Carlos is alive and well and enjoying his morning!” The reporter who started the hoax later tweeted an apology.
The Home Alone actor has been the victim of multiple celebrity death hoaxes. Most famously, the non-legitimate site “http://msnbc.website” posted a “report” stating that the then-34-year-old star had been found dead in his apartment. He was on tour with his band at the time. Luckily, though, he’s maintained a sense of humor about it, posting a photo of himself “playing dead” with the caption “Weekend at Bernie’s.” “I die all the time,” he joked on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in early 2018. “I’m just a specter right now.”
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