It’s a well-known saying that all publicity is good publicity, and this may be the case for many celebrities nowadays. But imagine checking your social media feeds to find out that you’re actually presumed dead. Well, that’s a reality for many public figures as the concept of celebrity death hoaxes are on the rise.
Some celebrities have been reported dead multiple times, and others have seemed to die in the most absurd circumstances. These rumors are easy to spread these days thanks to social media. Whether the celebs were amused or bewildered, they all ended up actually being alive. So, here are 10 celebrity death hoaxes that almost had us fooled.
It’s no surprise that Queen Elizabeth II of England has been falsely reported as dead numerous times. After all, her death would cause a huge public reaction in countries all over the world and would signal the changing of the times.
A relatively recent hoax was on December 29, 2016. The hashtag #mediablackout had reached the top of Twitter’s trending list, and apparently, the reason was that the monarch had died. The queen had missed the Christmas Day service days earlier due to illness, and Twitter users were quick to link the two incidents.
Quickly, a fake account that looked like the BBC’s real account tweeted that the queen had died. Although some people did retweet, others were quick to note the fake account and highlight the news as a hoax. No official royal sources ever denied the claims or the rumors. But the queen has been seen in public multiple times since, so we’ll take that as confirmation that she’s still doing okay.
In 2012, legendary singer Cher was the victim of an online death hoax. This one was unique because it wasn’t just the general public that was fooled. Although not quite as high profile at the time, Kim Kardashian still had 12.8 million Twitter followers. She tweeted, “Did I just hear Cher has died? Is this real? OMG.”
The rumor seems to have a originated from a Twitter user pretending to retweet a CNN tweet that read, “American recording artist Cher dies at 65 years old. Found dead in Malibu home.” Quickly, “RIP Cher” became a trending topic and many started to believe it was true.
Had the most famous Kardashian done some research, she would have learned that the rumor was false. When she did find out that Cher was alive and well, Kim tweeted, “Can’t believe people would make up a sick joke like Cher died. These people need to get a life! Thanks Twitter for clearing that up.”
Cher never responded to the incident, but maybe she should let Kim know that she does believe in life after love.
Rumors about the death of Bon Jovi’s lead singer started swirling in December 2011. Twitter and Facebook users spread the rumors by taking information from a blog that had reused the text in Michael Jackson’s obituary from the Los Angeles Times.
However, Jon Bon Jovi, the “Wanted Dead or Alive” singer, responded to the false claims with good humor by posting a photo of himself holding a sign that read, “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey.” The sign was a reference to the fact that the band was currently playing a show in New Jersey. Jon even added the date to make sure everyone knew all was good.
It’s reported that Bon Jovi made multiple references to the hoax onstage, pretending to take calls from concerned friends.
As far as fabricated deaths go, Ricky Martin’s was extreme. In January 2015, a YouTube video was released that reported the death of Ricky Martin. The video was complete with fake comments from family and friends, including swimmer Ian Thorpe.
The video even went as far as to declare that Martin and Thorpe had been in a romantic relationship and had raised a child together. Any eagle-eyed fan would have seen the lie in this one already.
A video of a horrific car crash was included, which was supposedly how Martin had died. The clip shows a man being thrown violently from a car on a busy freeway, and it has been viewed over 700,000 times. However, the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” singer seemed to see the funny side and posted an Instagram photo captioned, “Hello from #heaven,” followed by laughing emojis.
How many times can someone be falsely reported dead? When Justin Bieber actually does die, it’s going to be a case of the boy who cried wolf because nobody is going to believe it. By 2010, when Justin was only 16, his death had already been reported at least five times. In June that year, Justin even tweeted about it by saying, “one . . . I’m not dead. I had to check on this one . . . but it turns out I’m alive.”
In 2015, it was claimed that Bieber had been killed when he crashed his Lamborghini. The report first appeared on justin.bieber.swellserver.com, which seemed to be a fake news site. However, it didn’t take long for a Facebook page to be created named “RIP Justin Bieber” and the uproar began to grow.
Justin’s rep finally let everyone know that the singer was alive and safe. The rep released this statement: “He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet.” Well, that clears that up.
The most famous Smith family in the world is no stranger to online death hoaxes. Numerous times, it’s been falsely reported that actor Will Smith died. However, the victim of the hoax in summer 2016 was his 18-year-old son, Jaden. Rumors were making the rounds on social media, and there was speculation that the actor had committed suicide.
The false story appeared to have originated from an ad for an app website and ultimately was the result of clickbait. Many websites go to elaborate lengths to get clicks, but faking the suicide of an 18-year-old actor is definitely a step too far.
These days, Kanye West is better known for his relationship with Kim Kardashian, but the star has always been the king of grabbing headlines. Back in 2009, rumors began circulating that he had been killed in a car crash and “RIP Kanye West” became a top trending topic on Twitter.
The hoax occurred just a few months after Kanye’s famous MTV Video Music Awards moment where he interrupted Taylor Swift accepting her award. So it’s quite possible that the hoax was an attempt to get back at West, although we’re sure it did his publicity no harm.
Amber Rose, Kanye’s girlfriend at the time, was quick to refute the claims, tweeting:
This RIPKanyeWest topic is not funny and it’s NOT TRUE. He has people like myself and his family that love him very much. It’s in extreme poor taste to have that as a trendy topic. It’s totally disrespectful to make up a story like this, we’re all human and we all make mistakes and to say someone died cuz of a mistake is ridiculous. U wouldn’t want someone to say that about u.
Of all the celebrity death hoaxes, this one is probably the most believable. Famed for his chaotic stunts on the show Jackass, Johnny Knoxville has put his body and his life on the line multiple times.
So when a site appearing to be MTV released an obituary for him, it wasn’t really that surprising. The hoax read, “He was being filmed parachuting from a biplane while eating a catering-sized tub of Heinz baked beans when his parachute failed to open. Tragically, the backup chute also failed, and Knoxville plummeted to his death.”
However, the site was a fake and so was the obituary. Knoxville was still alive and well. The real MTV released a statement saying, “It is all a rumor. He is alive and well, fine and dandy. It is always happening. It has been other people, but Johnny is a favorite for hoaxers.”
This hoax originated all the way back in 2002. We can’t imagine the uproar it would cause nowadays with the addition of social media.
Is he dead? Is he alive? Nobody knows. According to his goddaughter Paris Jackson’s Instagram account, he’s definitely alive. Macauley Culkin is no stranger to online death hoaxes as there have been multiple ones over the years.
In November 2014, it was alleged that the Home Alone star had been found dead in his Manhattan apartment. The false report appeared on the fake MSNBC.website (which has since been removed), obviously attempting to be seen as the real MSNBC.
The false statement said, “Sources are reporting that Macauley Culkin, best known for his role as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone and sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, has been found dead at the age of 34.” Fans began posting emotional tributes on Twitter, believing the hoax to be true.
Culkin made light of the issue on the Twitter page of his band, Pizza Underground. He posted a photo of himself with the tweet, “We’re on tour, you silly people.” He then added a photo of the band with the caption, “One of the great things you can do when you’re alive is stop for lunch in Breaux Bridge, LA.” Finally, he appeared to poke fun at the rumors by posting a photo of himself playing dead.
In June 2016, Tenacious D member Jack Black was the victim of an online death hoax when the band’s Twitter account was hacked. The tweet reads, “I’m sad to officially announce the death of Jack Black at the age of 46, rest in peace brother.” Followed by “#RIPJackBlack” and “It is with a heavy heart I am to announce that Jack Black died last night at 3:37am. The cause of death is yet unknown.”
However, Tenacious D guitarist John Konesky refuted the claims, explaining that their Twitter account had been hacked. Eventually, the hacker revealed that it was all just an ill-humored joke, tweeting, “Calm down guys! It’s just a prank bro, look there’s the camera.”
Then the hacker promoted his personal Twitter account, and so it seems the death hoax was all in the name of shameless self-promotion.
I am a journalism and media graduate with an interest in writing about the unique and quirky aspects of life. Twitter: @lauraepears