Alive and Well

Usher, Jon Bon Jovi & More Celebrity Death Hoaxes (Photos)

Bill Cosby is the latest to fall victim to a death rumor. See more celebrities who’ve been falsely declared dead.

Bill Cosby is the latest to fall victim to a death rumor. From Usher to Russell Brand, see other celebrities who’ve been falsely declared dead.

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation

Bill Cosby

Rumors began circulating that America’s favorite dad had died after someone created an “R.I.P. Bill Cosby” page on Facebook in late August. The prankster declared “He has heart attack, guys, he’s really gone.” Fans were urged to like the page if they were going to miss the 73-year-comedian, who is still very much alive. Two days later, the page had 269,000 likes. This was the second death hoax Cosby has had to deal with this month. In early August, a rumor spread via Twitter that he was dead. "Emotional friends have called about this misinformation," Cosby tweeted at the time. "To the people behind the foolishness, I'm not sure you see how upsetting this is."

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photos

Bill Nye the Science Guy

A few days after Bill Nye released a video urging parents not to teach their children creationism, the Twitterverse was abuzz with the “news” that the “Science Guy” had passed away. Except it wasn’t true. Nye posted a proof of life photo to his Twitter account to prove the rumors wrong.

Joel Ryan / AP Photos

Rihanna

A fake news story cropped up in late August claiming Rihanna “sunk into an [alcohol-induced] coma before succumbing to a heart attack.” The story was designed to look like it came from a French website, but it didn’t take long for the rumor to be debunked.
 

Charles Sykes / AP Photos

Russell Brand

Russell Brand has seen his share of gossip and rumor mongering in his day. The actor’s marriage to singer Katy Perry and their subsequent divorce was fodder for most of the major news outlets. But in late August 2012, a report surfaced that Brand died while snowboarding in Switzerland after losing control of his board and hitting a tree. How did Brand react to the news of his untimely demise? He took it all in stride, even joking about it on Twitter. “Bloody hell. I better cancel the milk,” he messaged.

Evan Agostini / AP Photo

Usher

Usher had hundreds of fans going “OMG” when rumors circulated today that the 33-year-old singer was killed in a car crash. A bogus-news website called Global Associated News “reported” that Usher was involved in a “single-vehicle crash on Route 80 between Morristown and Roswell” (the same fake location where the site previously claimed Justin Bieber, DJ Tiesto, Jersey Shore’s DJ Pauly D, and David Guetta all died). The site claimed that the singer lost control while driving at 95 miles an hour before he “rolled the vehicle several times” and apparently died instantly. The story, though rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, went viral and convinced many of the “Confessions” singer’s demise. From the looks of his Twitter feed, however, Usher is still “alive and cold-kickin' ass!!”

Facebook

Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi also “died” according to a Twitter rumor last December—but the very much alive and well ‘80s rocker made sure to debunk the rumors himself. The singer posted a photo on Facebook of himself holding up a sign that read “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey. December 19, 2011,” effectively dispelling rumors that he had died from a cardiac arrest. The rumor first appeared on an unknown WordPress blog called “newbloginternational” and fooled even the Los Angeles Times, which reported the story.

Jeff Golden

David Beckham

Serious damage can be done in 140 characters. A tweet stating that David Beckham died in a car crash had many Becks fans worked up online in September 2011. One unaccounted-for report detailed the unconfirmed accident, alleging the 36-year-old soccer star was going 95mph in a 55mph zone in his friend’s car on Interstate 80 when he lost control. The report claimed that the vehicle rolled several times, killing Beckham instantly. The report also said: “Memorial services for David Beckham have not yet been announced. The service is expected to be a closed-casket funeral due to the severe head trauma.” The story was soon trending on Twitter and appearing on blogs. But what they failed to notice initially was a disclaimer at the bottom of the story: “THIS STORY IS 100% FAKE! This is an entertainment website, and this is a totally fake article based on zero truth and is a complete work of fiction for entertainment purposes!”

Joel Ryan / AP Photo

Johnny Depp

In 2010 Twitter fans tweeted “R.I.P. Johnny Depp,” as rumors spread across the Internet that Depp had died in a car crash in Bordeaux, France. On January 25, Depp’s representative, Robin Baum, assured everyone that the 46-year-old actor was very much alive: “He isn't dead,” Baum said. “He's fine.” This wasn’t the first time that false reports of Depp’s death surfaced online. In 2004 a realistic-looking CNN news bulletin declared that Depp had died in an alcohol-related SUV accident. And in 2007 word spread that Vanessa Paradis, Depp’s longtime girlfriend and the mother of his children, had found the actor dead in a Paris apartment.

Getty Images

Miley Cyrus

In 2006 pranksters on Digg.com and Wikipedia spread rumors that 15-year-old Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus, had died in a car crash. One false report, attributed to “Rueters” [sic], claimed that the starlet “was on her way to the filiming [sic] of the upcoming “Hannah Montanna” [sic] Series when her vehicle was reportedly hit by a large truck.” TMZ was among the news services fooled into picking up the story. Cyrus was actually performing that night at the Fashion Rocks concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. A little more than a month later, a video was posted on YouTube stating that a drunk driver had killed the entertainer.

Carlo Allegri / AP Photo

Jeff Goldblum

The day Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died in 2009, a fake-news generator reported that actor Jeff Goldblum had fallen off a cliff to his death while filming a movie in New Zealand. The actor wasn’t even in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Two days earlier, Goldblum had started filming a movie in New York with Rachel McAdams. Actor Kevin Spacey logged on to his Twitter account to set the record straight: “Jeff Goldblum is alive and well. I just spoke to his manager. Stop these stupid rumors.” Oddly, the same “died in New Zealand” story had circulated about Tom Hanks in 2006 and about Tom Cruise in 2008.

Ernest Hemingway

In 1954, after Ernest Hemingway and his wife Mary were involved in two plane crashes in Africa, major newspapers across the world ran obituaries for the couple. During his recovery, Hemingway reportedly spent every morning poring over a scrapbook of his obituaries while sipping a glass of cold champagne.

Lisa Berg, NBC NewsWire / AP Photo

Jaclyn Smith

A mistranslated news story from Honduras caused news to fly around the globe in September 2009 after Perez Hilton erroneously reported that former Charlie’s Angels star Jaclyn Smith had died from a gunshot wound to the head. The actress took to her Twitter page to dispel the rumor, writing “Jaclyn is safe and home with her family. She is not in Honduras. It is a lie.” In fact, it was her stunt double, Sandra Franklin, who had been shot in the stomach.

Luis Martinez, AFF / Retna Ltd

Justin Timberlake & Britney Spears

In 2001 fans around the world briefly mourned the passing of the teen pop lovebrids after radio shock jocks said that Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake had been in a car crash in Los Angeles. Using a phony website with a BBC logo, the Dallas DJs claimed that Timberlake was in a coma and Spears was dead, her life snuffed out by a pretzel. L.A. police spent the night fielding calls from reporters and worried fans.

Charles Sykes / AP Photo

Paul McCartney

The legendary rumor that Paul McCartney had died and was replaced with a lookalike named Billy Shears originated in a college newspaper in September 1969, and spread around the world within a few weeks. Fans scoured the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for evidence. The many “clues” that conspiracy theorists claimed to find included the fact that McCartney had his back turned to the camera, that most of the people pictured behind the band were dead, that the logo on the drum looks like a tombstone. The cover of 1969’s Abbey Road also reportedly contained clues: McCartney is the only Beatle walking barefoot, and the VW behind the band had the cryptic plate LMW 28IF (supposedly translated to “Life McCartney Would [be] 28 if he had lived”). McCartney laughed off the rumor in a classic 1993 Saturday Night Live sketch. Appearing on SNL's Chris Farley Show, the musician was asked: “Remember when you were with the Beatles, and you were supposed to be dead, and, uh, there were all these clues ... That was, um, a hoax, right?” McCartney smiled and replied, “Yeah. I wasn't really dead.”

Icon, SMI / Retna Ltd.

Joe DiMaggio

The Yankee Clipper was watching Gunfight at OK Corral with a friend in 1999 when he switched channels just at the moment NBC was declaring him dead. “Joe, we must be in heaven together,” his friend said. DiMaggio released a statement saying that although he had lung cancer, he was not in “hopeless condition.” He died less than two months later.

British Library / AP Photo

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In 1816, Samuel Taylor Coleridge entered a hotel lobby and heard a gentleman mention his name. The man was reading a report of a coroner’s inquest, which, Coleridge soon realized, was his own. The deceased man had apparently hanged himself from a tree in Hyde Park while wearing a shirt with a laundry tag that bore Coleridge’s name. The man reading the report out loud remarked that the writer had always been a “strange, mad fellow.” The English poet apparently replied, “Indeed, sir, it is a most extraordinary thing that he should have himself, be the subject of an inquest, and yet that he should at this moment be speaking with you.” Coleridge lived until 1835, when he died of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder, possibly linked to his use of opium.

Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Will Ferrell

On March 14, 2006, a user posted a fake press release to iNewswire claiming comedian Will Ferrell died in a paragliding accident when a 60mph wind suddenly blew him and a guide off course into some trees. The fake was quite convincing—it included the guide’s name, the name of the hospital where they were taken, and a fake sad-but-heartwarming quote from Ferrell’s parents: "He died doing one of the things he loved the most.”

Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Margaret Thatcher

A 16-year-old gray tabby cat’s death briefly caused a bit of international hysteria. On November 10, 2009, as 1,700 eminent Canadian conservatives gathered for a black-tie affair in Toronto, Canadian Transport Minister John Baird sent a short text message to a fellow attendee that read, “Thatcher has died.” Though Baird was referring to his beloved cat, word quickly spread that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had passed away. Phone calls flooded baffled officials in London. A top aide alerted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the loss and “started preparing an official statement mourning the passing of the Iron Lady,” the BBC said . Before he finished, the aide was notified that Mrs. Thatcher was, in fact, still breathing. "If the cat wasn't dead, I'd have killed it by now," he said.

Quaker Oats Co. / AP Photo

John Gilchrist (a.k.a. “Mikey")

One of the all-time great urban legends involves “Mikey”—the boy who famously liked Life cereal in the 1972 commercial. Some time in the late 1970s, it was rumored that Mikey had died when he mixed Pop Rocks with Coke and it exploded. Not only does that particular combination not cause such an explosion, but the boy who played Mikey, John Gilchrist, is still very much alive and in his early 40s.

Domenico Stinellis / AP Photo

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was erroneously reported dead an amazing three times during his lifetime. The first was in 1981—after an attempted assassination, CNN repeatedly referred to him in the past tense. More than two decades later, in 2003, CNN accidentally declared the deaths of several public figures on its website, including Dick Cheney, Fidel Castro, and the Pope. Based on a template used for the Queen Mother, the site noted that all the figures were the “U.K.’s favorite grandmother.” And the day before his actual death two years later, Fox News declared the pontiff dead based on false Italian reports that his EKG had flatlined.

Evan Agostini / AP Photo

Abe Vigoda

Abe Vigoda has been fighting rumors of his death since 1982, when People magazine prematurely prefaced his name with the phrase “the late.” The beloved actor suspects he lost out on work for much of the next decade thanks to the myth. About 15 years after the magazine’s mistake, Vigoda was in Bloomingdale’s when a salesman said to him, ''You look like Abe Vigoda. But you can't be Abe Vigoda, because he's dead. Wait, are you Abe Vigoda? You can't be!''

Ernest H. Mills / Getty Images

Mark Twain

Rumors traveled fast even before the Internet. During his lifetime, Mark Twain was rumored to have died twice: in 1897 a reporter was sent to see if it was true that Twain was deathly ill; in fact, it was Twain’s cousin. No obituary was ever published, but Twain rebutted the claim in the New York Journal with his famous statement, “The report of my death is an exaggeration.” Ten years afer that, the New York Times reported that the author was on a yacht lost at sea. In fact, Twain had left the boat. The next day he wrote of his disappearance: "You can assure my Virginia friends ... that I will make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public. I sincerely hope that there is no foundation for the report, and I also hope that judgment will be suspended until I ascertain the true state of affairs."