Did you hear the one where Brad Pitt was despondant over the recent divorce filing by Angelina Jolie and committed suicide at a shooting range? If you did, hopefully you did not click on the celebrity death hoax link to find out more. It was false and clickbait to get your personal information. This one appeared on Facebook and was going after profiles on the site. Other celebrities to have a false death for this reason were Nicholas Cage, Jim Carrey, John Cena, Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone. It has also been falsely reported that Jolie has committed suicide for the same reason. With possibly more to come, just what is it about fake celebrity deaths? Here are some other non-related hoaxes to make the rounds.
In September of 2015, CBC’s Chris Walker erroneously tweeted the famed guitarist was found in his car… dead, proving that even highly skilled professionals can click on a celebrity death hoax. On the official Santana Facebook page, it was later posted that the 68-year-old was “alive and well, enjoying his morning.” Walker retracted his tweet citing the need to rely on more than one source for news.
Just to show that celebrity death hoaxes are not restricted to the Internet era, the real death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sparked rumors of its own. It is common for the false deaths to be spurred by a real one. After FDR passed away in 1945, the news was followed by equally shocking reports of the deaths of Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra. This has continued even into recent times. When Michael Jackson died (for real) in 2009, multiple celebrities ‘died’ soon afterwards.
Sometimes, a way you can tell a story might be a celebrity death hoax is by the amount of imagination put into the purported death. For example, in June of 2010, Russell Crowe was in Austria when he fell off of a mountain to his death. The year before, actor Jeff Goldblum reportedly fell off of a mountain. What is it about mountains? Does a celebrity need to be that high to have fallen and not be able to get up? As a general rule, the more extravagant, the less likelihood of the celebrity death being real.
In the case of the Rock, his response to being dead was more entertaining than the lame attempt of spreading the false rumor. The following quote says it all: “I would love to meet the person who is starting rumors of my death – to show them how a dead foot feels up their ass.” I am presuming he means his own foot and not a real dead one.
The grand-daddy of them all has to be former Beatle, Paul McCartney. If I remember anything about the 60s, it is about the rumor of Paul being dead and replaced by a look-a-like. Fans everywhere started looking at song lyrics and album covers for clues to the death being real. Some of them were Paul walking barefoot on the cover to Abbey Road and John’s voice recorded backwards on “Revolution#9” saying “Turn Me On Dead Man.” It became so prevalent in American culture that Batman even looked into the mystery in one of his comics. The Caped Crusader concluded in this fictional account of a fictional band (that looked a lot like the Beatles) that it was the other three Beatles who died and Paul was the only one left alive.
The rumor still follows Paul to this day. Keeping his sense of humor, Paul released a 1993 album called “Paul is Alive”. The cover parodies the famous Abbey Road cover that help to start the whole mess.