There is a certain maudlin pleasure in being the first one in your group of friends to know about the death of a big celebrity. It gives you the first shot at posting your favorite song/scene of theirs on your social media pages, while your friends have to look like copycats or are forced to trawl through YouTube for less important clips to post.
The Internet has brought the news to everyone's fingertips at a moment's notice. As such, the major news networks of the world will sometimes post false news in their effort to be the first one to break a big story.
We saw this recently with the death of Tom Petty, as all it took was an unconfirmed leak from TMZ for all of the news sites in the world to declare him dead (when he hadn't actually passed yet.)
We are here today to look at all of the times when celebrities were incorrectly reported as having passed on to the other side. From the radio report of the death of Russell Crowe, to Jeff Goldblum's beutiful eulogy for himself.
Here are the 15 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Reported As Dead.
15 Mark Hamill
It would really suck if all of the old Star Wars cast members died before the new trilogy had finished filming, as we would be deprived of one last great performance from each of them. We've already lost Princess Leia. Our hearts couldn't take the loss of Luke or Han as well.
Fans briefly thought that Luke Skywalker had become one with the Force in 2017 when a fake Twitter account that was trying to mimic the official Huffington Post Twitter posted a story about the passing of Mark Hamill.
This seemingly legitimate account inspired a wave of tributes for Hamill, which quickly died down when everyone realized that he was still alive.
Mark Hamill laughed off the reports of his death on Twitter. Hamill even spread the word of his own passing on Twitter and made a mention about how he was glad he could meet him before he died. As of the time of writing, Mark Hamill is still alive.
14 Jeff Goldblum
It's one thing for a website to report a celebrity death hoax as fact, as it can quickly be taken down with no repercussions to the career of whoever posted it. It's a far bigger problem when live newscasters read a report about a celebrity dying based on dubious sources.
In 2009, Richard Wilkins read a report on the Today show in Australia that mourned the passing of Jeff Goldblum. This happened around the same time as the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, with Wilkins even citing the rule of three in his report. A retraction was run later on in the show.
Jeff Goldblum had a great deal of fun with the news of his passing, as he recorded his own eulogy for The Colbert Report. Richard Wilkins has had less fun with his mistake, as his colleagues love to bring up his famous blunder whenever Jeff Goldblum is in the news. As of the time of writing, Jeff Goldblum is still alive.
13 Russell Crowe
The need to be the first to break a story existed long before the Internet, as both TV and radio news stations have always been fighting to be the first one with the details of a celebrity death. The fraudulent examples of these were actually more common in smaller markets, as it was harder to refute them and find confirmation on whether the celebrity in question was still alive or not.
It seems that the people at Z100 in New York City never bothered to check for a reputable source when reports of the death of Russell Crowe began circulating online. It was claimed on several social media sites that Crowe had died while mountain climbing.
In their haste to break the story, the people at Z100 actually ran the news that Russell Crowe had died on the air. The matter was later resolved when someone bothered to call Crowe's management and confirm that he was still among the living. As of the time of writing, Russel Crowe is still alive.
12 Scott Baio
It's a lot easier to refute celebrity death hoaxes nowadays thanks to the Internet. These hoaxes are a lot easier to start, as it only takes a Twitter posting to have thousands of people convinced that someone has died, but they tend to die out a lot quicker, due to the ability to double-check with actual news websites.
Scott Baio had the misfortune of being the target of an Internet celebrity death hoax back in 1997. This was during the period when the Internet was only just beginning to appear in homes across the world, which gave this celebrity death hoax a lot more credibility.
It didn't help that Scott Baio's career was dead at this point, so it wasn't like people could see if he was still alive by turning on the TV. This hoax was so widespread that it was reported on radio stations and made it back to Baio's family. As of the time of writing, Scott Baio is still alive.
11 Kurt Cobain
There are times when a celebrity is declared dead, even though they have only been taken into emergency care. This was what happened to Tom Petty recently, which led to a retraction by the police.
Stephen King was also reported as having being killed when he was struck by an automobile in 1999. He even published some of the reports of his death in the later books in the Dark Tower series.
A similar situation happened to Kurt Cobain in 1994 when he was in Rome. He overdosed due to mixing champagne and Rohypnol and was taken to the hospital by Courtney Love. Cobain spent five days recovering, before being released.
It was likely due to the fact that Kurt Cobain was in Europe that CNN was unable to get a clear answer about his condition, as they declared him dead in a TV news report. Kurt Cobain would pass away a month later, following another overdose.
10 Britney Spears
Anyone can write a celebrity's name on Twitter followed by "R.I.P" and try to create a hoax. They usually don't last long as most people will check the major news sites to see if the information is legitimate or not.
It's a lot more effective to create a celebrity death hoax when you have access to a legitimate social media account that is linked to the celebrity in question. This is what happened with Britney Spears in 2016, as someone managed to hack into the official Twitter account used by Sony Music.
They tweeted out that Britney Spears had passed away due to injuries suffered in an accident. The official nature of the account in question meant that a lot of people believed these tweets and shared them before Sony managed to gain control of their Twitter again and could issue a retraction. As of the time of writing, Britney Spears is still alive.
9 Kirk Douglas
It must be depressing for some older celebrities to learn that their obituary is already written and ready to be run on a moment's notice, with only a few blank spaces left for the date and the cause of what finally offed them.
We know that these exist because websites have accidentally uploaded them before. This is another aspect of the need for news networks to always be the first when it comes to reporting on a celebrity death.
It likely wouldn't come as any surprise to learn that Kirk Douglas was dead, considering that he is a hundred years old. No was more surprised than he was when his obituary was published on People's website in 2014.
It was missing some key dates and features, but it would seem legitimate to a casual observer. As of the time of writing, Kirk Douglas is still alive and rocking, as the fact that his age is now triple digits hasn't slowed him down one bit.
8 Artie Lange
Artie Lange is a comedian who is best known for his tenure on The Howard Stern Show, which was a position he ultimately left due to his drug issues.
Artie Lange's behavior during a series of shows in Las Vegas should have tipped the Stern Show staff to his problems, as he got ossified drunk during a live broadcast and was carried out of the building in a wheelchair as if he were an unruly baby gorilla that was being escorted to its pen at the Zoo.
Lange's drunken stupor inspired someone to falsely inform KLAS-TV that he had passed away in the middle of the night, which they reported. The Hard Rock Hotel had to send staff upstairs to check if Lange was still alive. KLAS-TV later released a retraction to the story. As of the time of writing, Artie Lange is still alive.
7 Sharon Osbourne
Celebrity obituaries have been created for famous people who are old, as was the case with Kirk Douglas. They will also be created for celebrities who announce that they are suffering from a potentially fatal disease. We know this because an early obituary was posted on ABC News' website for Sharon Osbourne during a period of time when she was suffering from colon cancer.
In 2004, ABC News posted a partially completed obituary for Sharon Osbourne on their website. It was missing large sections, which suggests that it had been started and later abandoned. This is likely because Osbourne announced that she had colon cancer in 2004, which was eventually revealed to be far more serious than originally thought.
Her treatment was covered during the second season of The Osbournes. The obituary was quickly removed. Sharon Osbourne went through treatment and overcame her condition As of the time of writing, Sharon Osbourne is still alive.
6 Jack Black
Britney Spears and her management probably had a few choice words for Sony Music when their Twitter got hacked and spread news of her death, which is an understandable reaction. Jack Black probably had to yell at himself in the mirror when the Tenacious D Twitter was hacked and spread news of his death.
In 2016, the official Tenacious D Twitter account was hacked by an unknown individual, who spread a message stating that Jack Black had passed away in the middle of the night due to unknown causes. This caused an outpouring of condolences, as everyone believed that the news was genuine.
The hacker then admitted it was fake and posted a few memes before Tenacious D reclaimed control of their Twitter account. John Konesky (the guitarist of the group) tried to spread the word that Black was still alive, but the message of Black's death had already reached the world at large. As of the time of writing, Jack Black is still alive.
5 James Earl Jones
A eulogy can be a beautiful thing. People will often cite the cast of Monty Python's amazing eulogy for Graham Chapman as an example of how to be poignant, funny, and touching in a simple speech about how much you miss someone.
Lanny Frattere was a play-by-play announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates for over thirty years. In 1998, he heard that James Earl Jones had died, which gave him the opportunity to give a eulogy for one of his favorite actors. He said beautiful things about the movie Field of Dreams, which is a film loved by many baseball fans.
There was only one problem: James Earl Jones was still alive. It was actually James Earl Ray (the man who killed Martin Luthor King) who had died. Lanny Frattere had heard the wrong name. As of the time of writing, James Earl Jones is still alive.
4 Jerry Lee Lewis
Lanny Frattere at least had the excuse of it being the '90s when he screwed up. It's not like he could have checked his iPhone to see if James Earl Jones was still alive or not.
CNN had no such excuse in 2017, as they accidentally put Jerry Lee Lewis' name on an obituary. It was actually Jerry Lewis, the actor and comedian, who had passed away. Jerry Lee Lewis is the guy who sang "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and married his thirteen-year-old cousin.
To be fair, this was a common mistake made by a lot of websites, as most biographical websites listed Jerry Lee Lewis dying on the same day as Jerry Lewis. A lot of tributes were paid to him on social media by people who also got Jerry Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis mixed up.
As of the time of writing, Jerry Lee Lewis is still. He still plays shows, even though he is eighty-two years old.
3 Terry Gilliam
Just because you're dead, it doesn't mean you still can't have fun. In 2015, Variety accidentally published a pre-made obituary for the former Monty Python cast member Terry Gilliam.
Like the other early obituaries on this list, the Gilliam one lacked certain key features, such as the time and cause of death. It makes you wonder why they even bother with a mock-up, considering how much work they still have to do to make the obituary worthy of being published.
Terry Gilliam's obituary was up for several hours before it was removed and a retraction posted. He had a lot of fun with the news of his death, as it gave him a chance to apologize for his own demise.
Monty Python fans were ecstatic when they heard that Terry Gilliam was still alive. It wasn't because they like him or anything, it just gave them a chance to repeat the "Parrot Sketch" all over social media. As of the time of writing, Terry Gilliam is still alive.
It must haunt people who are one-hit wonders to think that they will only be known for a single song when they pass. Gotye had the opportunity to live out his own episode of The Twilight Zone when he witnessed reports of his own death circulating on legitimate online news sources.
All it took was a few idiots on Twitter posting fake claims about Gotye committing suicide for CNN's iReport to run it as a fact. They couldn't even be bothered to make the most basic of journalistic attempts to make sure a singer was still alive, even though he was on tour and there would be plenty of people that could confirm if he was still alive or not.
To his credit, Gotye took this in stride and was joking about it with his bandmates on Twitter. As of the time of writing, Gotye is still alive, though his one-hit wonder status means that he's just some singer that we used to know.
1 Bob Hope
There is a certain perverse pleasure in being the first to tell your friends that a celebrity has died. One guy took it further by breaking the news to the House of Representatives.
In 1998, Robert Stump (who was a congressman from Arizona) stood up before the House of Representatives and told the assembled people that Bob Hope had died. This caused outpourings of sympathy to Hope's family, who were soon inundated with phone calls.
Linda Hope had to inform all of the journalists that her father was still alive. Bob Hope was eating breakfast when all of the newspapers in America started calling his house and asking if he was alive.
In Robert Stump's defense, it's not like he was repeating something he read on Twitter. The news of Bob Hope's death came from the Associated Press, who had accidentally sent out the news of Hope's passing due to a technical issue. Bob Hope passed away in 2003, five years after his death was announced at the House of Representatives.
Can you think of any other celebrities who were accidentally reported as dead? Let us know in the comments!
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