A premature obituary is an obituary of someone who was still alive at the time of publication. Examples include that of inventor, businessman, and chemist Alfred Nobel, whose premature obituary condemning him as a "merchant of death" may have prompted him to create the Nobel Prize; black nationalist Marcus Garvey, whose actual death may have been precipitated by reading his own obituary; and actor Abe Vigoda, who was the subject of so many premature obituaries that a website was created to state whether he was alive or dead.
This article lists the recipients of incorrect death reports (not just formal obituaries) from publications, media organisations, official bodies, and widely used information sources such as the Internet Movie Database; but not mere rumours of deaths, nor reports from sites which feature automated death hoax stories designed to draw in page clicks from specific web searches. People who were presumed (though not categorically declared) to be dead, and joke death reports that were widely believed, are also included.
Premature obituaries may be published for reasons such as the following:
Accidental publication: accidental release of a pre-written obituary, usually on a news web site, as a result of technical or human error. The most egregious example was when, in 2003, CNN accidentally released draft obituaries for seven major world figures.
Brush with death: when the subject unexpectedly survives a serious life-threatening illness or accident which made the person appear to be dead or certain to die; or if they were dying but not yet dead at the time of publication.
Clerical errors: due to clerical errors, almost 500 living people in the United States are inadvertently considered dead each month by the Social Security Administration.
Faked death: when the subject fakes their own death in order to evade legal, financial, or marital difficulties and start a new life.
Fraud victim: many people from Uttar Pradesh, India have been registered dead by officials who are bribed by relatives who want to steal the victim's land. The ensuing legal disputes often continue for many years, with victims growing elderly and sometimes dying in reality before they are resolved (see Association of Dead People).
Hoax: when a death is falsely reported, generally as a prank. Some websites (notably mediamass.net) publish both celebrity death hoaxes and refutations of actual celebrity deaths as a form of clickbait.
Impostor: when an ordinary person who for years has passed himself off to family and friends as a retired minor celebrity dies, it can prompt an erroneous obituary for the real (but still living) celebrity.
Misidentified body: when a corpse is misidentified as someone else, often someone who was involved in the same incident or who happened to go missing at the same time.
Missing in action: soldiers who go missing in war are sometimes incorrectly declared dead if no body is found. In particular, a number of Japanese soldiers thought to have died in World War II in fact survived – typically hiding in a remote jungle for years or even decades, believing that the war had not ended.
Misunderstandings: such as when a Sky News employee thought that a rehearsal for the future death of the Queen Mother was real.
Name confusion: where someone with an identical or similar name has died. Usually the subject of the obituary is famous but the deceased person is not.
Procedural death: when a person who is not dead is purposely declared legally dead by the government. In 1866, the Kingdom of Hawaii established a policy of declaring those with leprosy in the kingdom legally dead, imprisoning them in the leper colonyKalaupapa with no visitors for the rest of their lives.
Ali Hassan al-Majid was supposed dead in April 2003, after British and United States officials reported that he had died in an air strike in Basra; al-Majid had been seen going into the building that was attacked, and corpses of his bodyguards were positively identified, though there was less certainty about the identity of al-Majid's supposed corpse. After obituaries of the Iraqi general, politician and first-cousin of Saddam Hussein were published in many newspapers, reports then circulated that he had escaped by boat, and subsequently been seen joking with staff in a hospital in Baghdad. Al-Majid was captured several months later, and sentenced to death in 2007 for war crimes. He was hanged on January 25, 2010.
John Allen, a serial criminal, faked his own suicide by drowning off Beachy Head (Britain's most notorious suicide spot) in 1966 to escape prosecution for theft, presumably resulting in his being declared dead. He in fact swam around the coast, retrieved dry clothes that he had hidden, and took up a new identity. However, his crimes continued, including further thefts and bigamy. In 2002 he was jailed for life for having murdered his wife and children in 1975. He died in 2015.
Rex Alston, a retired BBC sports commentator, garnered the unusual distinction of having his marriage announced in The Times the year after that paper had published his obituary, when his internal obituary file was updated and accidentally published in 1985. Alston was 84 at the time and lived another nine years until his actual death at 93 in 1994.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi terrorist leader of ISIL has been reported dead, injured or arrested numerous times over a number of years by various governments, in media, and on Wikipedia.
Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist living in Ukraine was widely reported on 29 May 2018, to have been shot dead. A day later, Babchenko appeared at a press conference with the Security Service of Ukraine, claiming to have staged his death to expose Russian agents.
Lawrence Joseph Bader, an Akron, Ohio, kitchenware salesman who faked death by drowning. On May 15, 1957, he left his wife Marylou (five months pregnant) their three kids, and five years of unpaid income taxes, sailing out on Lake Erie, and vanished (right after increasing his life insurance policy). His boat was found abandoned, and the Coast Guard announced that no one could have survived. In 1960, he was pronounced dead. He turned up in Omaha, Nebraska as married broadcaster John "Fritz" Johnson. He was found by his 21 year old niece, and caught when his fingerprints matched those of Lawrence Bader; "Johnson" insisted the rest of his life that he had no recollection of his life as Bader. He died of a tumor in 1966; the cancer, which had caused his eye to be removed in 1964, may have preexisted before then and caused genuine amnesia.
Scott Baio: A hoax report circulated via e-mail claimed that this American actor had died in a car accident on December 18, 1997. The report was picked up by some media outlets, even causing several members of Baio's family to briefly believe he was dead.
Josephine Baker: The entertainer was reported in 1942 to have died in Morocco of a "lingering illness". The reports were later disproven; Baker died in 1975.
Luca Barbareschi was one of four actors whom the Italian police believed had been murdered while making the 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust. The film was so realistic that shortly after it was released its director, Ruggero Deodato, was arrested for murder. The actors had signed contracts to stay out of the media for a year in order to fuel rumours that the film was a snuff film, and the court was only convinced they were alive when the contracts were cancelled and the actors appeared on a television show as proof.
P.T. Barnum's premature obituary was published, unusually, not because of deception or error, but sympathy. When he took to his deathbed, Barnum expressed the wish that he might read what the papers would say about him. The New York Evening Sun obligingly printed his obituary on March 24, 1891, two weeks before his actual death on April 7. The newspaper acknowledged to its readers that Barnum was still alive at the time of publication.
Charles Baudelaire, a French poet, was reported to have died by Paris newspapers in April 1866, after suffering a massive stroke while in Belgium. He died the following year.
Beyoncé: On February 23, 2015, a fake news report surfaced on Twitter claiming that the singer was killed in a car crash. The report caused the hashtag #RIPBeyonce to become trending on Twitter, even though she is still living.
Lal Bihari is the Indian founder of the Uttar Pradesh Association of Dead People, an organisation which highlights the plight of people in Uttar Pradesh who are incorrectly declared dead by relatives in order to steal their land, usually in collusion with corrupt officials. Bihari himself was officially dead from 1976 to 1994 as a result of his uncle's attempt to acquire his land. Among various attempts to publicize his situation and demonstrate that he was alive, he stood for election against Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 (and lost). He was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for his 'posthumous' activities.
Jack Black. On June 4, 2016, the Twitter page of Black's band Tenacious D announced the actor and musician's death. However, the next day both Black and bandmate Kyle Gass clarified that the page was hacked and that Black was alive and well.
Lucien Bouchard: the former Quebec premier (who had been seriously ill) was reported dead by CTV in September 2005. The network began broadcasting a live tribute to the politician, but cut it short with a sheepish confirmation that he was in fact alive, blaming Radio-Canada for the error. CTV and Radio-Canada continued to blame each other thereafter.
Peter Boyle, TV and movie character actor, was briefly and incorrectly declared deceased in October 1990, a few weeks following a massive stroke where he was almost paralyzed and could not move or speak for nearly six months. His incorrect lifespan of 1933–1990 is listed in the book Cult Movie Stars by author Danny Peary. Boyle made a complete recovery from the blood clot in his brain and continued acting despite multiple and persistent health problems, including high blood pressure. He had another brush with death in 1999 when he suffered a heart attack while working on the set of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, but he again recovered and was working again within one week. Boyle died on December 12, 2006.
James Brady, White House Press Secretary, was shot in the head in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Three hours later, amid confusion about the extent of his injuries, all three U.S. broadcast TV networks erroneously announced that Brady had died, triggering an on-air outburst by ABC News anchor Frank Reynolds when the information was revealed incorrect. This led to greater subsequent caution about issuing death reports during rapidly developing situations. Brady died on August 4, 2014.
Adam Buckley: The resident of Santa Clarita, California, who had schizophrenia, went missing in June 2018. On July 2, a burned body was found in Lancaster, and the Los Angeles County Coroner misidentified the body as being Buckley's. In late August, the Coroner released a statement saying that they had misidentified the body, and Buckley was found alive on September 14.
Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, has been the subject of persistent rumors that he had died and been replaced by a body double after experiencing ill health in 2017. Buhari, 74 years old at the time, suspected the false rumors were ginned up and revived in 2018 by opposing politicians seeking the office in the 2019 presidential election.
John Burney: Shortly after the collapse of his business, this resident of Helena, Arkansas disappeared on June 11, 1976. He was eventually declared dead, which allowed both his wife and his company to receive life insurance benefits. However, Burney resurfaced in December 1982 when he visited his father who had recently been injured in an accident. In the intervening years, Burney had taken up residence in Key Largo, Florida under the name John Bruce and had married a second wife without ever divorcing his first one. He was eventually convicted of fraud.
Pat Burns, a NHL coach was reported to have died from cancer on September 17, 2010, by the Toronto Star. He actually died two months later on November 19.
Barbara Bush, former First Lady of the United States, had a draft obituary (conspicuously marked "DO NOT PUBLISH") leaked by CBSNews.com on April 15, 2018, after her family announced that she was in failing health and ending further medical treatment. The following day, a fake news Web site pretending to be CNN.com falsely claimed Bush had died. Bush died one day after that on April 17.
George H. W. Bush was erroneously reported dead in an e-mail by WBAP-AM/WBAP-FM, due to a false tip. At the time, Bush was in intensive care recovering from illness. The German magazine Der Spiegel erroneously published a draft obituary for Bush on December 30, 2012, during his recovery from the same illness. Bush had previously been the subject of another near-miss while President, when CNN Headline News almost reported a false tip stating Bush had died. Another death hoax circulated in July 2014, when it was reported that Bush had died from food poisoning. Bush died on November 30, 2018.
Either George H. W. Bush or George W. Bush, when the moving banner headline on South African television's ETV News read "George Bush is dead". A technician who was testing the banner accidentally pressed the "broadcast live for transmission" button, according to the BBC. George H. W. Bush died on November 30, 2018.
Bushwick Bill, American rapper known for his work in the trio Geto Boys was reported to have died on June 9, 2019. Several outlets such as TMZ and Pitchfork reported his death before his family wrote a statement saying that he was not dead, but terminally ill. However, he would still die later that day.
Janelle Cahoon: in December 2005, the Duluth News Tribune claimed that the Benedictinenun's funeral had been shown in a 1999 documentary. The mistake caused much amusement at her monastery, with some sisters asking her what heaven was like, and others referring to the incident as "Dead Nun Walking".
Carlos Camejo, a Venezuelan man declared dead in September 2007 after a traffic accident, revived during his autopsy. After making an incision in his face, examiners realized something was wrong when he started bleeding. "I woke up because the pain was unbearable", Camejo said.
Graham Cardwell, a Lincolnshire dockmaster who disappeared in September 1998 and was assumed drowned. Eight months later he was discovered living in secret in the West Midlands. He claimed he had thought he was suffering from cancer (though had not sought medical attention) and wanted to spare his family the trauma of it.
David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, when David Bowie's death was announced in January 2016, a newsreader on Heart Radio Scotland accidentally announced that David Cameron had died.
Feliberto Carrasco: this 81-year-old Chilean man woke up in his coffin at his own wake in January 2008. His family had found his body lying limp and cold, and assumed he must have died. While he was lying in his coffin, dressed in a suit and surrounded by relatives, his nephew saw him wake up, though did not believe it at first. Carrasco said he was not in any pain, and asked for a glass of water. His death had been announced on a local radio station, which issued a correction.
Whitney Cerak: a student was thought to have died in April 2006 when a van from Taylor University collided with a tractor trailer, leaving five dead. 1400 people attended her funeral. Fellow student Laura Van Ryn was thought to have survived the accident, which left her in a coma and heavily bandaged. Suspicions were only aroused when during her gradual recovery in the hospital, Van Ryn started making strange comments and using names wrongly; her university roommate also reported that she did not appear to be Van Ryn. Weeks after the accident, when concerned hospital staff asked her her name, she wrote 'Whitney Cerak', which was confirmed by dental records. The tragic mix-up appeared to have been caused by Cerak's and Van Ryn's somewhat similar appearance, and confusion at the crash scene. Cerak co-wrote a book about her experience titled Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope.
Jackie Chan: On June 20, 2013, a false report claimed that the actor had been killed in an accident while filming a movie in Austria. Another hoax article that surfaced in September of that year had also reported the same thing.
Jan Chapman: The 'In Memoriam' segment of the 89th Academy Awards, on February 26, 2017, included Janet Patterson, a costume designer who died in 2016. However, the segment used a photo of Chapman instead, resulting in friends and family believing that she was dead.
Arthur C. Clarke:science fiction writer, had his obituary published by the G.R.A.A. (Goddard Retirees and Alumni Association) newsletter in April 2000. The obituary says he died on February 10, 2000, and even specifies the cause of death as pulmonary fibrosis. To date, no correction seems to have been published. Clarke died in 2008 of "respiratory complications and heart failure".
Michael Cleveland: In October 2014, this 46-year-old man was taken to a hospital near Buffalo, New York after suffering a heart attack. A doctor declared him dead, but according to his wife he was clearly still breathing and responsive. Almost two hours passed before the doctor finally acknowledged that Cleveland was alive, and he died later that morning. As of October 2015, Cleveland's wife is involved in a lawsuit against the hospital.
Kurt Cobain: The rock musician was reported dead by CNN (though he was in fact in a coma) after an overdose in Rome in March 1994, shortly before his actual death in April.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: In 1816 the writer heard his death mentioned in a hotel by a man reading out a newspaper report of a coroner's inquest. He asked to see the paper, and was told that "it was very extraordinary that Coleridge the poet should have hanged himself just after the success of his play [Remorse]; but he was always a strange mad fellow". Coleridge replied: "Indeed, sir, it is a most extraordinary thing that he should have hanged himself, be the subject of an inquest, and yet that he should at this moment be speaking to you." A man had been cut down from a tree in Hyde Park, and the only identification was that his shirt was marked 'S. T. Coleridge'; Coleridge thought the shirt had probably been stolen from him. Coleridge died in 1834.
Alice Cooper: in the early 1970s, Melody Maker magazine confused readers by publishing a satirical concert review of the rock musician in the form of a mock obituary. So many fans took it literally that Cooper had to issue a statement, reassuring them: "I'm alive, and drunk as usual."
Ion Creangă: around 1884 he suffered a severe stroke and people thought he had died. Reading his obituaries in the newspapers, Creangă reportedly said: "If this was to be the mourning I would have gotten after my death, I'm happy I haven't died yet, and so help God, may I die when people will care less about someone like me". He lived five more years, dying on December 31, 1889.
Russell Crowe: the actor was reported as dead on a Z-100 broadcast in New York City on June 10, 2010; this was later disproven by a representative for the actor.
Johan Cruyff: widely considered one of the best Dutch football players ever, his death was falsely reported in August 2014 when De Volkskrant accidentally uploaded a test version of their mobile website. He died on March 24, 2016, aged 68.
Delimar Vera Cuevas: this new-born girl was declared by police to have died in a Philadelphia house fire in 1997. Six years later her mother became suspicious when a girl at a birthday party she was attending bore similarities to her other children. Subsequent DNA tests proved the girl was Delimar. Local resident Carolyn Correa is thought to have started the fire in order to kidnap her. Police could not explain why they had originally declared Delimar dead, as no human remains had been found in the fire, which had not been intense enough to completely destroy a body. The incident was dramatized in the 2004 film Little Girl Lost: The Delimar Vera Story.
Macaulay Culkin: In November 2014, a report circulated on the internet stating that the actor had been found dead in his New York City apartment. Culkin debunked the report by posting pictures of himself on Twitter, even poking fun at the hoax by writing a caption about "the great things you can do when you're alive".
Miley Cyrus: On September 5, 2008, a false Reuters article spread around the web claiming that the singer and entertainer had died in a terrible car accident. This incident, which was also reported by TMZ, was quickly debunked, as Miley performed in concert the following Friday. A similar incident took place on November 16, 2008, when someone hacked into Cyrus' YouTube account and posted a video stating she died after being hit by a drunk driver. On September 3, 2013, messages began circulating on Facebook claiming that Miley Cyrus had committed suicide due to "traumatic stress".
Aden Abdullah Osman Daar: in May 2007 the first President of Somalia was erroneously reported dead by news portal SomaliNet and other web sites. In reality, he was in a critical condition and on life support in a Nairobi hospital following a long illness. One source said Daar's daughter had 'assumed' he had died and had informed government officials; another blamed Nairobi medical sources. Daar died shortly afterwards on June 8, 2007.
John Darwin: this British prison officer was presumed to have drowned in March 2002 when he disappeared while canoeing in the sea near Hartlepool. Despite a huge search operation, and the calm weather, only his paddle was found, followed weeks later by the wreckage of his canoe. An inquest declared him dead. However, in December 2007, Darwin walked into a London police station, announcing: "I think I'm a missing person", and claiming to have no memory of the past five years. Darwin's wife Anne, who had claimed his life insurance, says he turned up at their home in 2003 and lived in secret there and next door for three years. They also spent time together in Panama, where they planned to set up a hotel for canoeing holidays; she emigrated there shortly before Darwin reappeared. Both Darwin and his wife were subsequently convicted and imprisoned.
Calvin Demarest: The pool player was incorrectly reported dead in an insane asylum in 1916 by The New York Times, which quickly retracted the claim, saying they had no idea how the error occurred. Demarest actually died in 1925.
Thomas Dennison: after this 37-year-old Briton went missing in October 2007, a body that was found in Greater Manchester was identified by his parents and caseworker as his. After the funeral and cremation, police contacted Dennison's mother, saying they thought they had in fact found him alive and living rough in Nottingham some days earlier. To prove it, they asked her for three questions only Dennison would know the answer to; he subsequently phoned her, saying "You've buried me". The body bore an uncanny resemblance to Dennison – even with similar scars and leg ulcers – leading police to ask whether he had had a twin brother.
Bob Denver: In the early 1960s, this American actor was reported to have died after being electrocuted when a radio fell into his bathtub. The false report apparently began as a rumor which was picked up by several media outlets. Denver later said in an interview that for years after this incident, he would often encounter people who were surprised to see him alive. Denver actually died in 2005 of complications from throat cancer.
Graffiti on Fats Domino's home from his rumored death during Hurricane Katrina.
Jhulri Devi was officially declared dead in 1974 and chased off her farm by relatives in order to steal her land in Uttar Pradesh, India. After many years of legal delays, her 'death' was only annulled in 1999, by when she had reached the age of 85, after intervention by the Association of the Dead, an organisation that protests such cases. (See also Lal Bihari.)
Lord Timothy Dexter: The self named 'lord,' eccentric Timothy Dexter was a wealthy American when he decided to fake his own death and throw a funeral. About three thousand people attended to mourn his passing, and a large celebration was held, with expensive wines and fine foods. However, it was discovered that he was not in fact dead when Dexter caned his wife for smiling and not looking sad.
Joe DiMaggio: The baseball player was reported dead in a broadcast by NBC in January 1999 as a text report running along the bottom of the television screen. The text, which DiMaggio himself saw, had been prepared following newspaper reports that DiMaggio was near death, and was transmitted when a technician pressed the wrong button. DiMaggio died in March 1999, 2 months after the report.
Kirk Douglas: The actor had a draft obituary of his leaked on People magazine's Web site on November 30, 2014, with the header "DO NOT PUB" still attached. Douglas, aged 97, was in good health at the time of the false report.
Hilary Duff: The Lizzie McGuire actress and singer was reported dead in August 2011 by a hoax website claiming that she fell off Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand.
Drusus Julius Caesar: during a period of illness, the Roman politician was in 21 AD the subject of a eulogistic panegyric by the poet Clutorius Priscus, which was prematurely rehearsed in front of some noblewomen at the home of Publius Petronius. The poet, who was seeking to replicate earlier success in a panegyric written after the passing of Germanicus, was himself condemned to death by the Roman Senate for anticipating the death of the Emperor's son.
Ian Dury: The English musician was pronounced dead on Xfm radio by Bob Geldof in 1998, possibly due to hoax information from a listener disgruntled at the station's change of ownership. The incident caused music magazine NME to call Geldof "the world's worst DJ". Dury died in March 2000.
Danny Dyer: In January 2015, a hoax spread on Facebook claimed that the EastEnders actor had died at the age of 37. Dyer posted to Twitter to deny the rumor.
Guy Edwards was reported dead overnight on October 16, 2018, according to motorsports website Autosport. Subsequently, a former colleague of Edwards visited him in Ireland and confirmed he was still alive.
Harry Elionsky was reported dead on October 13, 1918, during the 1918 flu pandemic. Several books list his death in 1918 as fact, including Hunting the 1918 flu: one scientist's search for a killer virus and The plague of the Spanish lady: the influenza pandemic of 1918–1919. Both repeat the error from the 1918 papers. He went on to set records for distance swimming into the 1920s, and died in 1956.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's death was erroneously announced in the Australian media in 1993 after a London-based Sky News employee saw an internal rehearsal for her future death (one of many conducted by the UK media over the years). Thinking it was for real, he phoned his mother in Australia with the 'news', who passed it on to the media. The time zone difference may have made it difficult for the Australian media to check the story during UK night-time. The employee was dismissed for the mistake, but then won a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. (Fragments of the Queen Mother's life history also appeared in several other world figures' premature obituaries in the CNN.com incident.) The Queen Mother died on March 30, 2002.
Queen Elizabeth II's death was announced on BBC WM on May 17, 2010. Host Danny Kelly played God Save the Queen, then announced that "Queen Elizabeth II has now died." He was stopped by his producer, and later admitted that the announcement was meant as a joke: the Queen Elizabeth II who had died was a Facebook user who used the Queen's name. The chairman of Mediawatch-UK said in response, "Because it's the Queen and they treated it like a big announcement, it makes things worse ... It's the BBC we are talking about here, and there's a certain expectation from them."
Frederick Fane, cricketer, reported in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1956 edition as having died on December 9, 1954. The 1961 edition reported his real death, aged 85, on November 27, 1960, saying: "Owing to a similarity of initials, Wisden reported his death when he was 79. The man concerned was Francis L. Fane, his cousin. By a coincidence, Mr Fane's father also once read his own obituary."
Dorothy Fay (film actress, also called Dorothy Southworth Ritter), was declared dead in an August 2001 Daily Telegraph obituary. Mrs Ritter, who lived in a nursing home, had been taken to another room temporarily when a friend stopped by to visit. On hearing that Mrs Ritter was "gone", the friend telephoned the Telegraph obituary editor. Fay died in November 2003.
Will Ferrell (comedian), reported by iNewswire to have died in a paragliding accident on March 14, 2006. The press release was a hoax; Ferrell had never been paragliding.
Terry L. Fergerson, a teacher from West Monroe, New York, US, was thought to have died in May 2006 when Terry L. Ferguson (differently spelled last name) was killed in a vehicle collision. When Fergerson arrived at work the following day, he found fellow teachers and students consoling each other over his death; various friends and relatives also thought he had died. It is not clear whether the confusion was made by them, local media or the police. In addition to their similar names, Fergerson and the real victim both drove red Chevy pickups and were of similar age. "I don't know what the percentages are, I'm not a mathematician, but it's pretty far out", Fergerson said.
Lou Ferrigno: On May 29, 2014. Santa Barbara, California police claimed that Lou Ferrigno died in a car accident.
Sebastiao Fidelis: a Brazilian man whose supposed body was identified by his wife and buried in 2001 after he had been missing for two months. A year later, he was found wandering in the area, having lost his memory.
Zsa Zsa Gabor: In early 2011, many websites, including her English Wikipedia page reported the death of Zsa Zsa Gabor. However, it was quickly revealed that she had not actually died, and that this was a hoax mistaken by several websites as fact. She died on December 18, 2016.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi) Although it was widely reported at the time that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi had been captured or killed by NTC forces during the concluding stages of the Battle of Sirte on October 20, 2011, these reports appeared to be false due to the fact that shortly after his father was killed, the Libyan prime minister Mahmoud Jibril said that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi had managed to escape and was on the run.
S. Gandaruban: This Sri Lankan man living in Singapore faked his own death in 1987 and fled the country to escape creditors after his car rental business collapsed. He then arranged for a fake death certificate stating that he had been shot dead in crossfire. His brother and wife were convicted of their involvement. In 2007, he was charged with conspiring to claim extensive life insurance arising from the fake death.
Gabriel García Márquez (writer), reported dead by Peruvian daily La República in 2000 shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. A number of newspapers also published his alleged farewell poem, but García Márquez denied being the author of the piece and even went as far as to say that he was upset that people could think he wrote something so tacky. It soon emerged that the poem was actually written by a Mexican man, who commented that he did not think himself to be a great writer but still was upset that his poem had been attributed to someone else. García Márquez underwent successful treatment for his cancer and lived long enough to write and publish the first volume of an autobiography. He died of pneumonia on April 17, 2014, at the age of 87.
Gordon Gee: In March 2003 the then- Vanderbilt University president was declared dead by a fake edition of the university's student newspaper The Vanderbilt Hustler, sparking early dismissal from classes, tears, and moments of silence. Gee issued a press release confirming he was still alive. The hoax was perpetrated by staff from a separate student satirical magazine The Slant, whose managing editor would only say: "I have the right to remain silent, and I am exercising my right of silence".
Terry Gilliam: On September 8, 2015, the web site of the show business trade publication Variety briefly posted a premature obituary of director, animator, and Monty Python troupe member Terry Gilliam. Variety soon removed the post and apologized for the mistake; Gilliam followed by posting the message ""I APOLOGIZE FOR BEING DEAD especially to those who have already bought tickets to the upcoming talks, but, Variety has announced my demise. Don't believe their retraction and apology!" on his Facebook page.
Nicephorus Glycas: in 1896, having presumably been declared dead, the Greek Orthodox bishop of Lesbos Island awoke in his coffin after he had been lying in state for two days. He sat up and asked what mourners were staring at.
Roberto Gómez Bolaños: The well-known actor, known by the name "Chespirito", was reported dead in 2003 by a confused Chilean reporter (Carolina Zúñiga). Actually the dead person was a Chilean writer with a similar name (Roberto Bolaño). Chespirito died in 2014.
Harry Gordon: in 2000, this Australian businessman faked his own death in a boating accident so his wife could claim a fortune in life insurance, though he claimed it was to evade business and relationship problems. He assumed a new identity and fled to Spain, then to England (where he worked in a potato crisp warehouse), South Africa, and New Zealand. He explained gaps in his past to a new girlfriend by telling her he was on a witness protection programme. He was discovered in 2005 and later jailed when, his brother encountered him on a mountain path in New Zealand. Gordon published a book about his exploits, titled How I Faked My Own Death.
Frank Gorshin (The Riddler from Batman): in 1957, after driving 39 hours without a break to avoid flying to a screen test, the actor fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. A Los Angeles newspaper reported him dead. Gorshin was unconscious for four days, and the role went to another actor. Gorshin died in May 2005.
Gotye: In July 2012, CNN reported that the Australian indie rock singer committed suicide. The report was disproven by the singer himself, who replied on Twitter that he was in fact alive.
Ann Green (or Anne Greene), a servant in Oxfordshire, was hanged for allegedly murdering her newborn child in 1650. Having presumably been declared dead, her corpse was taken away for dissection, but she revived. She was ultimately pardoned, and became something of a celebrity.
Catherine Sophie Greenhill, a British three-year-old who was pronounced dead after falling from an upper storey window onto flagstones in the late 18th century. However, she was revived by a Dr. (or Mr.) Squires, a member of the recently formed Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned (later the Royal Humane Society) using an early form of defibrillator. After a time in coma she eventually made a full recovery.
Sasha Grey: In February 2015, it was reported that the actress had been captured and killed by Ukrainian military forces. Grey herself took to Twitter to dispel such rumors.
Friedrich Gulda (pianist), who in 1999 faxed the Austrian News Agency claiming he had died of a stroke at Zurich Airport. Shortly afterwards he announced he was still alive and would be giving a 'Resurrection Recital', which was accompanied by go-go dancers (he often played pranks to annoy the musical establishment). Gulda died in 2000.
Dominic Guzzetta: in November 2005, the former University of Akron president was reported by the Akron Beacon Journal to have been 'posthumously honored' at a fundraising event. Prior to this, he had joked for years that he reads the obituaries to make sure his name is not among them.
Gene Hackman: On January 27, 2015, a rumor spread on social media that actor Gene Hackman had died at the age of 85. The source stems from a news article that referenced not his death, but his retirement; and many readers who saw the article's headline assumed that he had died.
Lincoln Hall: In 2006, Lincoln Hall was climbing up Mt. Everest with a group of climbers, one of whom, Thomas Weber, had already died. Although Hall had made it to the summit, he was suffering from what was probably cerebral edema, and on the way down was abandoned for dead by his Sherpas, after beginning to hallucinate and refuse to move. When the rest of the expedition reached ground, the leader, Alexander Abramov reported Hall had died on the way down, and Hall's family was informed. However, the day after the event, Dan Mazur found Hall sitting on a ledge, 28,200 feet up, with no oxygen. Hall had survived the night in the fabled 'death zone,' near the top of Mt Everest. Hall would die of mesothelioma in 2012 at his home in Australia.
Tom T. Hall, American country singer, was mistakenly reported dead in 2015 with the death of his wife Dixie.
Corinna Harfouch: the German actress was reported dead by a Swiss newspaper when she fell into a river during filming and was swept away. In fact, she survived and phoned her ex-husband, who had seen the obituary, from hospital to confirm that she was alive.
Angelo Hays: the French Inventor and celebrity was in a motorcycle accident in 1937. The doctors were unable to find a pulse and Hays was declared dead. He was buried three days later in the village of St. Quentin de Chalais. Two days after the funeral, when Hays was exhumed for the purposes of an insurance investigation, forensic examiners were surprised to find that the body was still warm. They found that Hays had been in a coma resulting from his head injury; his body's diminished need for oxygen had allowed him to survive for two days underground.
Jon Heder: an American actor, who was made famous by his role as Napoleon Dynamite, was rumored to have died in a car crash in 2005. Another rumor was that he died from an overdose. In an interview in March 2005 by Misty Harris of Canwest News Service, when asked about the rumors of his death, Heder said, "Yeah, and apparently it's not true."
Hugh Hefner: On July 11, 2011, the Playboy entrepreneur was reported dead of a heart attack. Hefner died on September 27, 2017.
Ernest Hemingway and Mary Welsh Hemingway: After the husband and wife authors were involved in two African plane crashes in 1954, newspapers reported that both had died. They survived, but Ernest Hemingway suffered extensive injuries which affected him for the rest of his life. AE Hotchner claimed that after the incident, Hemingway read a scrapbook of his obituaries every morning with a glass of champagne. Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in 1961. Mary Welsh Hemingway died in 1986.
Bill Henry (American baseball player): newspapers and the Associated Press reported him dead in August 2007 after the death of a similar-looking retired salesman of the same name. The dead man had claimed for decades that he was the retired sportsman — even to his wife and stepchildren — and had explained away discrepancies in his story, such as Bill Henry's name and place of birth on baseball cards, as printing errors. The fraud came to light when a genealogist investigated the incorrect date of birth published in the obituaries. The real Bill Henry died in 2014.
Carl Hilderbrandt: a British businessman who jumped bail in 1990 on theft charges and faked his suicide by drowning, presumably resulting in his being declared dead. He started a new life in America, but years later was identified by a British tourist and eventually prosecuted.
Christopher Hitchens: From the British atheism advocate's real-life obituary, after he had died in December 2011: "Hitchens had quotable ideas about posterity, clarified years ago when he saw himself referred to as 'the late' Christopher Hitchens in print."
Cockie Hoogterp, the second wife of Baron Blixen, was declared dead in a 1936 Daily Telegraph obituary after the Baron's third wife died in an auto accident. Mrs. Hoogterp sent all her bills back marked "Deceased" and ordered the Telegraph to print that "Mrs. Hoogterp wishes it to be known that she has not yet been screwed in her coffin."
In the 2003 CNN.com incident. Hope's draft obituary, which had used the Queen Mother's as a template, described him as 'Queen Consort' and the 'UK's favorite grandmother'. Hope died just three months later.
Professor John Nicholas Peregrine Horden, a Fellow of All Souls' College Oxford. An erroneous obituary was published by the Oxford University Gazette on October 2, 2008, and withdrawn in a subsequent issue. The confusion was caused by the recent death of his father, Professor John Horden.
Whitney Houston, American singer, was falsely reported dead of a drug overdose on a radio report on September 12, 2001. Houston died on February 11, 2012.
In September 1995 a government press spokesman announced that Humphrey was presumed dead, as he had been missing since June. After the ensuing publicity, he was found to be alive and residing in the nearby Royal Army Medical College where he had been taken in as a stray. A statement was issued quoting Humphrey as saying: "I have had a wonderful holiday at the Royal Army Medical College, but it is nice to be back and I am looking forward to the new parliamentary session."
In November 1997, there were media allegations that Cherie Blair disliked the cat so much that she had had him killed; the government claimed he had merely gone into retirement away from the public spotlight. In Parliament, Alan Clark MP demanded that the government prove Humphrey was still alive. As a result, the government released photographs of Humphrey posing with the day's newspapers as proof. Humphrey's actual death was announced by Tony Blair March 2006.
William Hung: in 2004, a satirical news report on the Broken Newz web site claiming that the American Idol contestant had died of a heroin overdose was widely believed, forcing Hung to issue a denial.
Gabriel Iglesias: on November 1, 2014, a fake news article spread on Facebook claimed that the comedian had died. The next day, Iglesias posted a message assuring his fans that he was still alive.
Samuel Israel III: This former manager of the hedge fund Bayou Hedge Fund Group faked suicide. On June 9, 2008, his sports vehicle was found abandoned, with the words "suicide is painless" on the hood. He eventually turned himself in at the urging of his mom to serve the 20 years of prison he was sentenced to.
Sharolyn Jackson: This Philadelphia woman was erroneously declared dead in July 2013 after a body had been found two days after her disappearance that had been misidentified as hers. Thirteen days after her funeral, Jackson showed up alive at a mental health facility.
Chris Jericho: Wikipedia noted of Jericho's supposed death in April 2014. This was proven to be vandalism, and Jericho would jokingly tweet that he had died. Two months later, Wikipedia again listed Jericho as passing away in June 2014. Jericho would tweet that he has unfortunately 'died again', referencing the first hoax.
Jiang Zemin: Amid internet rumors concerning his health, Hong Kong's Asia Television reported him dead on its 6 pm evening news broadcast on July 6, 2011. The next day, China's Xinhua News Agency dismissed reports of Jiang's death as "pure rumor", prompting ATV to retract its earlier report.
Steve Jobs: On August 27, 2008, Bloomberg accidentally published a 17-page obituary. During a subsequent keynote address, Jobs joked about the accident by displaying on screen an imprecise quotation of Mark Twain (who was also the recipient of a premature obituary) reading "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". Jobs actually died of pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011, at the age of 56.
Immediately after the 1981 attempt on his life, despite heightened caution from CBS's embarrassing premature obituary of James Brady weeks earlier, CNN implied the Pope had died by repeatedly referring to him in the past tense.
In 2003, by CNN again, this time in the CNN.com incident. The draft obituary, which had used the Queen Mother's as a template, noted the Pope's 'love of racing'.
On April 1, 2005, the day before his actual death, Fox News reported he had died after it received incorrect reports from the Italian media that his ECG had gone flat.
Dwayne Johnson: The American actor was falsely reported dead on April 12, 2014, but Johnson posted a photo on Instagram of him working out at the gym, which disproved the story. The report was the same as Robyn Malcolm's death hoax – falling 60 feet down Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand. The initial report stated that Johnson was filming Fast and Furious 7 at the time, which has no scheduled filming in New Zealand. If the news was true, it would have been the second death during production, after Paul Walker's death in November 2013.
Jay Jon: in September 2014, a 17-year-old Brooklyn-based rapper was the subject of a death hoax. A Facebook post claimed that he was found dead on a sidewalk shortly after releasing a music video, C.O.P., on YouTube. The rumor still persisted for two months, until Jay Jon addressed the hoax.
Michael Jordan: in February 2015, a death hoax surfaced with the claim that the former NBA superstar had died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 52.
Raid Juhi: in March 2005 the presiding judge in the trial of Saddam Hussein was incorrectly reported by NBC News to have been assassinated. The real victims were another trial judge, Barbweez Mahmood, and his son. NBC blamed incorrect information from US officials.
Kailash (full name unknown): this farm labourer from Uttar Pradesh, India, was officially registered as dead by cousins in order to steal land he had inherited. He went to court, but the case was mired in legal delays, and his cousins beat him and threatened to kill him. "It is better to be dead on paper than to be really dead," he said. (See also Lal Bihari.)
George Kaye: in November 2005, the Irish musician was reported dead by the Daily Mirror following a plane crash.
Ken Kesey: in 1966, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest faked his own suicide in an attempt to escape drug charges. He had friends leave his truck and a suicide note on a cliffside road in California, while he fled to Mexico. He later returned to the US, but was arrested and jailed for five months. Kesey died in 2001.
Khushwant Singh: an English writer from India wrote his own obituary in his mid twenties while he worked in Undivided India at Lahore. The title he chose for his obituary: Posthumous. Singh actually died of natural causes at the age of 98 on March 20, 2014.
Rudyard Kipling: His death had been incorrectly announced in a magazine, to which he wrote, "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers." Kipling died in 1936.
Michael "Corporal" Kirchner, former professional wrestler, was reported dead in an article at WWE.com on October 15, 2006. He and his family were understandably confused and upset, and even after Kirchner confirmed that he was alive, the error was never officially retracted on WWE's website.
K. Karunakaran (Indian politician, former Chief Minister of Kerala, India): reportedly dead on November 12, 2009, when he was hospitalized with age-related complications. Karunakaran lived for another year and died in December 2010.
Wayne Knight, an American actor, was reported dead in a motor vehicle accident on March 16, 2014. After being made aware of the report, Knight quickly tweeted that he was alive and well.
Janina Kolkiewicz: In November 2014, this 91-year-old Polish woman's family found her to be without a pulse. A doctor was summoned, and she was declared dead after examination. A death certificate was issued, and her body was brought to a morgue. However, mortuary workers called several hours later to report that she was alive. She was eventually allowed to return home.
Xavier LaBelle was wrongly reported as one of the fatalities in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. While he was unconscious, he was wrongly identified as Parker Tobin, and Tobin's body was identified as his, a situation similar to that of Whitney Cerak.
Bobby Labonte, a NASCAR driver, was reported dead in 2001 and in 2002 in traffic accidents. This was a mix-up after Bobby's father-in-law had died.
W. S. Lach-Szyrma, a curate and pioneering writer of science fiction, became ill during a visit to Paris and on his return to Cornwall found that his obituary had been published in several papers. He is credited as the first writer to use the word Martian as a noun. Lach-Szyrma died in 1915.
Artie Lange, comedian from The Howard Stern Show, was reported dead in May 2004 by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. The show was being broadcast from Las Vegas, and Stern show prank caller Captain Janks capitalized on Artie's debauched reputation by telling the news station that he was a representative from the Hard Rock Hotel, and that Artie had been found dead in his hotel room.
Betsy Langjahr: In January 2016, Pennsylvania police reported that an unidentified dead body found in 1973 may have been that of Betsy Langjahr, who was a missing teenage runaway at the time. However, police soon received a number of tips alerting them to the fact that Langjahr was in fact still alive.
Ryan Lanza was initially reported as the perpetrator of a mass murder-suicide in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. It was in fact Ryan's younger brother, Adam Lanza, who had stolen his brother's identification and committed the murder-suicide.
Guillaume Le Gentil left Paris to head towards Pondicherry in 1760. He faced numerous delays and troubles and was unable to return until 1771, when he found that he had been declared legally dead. Le Gentil died in 1792.
Titan Leeds, publisher of an almanac competing with Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac. Franklin had repeatedly predicted that Leeds would die in 1733 in his almanac, and when the date of Leeds' supposed passing had come and gone, published Leeds' obituary anyway. When Leeds actually died in 1738 Benjamin Franklin publicly commended the impostors for ending their charade. (See the somewhat similar case of John Partridge.)
Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock-and-roll and country musician, was confused with the similarly named comedian, actor, filmmaker and humanitarian Jerry Lewis, who died on August 20, 2017. An early CNN.com obituary of the comedian mistakenly used the musician's name in the headline, and Google searches for "Jerry Lee Lewis death" incorrectly indicated that he had died.
Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian folk musician, was mistakenly reported dead by CBC Radio 3, Canwest and the Calgary Herald on February 18, 2010. The source of the rumour was a prank phone call to Ronnie Hawkins, a long time friend of Lightfoot's, by a man claiming to be the singer's grandson. Media outlets ran the story having confirmed with Hawkins. Lightfoot was in fact at the dentist at the time the story broke.
Arthur Livingston – The then-36-year-old resident of Prosperity, South Carolina, was erroneously reported dead by his bank, Bank of America, when he sold his house in May 2009. As of February 2012, neither the bank nor the three credit agencies who recognized the false death report have corrected the error, which has caused difficulties for Livingston in his attempts to gain credit.
Ralph Macchio, famous for The Karate Kid, was the subject of a death hoax. In January 2013, a hoax article claimed that he had died in a snowboarding accident in Switzerland. The same hoax was also recirculated in March 2014.
Lonnie Mack, the rock guitarist best known as the founder of the blues-rock guitar genre, was lamented as recently deceased in the Foreword to the 1997 book, Rock Music in American Popular Culture. Although rarely seen in recent years, the notoriously reclusive Mack was still very much alive, and performed as a headliner at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as recently as November 15, 2008. Mack died in 2016.
Iven Mackay, an Australian general, received an obituary in The Times, entitled "Athlete, Soldier and Headmaster", as a result of a case of mistaken identity following the death of Major General James Alexander Kenneth Mackay in 1935. Mackay died in 1966.
John Madden the Hall of Fame coach was reported dead on April 29, 2014, by Empire News, convincing many sports fans before being disproved.
Nelson Mandela (South African leader) was reported as having died in an article on the Deutsche Welle website on June 14, 2013. The site later blamed this on an unspecified "technical difficulty". He was also one of those whose undated obituaries were released in the CNN.com incident. Mandela died in December 2013.
Charles Manson: On May 15, 2015, a fake news website reported that the notorious criminal had been found dead in his prison cell. A similar hoax story that surfaced on September 14 of that year also proclaimed the same thing. Manson died of natural causes on November 19, 2017.
Vanni Marcoux, French baritone, was incorrectly reported as having died in World War I in 1914. He actually died in 1962.
Jerry Maren, American actor best known as one of the Munchkins in the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz. Several news outlets, including the Examiner, cited social media reports that Maren, the last surviving Munchkin from the film, had died on February 29, 2016, but Maren appeared on social media (in what would be his last appearance) to disprove the reports. Maren died on May 24, 2018 from a combination of old age-related diseases.
Eleanor Markham: an American woman, one of the most prominent cases of an averted premature burial in the late 19th century. She was pronounced dead on July 8, 1894 in Sprakers, New York however woke up in her coffin 2 days later en route to the graveyard on July 10, 1894.
Johnny Sterling Martin: to avoid paying child support, in 1979 this American persuaded a relative to call a family court and claim that Martin had died in a bar fight. In January 2006, following a tip-off by an ex-wife, he was located 150 miles (240 km) away where he had been living under his real name. He was arrested and jailed. During the intervening decades his child support bill had risen to $30,000.
Alison Matera: in 2006 this Florida woman told fellow church choir members that she had cancer, and over the course of 11 months gave them reports of her treatment, culminating in the claim that she was near death and would be going into a hospice. She subsequently made further phone calls masquerading as a hospice nurse, then as Matera's sister, claiming that Matera had died. The church arranged a memorial service – to which Matera showed up, again claiming to be her sister. Suspicions had already been aroused from the phone calls, in which the nurse and sister both sounded exactly like Matera. Police did not arrest her as no crime had been committed; she blamed her behaviour on childhood trauma. Matera really did die a few years later on June 15, 2011.
Mary Mather, a paediatrician who was reported dead in December 2004 by the General Medical Council after confusion with another person of the same name.
Brian Matthew: On April 5, 2017, the BBC reported that the radio presenter had died the previous night. They later updated to say that he was critically ill, but alive. He died a few days later, on April 8.
Dave Matthews: in 2003, a fake news website reported that the musician had died of a drug overdose.
Paul McCartney was proclaimed dead in 1969 by a caller to radio DJ Russ Gibb's show on WKNR-FM Detroit. A few days later New York DJ Roby Yonge was fired for discussing McCartney's possible death on a late-night show. These and other incidents led to interminable rumours that McCartney's supposed death (hinted at by a trail of supposed clues in various Beatles songs) had been covered up and he had been replaced by a look-alike.
Mark McGrath, actor and lead singer of Sugar Ray, was the subject of a deliberate death hoax; to promote the TV series Hot Package, production company Prismatics issued a press release claiming McGrath had been shot to death during production of the show. (It was in fact his character that was killed off.)
Sipho William Mdletshe, a South African man who was thought to have died in a 1993 traffic accident. After spending two days in a metal box in a mortuary, he was freed when his cries alerted workers. However, his fiancée refused to see him thereafter, believing he had turned into a zombie.
John Mellencamp: In December 2012, it was reported on the internet that the singer had died. The report was picked up by some media outlets before Mellencamp's representatives officially declared it to be a hoax.
Thomas Menino: as an April Fool's Day prank in 1998, shock jocks Opie and Anthony claimed on WAAF-FM radio that the Boston mayor had died in a car accident. Several local media outlets picked up on the story and reported it as true, causing a media firestorm that eventually led to the pair being fired. However, fan support resulted in Opie & Anthony getting a job in New York. Menino later died in October 2014.
Donald E. Miller, Jr.: After mysteriously disappearing and failing to pay child support, this Ohio man was legally declared dead in 1994. However, it turned out that Mr. Miller had simply left the state, and in 2013 he asked a judge to reverse the declaration of death so he could apply for a driver license. The judge was unable to honor this request, as Ohio law states that a declaration of death cannot be reversed after more than three years have passed. As such, Miller remains legally dead as of October 2013. Further complicating the matter is the fact that Miller's ex-wife received Social Security benefit payments for their children for several years, and she might be required to return them if the declaration of death is reversed.
Prasad and Mahaprasad Mishra (Indian brothers) were officially declared dead in 1979 by four nephews in order to steal their land in Uttar Pradesh. Although the nephews were forced to admit fraud, the case was mired in legal delays for many years. The Mishra brothers' 'deaths' were finally annulled in 1999 (by when Prasad had reached the age of 75) after intervention by the Association of the Dead, an organisation that protests such cases. (See also Lal Bihari.)
George Monbiot (environmentalist and writer) was once declared clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya after contracting cerebral malaria. He recovered.
Joe Montana: In August 2013, a hoax news article claimed that the former 49ers quarterback had been killed in a car crash.
Ron Moody (actor best known as Fagin in the film Oliver!) was reported dead twice (according to The Times, June 12, 2015): Hello! magazine reported in 1993 that he had died of a stroke, and in 2010 "a piece in a London paper about famous residents of Southgate reported that the actor had died four years earlier". Moody was quoted as saying: "I'm bloody annoyed. Not only can it cause unhappiness, but it can affect your work. If people think you're dead they're not going to use you. Unless it's a kinky film." Moody died on June 11, 2015.
Peter Moran (British journalist) was reported dead in the December 2007 issue of aviation magazine FlyPast; he had previously contributed to the magazine for several years. This was apparently due to confusion with another aviation writer of the same name, and was corrected in the January 2008 issue.
Chad Morgan, the comic Australian country music performer, phoned his sister to say, “This is the ghost of Chad Morgan,” after his death was announced in 2008 on 4GY, a regional radio station.
Harry Mulisch: On August 6, 2009, the Dutch writer was falsely declared dead by a Dutch Teletext service, after which some news websites took over the news. He died in 2010.
Declan Murphy: The jockey fell during a race at Haydock Park Racecourse in 1994, and was trampled by a horse behind him. He slipped into a coma, and was revived hours before a decision on whether to switch off his life-support system was due to be made. Murphy resolved to return to racing after reading his obituary in the Racing Post.
Paul Mutora: In January 2014, this Kenyan man was declared dead after having swallowed insecticide to kill himself. However, morgue workers noticed movement in his body and discovered that he was in fact still alive.
Levy Mwanawasa: On July 3, 2008, the Johannesburg-based 702 Talk Radio claimed that the President of Zambia had died in a Paris hospital while recovering from a stroke suffered 4 days before in Egypt. The government stated that the story was false. Mwanawasa died 47 days later from complications of the stroke.
Jayaprakash Narayan: while hospitalized in March 1979, the politician's death was erroneously announced by India's prime minister, causing a brief wave of national mourning, including the suspension of parliament and regular radio broadcasting, and closure of schools and shops. The mistake arose when the director of the Intelligence Bureau saw a body looking like Narayan being carried from hospital. Narayan died in October 1979.
Judd Nelson: On October 26, 2014, it was reported that the actor and Brat Pack member was found dead in his Los Angeles home. Nelson later took to Twitter with a recently printed newspaper to dispel such rumors.
Willie Nelson: On February 21, 2015, a fake news website reported that the legendary country singer had been found dead at his home. A similar hoax story surfaced in August of that year that proclaimed the same thing.
Alfred Nobel (arms manufacturer and founder of the Nobel Prize): in 1888, the death of his brother Ludvig caused several newspapers to publish obituaries of Alfred in error. A French obituary stated Le marchand de la mort est mort ("The merchant of death is dead") and that Nobel "became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before" through his invention of dynamite. This distressed Nobel, who was concerned that when he truly died he would not be remembered well. This event led him to bequeath the bulk of his estate to form the Nobel Prize in 1895. Nobel died in 1896.
Joseph Norton: the death of the 89-year-old University at Albany professor emeritus was incorrectly reported in the Summer 2007 edition of the university's alumni magazine. When asked whether he knew anyone who wanted him dead, Norton replied, "I haven't any idea. There might well be. I've been rather active in the gay world, which not everybody approves of." Norton died in 2011.
Ted Nugent (musician and activist) was falsely declared dead by fake news site The Last Line of Defense in May 2017.
Nicholas O'Connor: this Boston comedian spent months planting hints about a future suicide and then went missing. After over a week of having convinced his fans of his death, he made a dramatic public appearance, performed an album recording and then went on a sold out tour throughout the United States.
Grady O'Cummings: this civil rights activist and political candidate had his own obituary published in The New York Times and New York Amsterdam News in 1969. Four months later he held a news conference at which he stated that he had faked his own death due to threats against him and his family by members of the Black Panther Party. O'Cummings died on June 2, 1996.
Mark O'Shea: the television snake expert was reported killed by a 14-year-old King cobra which struck his foot at West Midland Safari Park, UK on August 19, 2012. The cobra, was being fed thawed rats when it stuck O'Shea's shoe, venom soaking into his sock and entered his system via abrasions on his foot, rather than through fang punctures. The symptoms were relatively mild but he was hospitalised as a precaution due to the high yield and toxicity of king cobra venom. He was discharged the following day.
Barack Obama: on July 4, 2011, a hacker collective called "The Script Kiddies" took control of Fox News's politics Twitter feed and posted that the incumbent President had been assassinated during a campaigning event in Iowa.
Hiroo Onoda: this Japanese soldier survived for decades in the Philippines jungle, believing that World War II had not ended. Onoda, with three other soldiers who accompanied him for some years, continued to fight the war, killing many local Filipinos. Although numerous attempts were made (e.g., by leaving leaflets) to persuade them that the war was over, every such effort was regarded as an enemy trick. Onoda – who was officially declared dead in 1959 – only gave himself up in 1974 when his commanding officer, who had long since retired from the military and become a bookseller, was sent to the island to order Onoda to surrender. He returned to Japan a national hero, and wrote a book No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Onoda died on January 16, 2014, at the age of 91.
Al Pacino: On May 10, 2015, a fake news website reported that the actor had been found dead in his home at the age of 75.
Valentin Paniagua (former Peruvian president): was reported dead by congressman Víctor Andrés García Belaúnde during a speech being made by Peru's Prime Minister Jorge Del Castillo to the Peruvian Congress in August 2006. 15 minutes later, Paniagua's attending physician announced that the former president had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit but was alive and recovering. He died in October 2006.
Eduardo Paolozzi: the artist's death was incorrectly reported in a magazine when he suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2001. He died in 2005.
John Partridge, an astrologer whose death Jonathan Swift (writing under a pseudonym) 'predicted' in a 1708 hoax almanac and later 'confirmed', prompting numerous anti-Partridge newspaper obituaries. (See also Titan Leeds.) He died in either 1714 or 1715.
Joe Paterno: The former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team from 1966 to 2011 had been hospitalized in serious condition for complications from lung cancer, a tweet by Pennsylvania State University's student blog Onward State on the evening of January 21, 2012, reported that Paterno had died. This information was picked up by CBS Sports, and other news outlets soon followed, while CBS eventually removed the story after members of the Paterno family denied the reports of Joe's death. Later that night, Onward State's managing editor Devon Edwards officially retracted the story, stating that "In this day and age, getting it first often conflicts with getting it right, but our intention was never to fall into that chasm. All I can do now is promise that in the future, we will exercise caution, restraint, and humility." Devon also announced that he would immediately resign from his position as managing editor for Onward State. Other reports at the time indicated Paterno had been taken off his respirator and given Last Rites, which the Paterno family also denied. Paterno died the next morning.
Sidney Patrick: an American who was allegedly taken on board a UFO in 1965, was incorrectly said to be dead by ufologist Timothy Good in his 1996 book Beyond Top Secret. Good corrected the mistake in a subsequent book.
Natalya Pavlova: this Lithuanian 27-year-old went missing in November 2007, and was declared dead a few weeks later when a body found in a forest was identified by her parents as hers. However, in January 2008 she turned up alive when she was arrested for shoplifting in the city of Klaipėda. It turned out that she had been living there with her boyfriend. It was not known who the dead woman was.
Pelé: the Brazilian soccer player was erroneously reported dead by a Twitter account linked to CNN's morning show, New Day, on March 28, 2014. The report was retracted after Pelé himself confirmed he was still alive.
Sean Penn: On January 12, 2016, Buzzfeed.net and Daily Media Buzz reported that the actor had been found murdered in his home.
Vuk Peric: a Serbian pensioner who put his own death notice in the newspaper in 1997 to see who would turn up to his funeral. After watching the funeral from a distance, he revealed himself and thanked everyone for attending.
Jim Pierce: this resident of Smackover, Arkansas was thought to have died in 1926 when a body identified as his by over 50 people was found in an empty railroad oil tank car. His son took the corpse back to Texas for burial, but was met there by Jim Pierce, very much alive. It was not clear who the dead man was.
Samy Pillai: a Malaysian man who was certified dead in June 2005 after his wrecked motorcycle was found near an unidentifiable body. In March 2007 it was discovered that he had in fact survived the accident when he was found 300 km away, partly paralysed and unable to speak; his identity was confirmed by thumbprints. It was not known what he had been doing in the intervening two years.
Tom Petty: After the musician was found unresponsive at his home on October 2, 2017, many news outlets had reported Petty's death before an official was given by either the family or authorities. Petty did ultimately die later that day.
Ray Price: Numerous media outlets, from Rolling Stone to the USA Today, reported the country music legend had died from cancer on December 15, 2013. The information came from Price's son, Cliff, who posted via Facebook his father's apparent passing, but it was later retracted, according to The Tennessean (which also published a news story on Price's death that was later removed). Price died the next day, with a family spokesman confirming the death.
Augie Ratner, a former featherweight boxer, published his own obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 1971. A skeptical Johnny Blood McNally called Ratner out on the bluff, and the two would later place a $1,000 bet, legally placed in each other's will, on who would survive longer. Ratner died in 1979, thus making McNally (who died in 1985) the winner.
Ronald Reagan (former US President), in the CNN.com incident. CNN also included fragments of Reagan's life history in a premature obituary of Fidel Castro in the same incident. Reagan died on June 5, 2004.
Lou Reed (musician), reported dead by numerous US radio stations in 2001, caused by a hoax email (purporting to be from Reuters) which said he had died of a drug overdose. Reed died on October 27, 2013.
Adam Rich: the television actor was reported to have been murdered in a 1996 tribute issue of Might magazine. It was all an elaborate hoax by the magazine's editor Dave Eggers in collusion with Rich, and was intended to satirize the media exploitation of stars who die young.
Diana Rodriguez: In November 2015, this Queens, New York woman was declared dead after having shot herself in a suicide attempt. It was later discovered that she was still breathing, but she did actually die several hours later.
Axl Rose: On December 3, 2014, a fake news report circulated on the internet claiming that the singer had been found dead at home. In response, Rose tweeted "If I'm dead do I still have to pay taxes?"
Raymond Roth, a 47-year-old man from Massapequa, New York, was reported missing on July 28, 2012, after having gone for a swim off Jones Beach. After an extensive search turned up nothing, Roth was initially presumed dead. He was found alive several few days later, apparently having faked his own death to claim on life insurance policies. Roth was arrested in March 2013, when he was arrested for impersonating a police officer and attempting to lure a woman into his van. He received a prison sentence for both crimes in April 2014.
Amnon Rubinstein, Israeli academic and retired politician, whose death was announced in 1999 by Knesset (parliamentary) speaker Avraham Burg following a hoax telephone call. Rubinstein was in hospital at the time for a minor complaint.
Austin Lee Russell, American television personality better known as Chumlee, was the victim of at least two death hoaxes. On May 14, 2013, a fake news article reported that Chumlee had died of a marijuana overdose. Another hoax article that surfaced in March 2014 claimed that he died of a heart attack.
Bertrand Russell: the philosopher was reported dead in the Japanese press in 1920 when he was suffering from pneumonia. Some sources say the reports were a deliberate form of revenge by Japanese journalists whom Russell had refused to meet due to his illness. His supposed death may also have been reported in The Times. (It is also sometimes said that by way of apology, The Times allowed Russell to pre-write his own obituary for publication on his actual death. But the obituary does not read as if it could be by him; the confusion may be that in 1937 he wrote an imaginary Times obituary for his own entertainment, which is briefly quoted at the end of his obituary in The New York Times.) Russell died in 1970.
Rock Musician Bob Seger, was the subject of a false obituary, after he was confused with folk music veteran Pete Seeger
Hugo Jose Sanchez This British father of four was a web developer for HMV and faked his death to claim £850,00 and get his family out of poverty. He was caught when a friend bought an Elvis CD, and used Sanchez's HMV discount. This sparked an investigation, and his life insurance company found Hugo's fingerprints on his own death certificate. Both him and his wife were subsequently arrested.
Gabe Saporta, the Uruguayan-born lead singer of the American pop-rock band Cobra Starship, was the subject of a death hoax in August 2008 that included a fake MTV News page and death certificate. Saporta debunked the rumor himself on his Myspace page.
Ben Savage, an American actor, was reported dead in a car accident in September 2006. The hoax report is believed to have originated on MySpace.
Terri Schiavo: a draft of the brain damaged patient's obituary accidentally appeared briefly on CBS's web site on March 28, 2005, in advance of her death. Schiavo died from starvation on March 31, 2005, after removal of her feeding tube on March 18, 2005.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (historian): his death was referred to in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on November 29, 2005. The newspaper retracted the reference on December 2, saying, "We are embarrassed but happy for Mr Schlesinger." Schlesinger died February 28, 2007.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: On August 28, 2015, it was reported that the actor had died from a heart attack at 68. The rumor originated with a fake news website.
Steven Seagal: This American actor was the subject of at least two death hoaxes. In May 2013, a fake Facebook page titled "R.I.P. Steven Seagal" fooled social media users, and another false report from August 2015 claimed that he died of a massive heart attack.
James Ford Seale, who took part in the 1964 Ku Klux Klan murder of two black hitchhikers in Mississippi, was found not far away in 2005 – despite newspapers including The Clarion-Ledger having reported him dead, apparently because Seale's family had said he was. Seale was located by the brother of one of the victims, and was convicted in 2007, having previously had all charges dropped when the case was originally investigated. Seale died on August 2, 2011.
Bob Seger: After the death of folk singer Pete Seeger on January 27, 2014, a number of confused Twitter and Facebook users posted tributes to rock singer Bob Seger instead. Others, apparently believing that Bob Seger was Pete Seeger's son, offered condolences to Bob on the loss of his father. The two singers were in fact of no known relation, and Bob Seger was very much alive and well.
William Seward After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, on April 15, 1865, many newspapers erroneously reported that William Seward and other members of Lincoln's cabinet had been killed, with the New York Herald reporting "Washington was thrown into intense excitement a few minutes before eleven o'clock this evening, by the announcement that the President and Secretary Seward had been assassinated and were dead." Seward died in 1872.
Rebekah Shelton, former Big Brother contestant, was reported to have died on January 12, 2018 following a message posted on her Twitter account. Shelton claimed the account had been hacked.
Sinbad (comedian) was the subject of a death hoax. On March 14, 2007, it was reported that the comedian had died of a heart attack. He later spoke with a reporter from the Associated Press about the hoax.
John Singleton, American director, was the subject of disputed death reports on April 29, 2019, five days after suffering a massive stroke. Singleton was taken off life support and died later that day.
Jaclyn Smith (Charlie's Angels actress & model) was reported to have shot herself in Honduras in 2009. The rumor began when a Honduran newspaper reported that her 'Angels' stunt double had shot herself, and several sites misread the news. Smith took to Twitter and Facebook to dispel the false reports. "Jaclyn is safe and home with her family. She is not in Honduras. It is a lie."
Mark E. Smith was erroneously reported dead by the BBC in March 2017 on his 60th birthday. Smith died in January 2018.
George Soros On April 18, 2013, Reuters reported that billionaire financier George Soros had died. The report, which was taken down after 30 minutes stated that "George Soros, who died XXX at age XXX, was a predatory and hugely successful financier and investor, who argued paradoxically for years against the same sort of free-wheeling capitalism that made him billions," and many other "less than flattering things" The Guardian reported. The report was quickly taken down, and Reuters soon released a statement saying "Reuters erroneously published an advance obituary of financier and philanthropist George Soros. A spokesman for Soros said that the New York-based financier is alive and well. Reuters regrets the error."
Britney Spears and then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake (musicians) were reported to have died in a car crash by two Texas DJs as a joke in 2001. The radio station (KEGL) was sued and the DJs were fired. The car crash story is thought to have originated as a rumour on the Internet. Spears was the victim of another death hoax on December 26, 2016, when someone hacked Sony Music's and Bob Dylan's Twitter account, and posted tweets claiming that she had died.
Sylvester Stallone: The actor was subject to an Internet death hoax on September 3, 2016. In February 2018, with another hoax circulating, he posted to Instagram that he was alive.
Ronald Stan: In 1977, this 32-year-old Canadian man mysteriously vanished. It was speculated that he may have died in a fire, and he was officially declared dead in 1986. However, in 2014, investigators found that Stan was alive and residing in Oklahoma under the name Jeff Walton. Relatives reported that Stan had a wife and children in Canada at the time of his disappearance, but in the intervening years he had apparently married another woman and started a family. His Oklahoman relatives reported that they had no knowledge of his previous identity. However, in a bizarre twist, at least one Canadian relative claimed to have known that Stan was alive all this time, and was shocked to learn that he had been declared dead. Stan's motive for disappearing was not immediately known.
Randall L. Stephenson: On July 26, 2009, the AT&T CEO was falsely reported as having died after falling into a coma following a massive cocaine binge during a party at his mansion. The report originated from CNN's iReport website, although it was later taken down. Although the hackers who created the false report have never been identified, it is suspected that they were 4chan users who did the hack in retaliation for AT&T's decision to block the site for its broadband customers, a decision which had been provoked by an earlier denial-of-service attack against one of AT&T's customers that originated from a 4chan user. Access to 4chan on AT&T broadband services has since been restored.
John Stonehouse MP: in 1974 the British politician faked his own suicide (by drowning in Miami) in order to escape financial difficulties and marry his mistress. He was subsequently discovered in Australia – where initially police thought he might be Lord Lucan – and imprisoned. Stonehouse died April 14, 1988.
Red Storey: the Canadian football player and ice hockey referee was reported dead by a Montreal radio station in the 1970s when a Montreal Star employee misheard another saying "Red's story is dead" (referring to sports editor Red Fisher). The employee told his wife, who phoned the radio station – which then broadcast the 'news' without checking it. Storey died on March 15, 2006.
Sven-Olof Svensson: this 81-year-old Swedish man was reported dead in 2014 by the Jonkopings-Posten after his sister reported his death when he was taken into the hospital "unwell".
Dave Swarbrick: the folk musician's obituary was published in the Daily Telegraph in April 1999 after he was admitted to hospital with a chest infection, prompting the quip: "It's not the first time I have died in Coventry." Swarbrick died in 2016.
Mark Twain: "The report of my death was an exaggeration".
Shashi Tharoor: Times Now tweeted that the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor has died on December 12, 2017, after the death of actor and producer Shashi Kapoor. Tharoor tweeted in response "We're getting condolence calls in the office! Reports of my demise are, if not exaggerated, at least premature."
Margaret Thatcher: Text-message reports of Baroness Thatcher's death caused a stir at a 2009 Canadian political event, and officials in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office were preparing to issue a statement of condolence, until it was determined that the deceased Thatcher in question was actually Transport Minister John Baird's cat. Thatcher actually died on April 8, 2013.
Mark Twain: American author, was reported dead twice:
In 1897 when a journalist was sent to inquire after Twain's health, thinking he was near death; in fact it was his cousin who was very ill. Although (contrary to popular belief) no obituary was published, Twain recounted the event in the New York Journal of June 2, 1897, including his famous words "The report of my death was an exaggeration" (which is usually misquoted, e.g. as "The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated", or "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated").
On May 4, 1907, when people lost track of a yacht he was traveling on, The New York Times published an article saying he might have been lost at sea. In fact, the yacht had been held up by fog, and Twain had disembarked. Twain read the article, and cleared up the story by writing a humorous account in The New York Times the following day.
Twain died in 1910.
Ishinosuke Uwano: in April 2006 this Japanese soldier, missing since World War II, was found to be living in Ukraine aged 83, where he had married and had a family. He had been officially declared dead in 2000. At the end of the war he had remained in the Soviet Union for unknown reasons; he said the Soviet government subsequently prevented him contacting his Japanese relatives. Following his discovery he visited Japan for the first time in over 60 years; he could remember little of Japan and had even largely forgotten how to speak Japanese.
Erroneous reports of the death of Abe Vigoda became a running joke
Paul Vance, composer of the song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini", was reported dead in September 2006 by Associated Press, followed by the rest of the media. The reports even caused racehorses owned by Vance to be scratched from races. In fact the dead man was a former salesman and painting contractor called Paul Van Valkenburgh, who had told his wife he had written the song many years earlier under the stage name Paul Vance. When pursued by an Associated Press reporter immediately after the scam was discovered, the impostor's widow, who had not yet been provided with evidence of her late husband's wrongdoing, said she was not certain whether it was Vance or her husband who had really written the song.
Abe Vigoda (actor): in 1982, People magazine referred to him as 'the late Abe Vigoda'. He then posed for a photograph showing him sitting up in a coffin, holding the magazine in question. The same mistake was made in 1987 when a reporter for television station WWOR, Channel 9 in Secaucus, New Jersey, mistakenly referred to him as "the late Abe Vigoda". She realized and corrected her mistake the next day. Vigoda claims that during the 1980s, the widespread belief that he was dead cost him work. Erroneous reports of Vigoda's death became something of a running joke, such as in television sketches, through the rest of Vigoda's life (further aided by Vigoda's longevity, as he would live to be 94 years old). The website "Abe Vigoda Status" featured nothing but a smiling photo of Vigoda, a live clock calibrated to the day and second, and the advisory "Abe Vigoda is..." followed by the up-to-the-minute information of "alive" until he actually died in 2016, whereupon the website went offline due to the number of requests, then eventually returned with the update that Vigoda was indeed dead.
American actress Betty White has been the subject of a premature obituary on two occasions
Matthew Wall: On October 2, 1571, a pallbearer dropped his coffin on the way to the funeral, waking him up. His 'resurrection' is still celebrated each year in Braughing, Hertfordshire.
Elsie Waring: in 1963, this 35-year-old was certified dead by three doctors at Willesden General Hospital, London. Several hours later she gasped and started breathing while being lifted into her coffin.
William James Wanless, a Canadian medical doctor who worked as a missionary in India, was reported dead there in 1922. Wanless actually continued to serve in India until his retirement in 1928, and he died at home in California in 1933.
Kate Webb: in 1971 the journalist was part of a group captured in the Cambodian jungle by North Vietnamese troops. Official reports claimed that a body that had been found and cremated was hers, and a box of bones said to be hers was delivered to Reuters. The New York Times published an obituary. She emerged from captivity over three weeks later, having endured forced marches, interrogations, and two strains of malaria. Webb died in 2007.
Harry Delyne Weed, the inventor of Weed non-skid tire chains, was reported dead in numerous publications (including Time magazine and the New York Herald Tribune) in 1927 after a reporter for the Jackson, MichiganCitizen Patriot wrote that the recently deceased Mrs. Alice Weed from Jackson had been the inventor's widow. It later emerged that Alice Weed was no relation, and that both the inventor and his wife were alive and well.
Kanye West: was the subject of an Internet hoax news report on October 20, 2009, claiming that he had been killed in a car crash. The rumor quickly spread via social networking websites such as Twitter, prompting West's then-girlfriend Amber Rose to respond "This 'RIP Kanye West' topic is not funny and it's NOT TRUE!"
Darene Springs Weston: In December 2015, this 43-year-old woman from Chester, South Carolina used forged documents in an attempt to declare herself dead so that she could avoid going to jail on drunk driving charges. After an investigation, she was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.
Alan Whicker (journalist), while reporting on the Korean War. He was flying with an aerial spotter in a Piper Aztec plane behind enemy lines, as part of a story. Although his plane landed safely, a similar craft was shot down on the same day, and was assumed to be Whicker's plane. The resulting newspaper obituary commented on his lack of achievement (Whicker then being far less well-known than he is now). He died on July 12, 2013.
Betty White (actress and comedian): On September 3, 2014, a story from the Empire News Network (which typically publishes outright hoaxes) reported that White, at 92, "dyed comfortably in her Los Angeles home"; the article went on to describe White's longtime use of hair dye. The headline was deliberately written as a pun to appear as if it were an obituary, which confused many and led her agent to clarify that she is still alive. White, at the time, was filming episodes for the TV series Hot in Cleveland, on which she was a regular cast member.
Slim Whitman: the country singer was reported dead in January 2008 by a radio DJ and by the Nashville Tennessean's website, apparently sparked by rumours he had died. "It seems like every 10 years something weird happens like that", he said; in a previous strange incident, a song of Whitman's was used to repel invading aliens in the film Mars Attacks! Whitman died in June 2013.
Maurice Williams: After the husband of writer John Steinbeck's literary agent was reported to have died when his plane was shot down in flames over Germany during World War II, Steinbeck wrote an effusive obituary which was published in the New York Herald Tribune and widely syndicated. However, Williams had survived the crash, and had been rescued and spirited away by the French underground, which eventually returned him to his air corps unit in England.
Philip Williams: in June 1982, this British soldier was knocked unconscious by an explosion during the Battle of Mount Tumbledown in the Falklands War, and left for dead. When he came to, the rest of the British soldiers had gone. Williams' parents were informed of his 'death' and a memorial service held for him. It took him nearly two months to find his way back to civilisation, braving extreme weather. He was then criticized by the media and fellow soldiers, who accused him of desertion.
Rich Williams, guitarist in the band Kansas, whose obituary was published in a number of New England newspapers after the death of Eric de Boer of Kingston, New Hampshire. de Boer had been impersonating Williams for decades, claiming that after returning from Vietnam (where he had been held as a POW) he had joined Kansas, using the name "Rich Williams" as a stage name. The real Williams wrote in an e-mail sent to The Topeka Capital-Journal that he had known about the impersonation for five years and thought it was "really wacky stuff", but added that he respected de Boer for his service in Vietnam. It was later discovered that there was no evidence that de Boer had ever been in the military, let alone that he had been a Vietnam POW.
Walter Williams: On February 26, 2014, this 78-year-old Mississippi man was declared dead by a hospice nurse. This was confirmed by the county coroner, and Williams' body was placed in a body bag and brought to a funeral home for embalming. However, funeral home workers noticed movement in the bag. They called for an ambulance, and paramedics confirmed that Williams had a pulse and was breathing. He was transported to a hospital where he began to recover, much to the delight of all involved. Williams actually died of natural causes just over two weeks later, on March 13.
Ken Williamson, an Olympic track-and-field judge, collapsed outside Madison Square Garden in 2004 from a heart attack, and was said by officials and a colleague to have died. However, he was revived with a defibrillator and taken to hospital.
Robert Anton Wilson was reported dead in February 1994 in a hoax story that purported to be an obituary published in the Los Angeles Times, circulated on the Internet by a prankster in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Wilson then wrote an essay titled "I Got Run Over on the Information Superhighway", which was published in his next book Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death. In reality Wilson continued living until 2007.
Jesse Winchester: the songwriter was prematurely reported dead by several sources on April 7, 2014. He was in fact gravely ill, and died on April 11.
Bernie Wint: This American thought the police were after him and wanted to arrest him on drug charges, and faked his death while on a honeymoon in Daytona Beach, Florida in September 1989. Wint was missing and presumed dead for 20 years, leaving his fiancé and four-year-old son behind. Twenty years later, he was pulled over for not having a light bulb in his licence plate, and subsequently confessed. While he was living under a false identity, he remarried and had another child.
Norman Wisdom: the British comedian was reported dead by Sky News on December 28, 2008, with a pre-prepared video obituary having been accidentally published. Wisdom died on October 4, 2010.
John Wooden: an online picture gallery of the legendary basketball coach on The Washington Post's website on June 3, 2010, was headlined "John Wooden dies at 99". Wooden was at the time hospitalized in grave condition, and he died the next day.
Paltan Yadav was officially declared dead in 1980 by relatives in order to steal his land in Uttar Pradesh, India. Rendered penniless and unable to afford to marry, he became a holy man. After years of legal delays, his 'death' was only annulled in 1999 after intervention by the Association of the Dead, an organisation that protests such cases. (See also Lal Bihari.)
Shoichi Yokoi: trapped on Guam when U.S. troops recaptured it near the end of World War II, this Japanese soldier lived in a cave in the jungle until 1972, believing that the war had not ended and that leaflets reporting Japan's surrender were enemy propaganda. He had been reported killed in action. On his return home, Yokoi was treated as a national hero for his extreme tenacity and loyalty. However, he felt he had not served the Emperor and army adequately, saying "It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive" – which instantly became a popular saying in Japan. Yokoi's experiences enabled him to become a television commentator on survival skills. His discovery also prompted a search for other missing Japanese soldiers such as Hiroo Onoda. He died in 1997.
Mae Young, a professional wrestler, was incorrectly reported dead by TMZ and pro-wrestling news websites on January 9, 2014. She was in fact gravely ill, and she died on January 14, 2014.
Neil Young, musician, has been the subject of several false death reports:
In February 1979, Young's manager Elliot Roberts stated he had twice had to deal with reports of Young's death. "One time his father called me. Said that he'd read in the AP that Neil died and was it true. Another time Warner Brothers called me and said was there any truth to Neil's demise in Paris. Both times they were 'drug accidents.'" "Right," says Young. "I was traveling on the highway and was hit by a huge drug truck."
In the 1975 comedy LP Goodbye Pop 1952–1976 issued by The National Lampoon, there is a fake obituary for Neil Young in the track "A History of Neil Young", which is, in turn, part of a set of short fake documentary segments, "The History of Rock And Roll." "Poor Neil, dead as a doorknob", the presenter laments, while speculating, "Could it have been a drug overdose?" In closing, the presenter notes that Young's death "...is a great loss to both rock and roll."
Lotfi A. Zadeh: Zadeh, an Iranian-Azerbaijani mathematician and computer scientist was incorrectly reported to have died in August 2017. His alma mater, the University of Tehran, wrote an obituary while he was in ill health at the age of 95, and withdrew it. He died a month later.
Louis Zamperini: Zamperini and his colleagues were declared dead in absentia in 1944, a year after their airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Zamperini and two others survived the crash and found their way to the Marshall Islands only to be taken prisoner by Japanese war criminal Mutsuhiro Watanabe. Only after the islands were liberated was Zamperini discovered to be alive. Zamperini lived until 2014.
The CNN.com incident
CNN's obituary of Dick Cheney, identifying him as the "UK's favorite grandmother".
Some of these obituaries contained fragments taken from others, particularly from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's obituary, which had apparently been used as a template. Dick Cheney for example was described as the "UK's favorite grandmother", the site noted the Pope's 'love of racing', and described Castro as "lifeguard, athlete, movie star" (a reference to Ronald Reagan). Although the Queen Mother was already dead, in an unrelated incident she had previously received a premature obituary of her own.
Premature obituaries in fiction
In William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Juliet avoids an arranged marriage by ingesting a potion that temporarily causes her to appear dead. Upon the discovery of her apparent death, she is laid to rest in her family crypt. Romeo, believing that Juliet has actually died, then kills himself by drinking poison. Juliet soon awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself to death with Romeo's dagger.
In Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour", protagonist Louise Mallard is informed that her husband has been killed in a train crash. The husband eventually comes home alive and well, and the shock causes Mrs. Mallard to die of a heart attack.
In the young adult novel The Westing Game, written by Ellen Raskin, a reclusive businessman named Sam Westing fakes his own death by leaving a fake corpse in his house. He assumes three different new identities at various times (and later fakes the death of one of them) before actually dying several years later.
In an episode of Touched by an Angel entitled "Family Business", a husband and wife on the eve of their 35th wedding anniversary are informed that their estranged son named Buddy has been killed in a car accident. However, Buddy shows up to his own funeral alive. It soon emerges that he has been the victim of a robbery, and the deceased man is actually the person who stole his wallet and car.
^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Wilonsky, Robert, "Reports of country legend Ray Price's death have been premature", Dallas Morning News, December 15, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013
^Cooper, Peter, "Ray Price, famed for his country shuffle, dies at 87", USA Today, December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2013 
I Faked My Own Death is a documentary-miniseries on the Discovery Channel, originally aired on September 3, 2011, Three hour-long episodes were aired on Saturday nights for three weeks. The final episode was shown on 17 September 2011.
Premature burial, also known as live burial, burial alive, or vivisepulture, means to be buried while still alive.
Animals or humans may be buried alive accidentally on the mistaken assumption that they are dead, or intentionally as a form of torture, murder, or execution. It may also occur with consent of the victim as a part of a stunt, with the intention to escape.
Fear of being buried alive is reported to be among the most common phobias.
Ralph P. Neves (August 26, 1916 – May 8, 1936 – July 7, 1995; see below) was an American Hall of Fame jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing. Born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Neves won 3,772 races, including 173 stakes, and was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1960. His long career was interrupted only by several injuries and service in the United States Army Cavalry during World War II; a serious back injury suffered in the war bothered him during the rest of his career. He retired in 1964.
In the early part of his career Neves rode at Santa Anita Park and Longacres Racetrack. By the mid-1930s, he was considered one of the top west coast riders, known for his cocky self-confidence.
Titan Leeds (1699–1738) was an 18th-century American almanac publisher.
Titan Leeds, was a Philadelphia based publisher of The American Almanack. Mentioned as a "good friend and fellow student" of Benjamin Franklin's, in Franklin's rival publication Poor Richard's Almanack. Titan's father, Daniel Leeds, was a devout Quaker who fell out with the local Quaker community when he began publishing the almanac in 1687. Daniel Leeds turned over publication to his son, Titan, in 1716. The American Almanack pre-dated Franklin's almanac. Franklin used the first edition of his almanac to promote the hoax prediction of Leeds's death (Oct. 17, 1733, 3:29 P.M., at the very instant of the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury), and encouraged his readers to buy next year's edition of Poor Richard's Almanac to see if Franklin was right as a publicity stunt and attempt to drive Titan Leed's American Almanack out of business. When the date of Leeds' supposed passing had come and gone, Franklin published Leeds' obituary anyway. When challenged by the very much alive Leeds, Franklin insisted that Leeds had in fact died, but that he was being impersonated by an inferior publisher. When Leeds actually died in 1738 Benjamin Franklin publicly commended the impostors for ending their charade.
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