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List of premature obituaries

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Title: List of premature obituaries  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Death hoax, Featured list candidates/List of premature obituaries/archive1, Imminent death of Wikipedia predicted, Titan Leeds, Katharine Sergava
Collection: Acknowledgements of Death, Death-Related Lists, Journalism Lists
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

List of premature obituaries

Pope John Paul II was the subject of three premature obituaries.

A premature obituary is an obituary published whose subject is not actually deceased at the time of publication. Examples of premature obituaries range from that of arms manufacturer Alfred Nobel, whose premature obituary condemning him as a "merchant of death" may have caused him to create the Nobel Prize,[1] to black nationalist Marcus Garvey, whose actual death was apparently caused by reading his own obituary.[2]

This article only lists the recipients of incorrect death reports (not just formal Internet Movie Database; but not mere rumours of deaths, nor 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.


Each premature obituary listed below has one of the following causes (where the cause is known):

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Faked death: when the subject fakes his own death in order to evade legal, financial, or marital difficulties and start a new life.
  • 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 remote jungle for years or even decades, believing that the war had not ended.
  • Misunderstandings: such as when a Sky News employee thought that an internal 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; the deceased person is not.


  • Ali Hassan al-Majid was supposed dead in April 2003 (2003-04), 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 (2007) for war crimes.[4] He was hanged on 25 January 2010.
  • Anthony John Allen, a serial criminal, faked his own suicide by drowning off Beachy Head (Britain's most notorious suicide spot) in 1966 (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 (2002) he was jailed for life for having murdered his wife and children in 1975.[5]
  • Rex Alston, the retired BBC sports commentator, garnered the unusual distinction of having his marriage announced in The Times after his obituary when that paper updated the sportsman's internal obituary file and accidentally published it in 1985 (1985). Alston, who was 84 at the time, lived for another nine years until his actual death in 1994 at the age of 93.[6]
  • U. R. Ananthamurthy, the famous Indian (Kannada) writer and intellectual, was declared dead by the news channels in the morning of 22 August 2014. The 82-year old writer was undergoing treatment for various diseases at that time, and was in a critical stage. Later, the news was claimed to be fake. Ananthamurthy died later the same day.
  • Mala Aravindan, famous Indian (Malayalam) film actor, was declared dead by the news channels on 22 January 2015, while he was undergoing treatment for a heart attack which he suffered during a film shooting. The news came after some reports that he suffered another heart attack after an operation, and his condition was very critical. But within minutes, the news was claimed to be fake. Aravindan's condition later had a slight improvement, but it worsened again and he died on 28 January 2015, less than a week later.
  • Steve Augeri: In November 2012, someone altered his WorldHeritage article to state that the singer had died of a massive heart attack.[7] After receiving numerous phone calls, text messages, and e-mails, Augeri issued a statement via Facebook assuring people that he was alive and well.[8]
  • Rowan Atkinson, an English actor, was the subject of fake death reports on the internet in November 2013 and again in August 2015. In both cases, the reports were spread via social media.[9]


  • William Baer, a New York University professor, was declared dead by his New York Times obituary in May 1942 as a hoax by his students.[10][11]
    Luca Barbareschi.
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13][14]
  • Sabine Baring-Gould, English author, had his obituary published in The New York Times on June 5, 1906;[15] Baring-Gould died in 1924.
  • 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.[16]
  • Edward Bartlett was reported in the 1934 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack to have died "about February" the previous year. In fact, he lived until 21 December 1976 (1976-12-21).[17]
  • John Basedow was reported by PRWeb to be have died in Thailand due to the tsunami resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake; the story was quickly retracted.[18]
  • Charles Baudelaire, a French poet, was reported to have died by Paris newspapers in April 1866, after suffering a massive stroke while in Belgium.[19] Though the obituaries were incorrect at the time, he died soon after, on August 31, 1867.
  • Mayim Bialik: according to the 2008 book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths, Bialik was once the subject of a premature obituary. However, no further details are given.[20]
  • 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.[21][22]
  • Paul Blais, a US Air Force senior airman, was listed as one of 19 people believed killed in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. However, it transpired that he was alive, though in a coma, having been confused with another airman who had died.[23]
  • 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.[24]
  • 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.[25] 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,[26] triggering an on-air outburst by ABC News anchor Frank Reynolds when the information was revealed incorrect.[27] This led to greater subsequent caution about issuing death reports during rapidly developing situations.[28] Brady died on August 4, 2014.
  • Rodger Bumpass (voice actor), reported in August 2006 to have died during heart surgery, by Jonesboro, Arkansas station KAIT, the Internet Movie Database, and Arkansas State University's newsletter.[29]
  • 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 apparently 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.[30]
  • Pat Burns (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.
  • Steve Burns, host of children's show Blues Clues, was rumored to have died from a drug overdose in 1998; others claimed that Burns was struck and killed by a car. Burns went on The Rosie O'Donnell Show to debunk those rumors.[31]
  • WBAP-AM/WBAP-FM, due to a false tip. At the time, Bush was in intensive care recovering from illness.[32] The German magazine Der Spiegel erroneously published a draft obituary for Bush on December 30, 2012, during his recovery from the same illness.[33] 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.[34]
  • Either George H. W. Bush or [35]


Fidel Castro, inaccurately described by CNN as 'lifeguard, athlete, movie star'.
  • Janelle Cahoon: in December 2005, the Duluth News Tribune claimed that the Benedictine nun'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".[36]
  • Mark Calaway (Professional wrestler better known as The Undertaker) On April 17, 2014, rumors claimed that Callaway was found dead in his Texas home.[37]
  • 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.[38]
  • 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.[39]
  • 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.[40]
  • Fidel Castro (Cuban leader) in the incident. The draft obituary, which had used Ronald Reagan's as a template, described Castro as 'lifeguard, athlete, movie star'.
  • Whitney Cerak (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 VanRyn 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, VanRyn started making strange comments and using names wrongly; her university roommate also reported that she did not appear to be VanRyn. 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 VanRyn's somewhat similar appearance, and confusion at the crash scene.[41][42] Cerak co-wrote a book about her experience titled Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope.[43]
  • Joshua Chamberlain (American Civil War officer and Governor of Maine): when he was shot through the hip and groin in the 1864 Siege of Petersburg, he was thought to be on the point of death, and so was reported dead by at least one newspaper (perhaps The New York Times). However, he gradually recovered in hospital. Chamberlain was shown the newspaper report 'when they thought he was able to take it', and reportedly 'got a great kick out of seeing his obituary'.[44] He died in 1914.[45]
  • Dick Cheney (US Vice-President) in the incident. The draft obituary, which had been based on the Queen Mother's, described Cheney as 'Queen Consort' and the 'UK's favorite grandmother'.
  • Francesca Ciardi: see Luca Barbareschi
  • Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer, had his obituary published by the G.R.A.A. (Goddard Retirees and Alumni Association) newsletter in 2000 (April). The obituary says he died on 10 February 2000, and even specifies the cause of death as pulmonary fibrosis.[46] To date, no correction seems to have been published. Clarke died in 2008 of "respiratory complications and heart failure".[47]
  • Kurt Cobain: the rock musician was reported dead by CNN (though was in fact in a coma) after an overdose in Rome in March 1994, shortly before his actual death in April.[48]
  • 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.[49] Coleridge died in 1834.[50]
  • Jeffrey Combs: (actor) was confused with a businessman named Jeffrey Coombs who was aboard hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. Combs the actor was pronounced dead by news media outlets and had to announce publicly that he was still alive.
  • Sean Connery: (actor) in an October 25, 1993 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, Connery described recent reports of his death as a result of confusion over the then-recent death of former Texas governor John Connally as well as rumours that Connery had recently undergone treatment for throat cancer.[51]
  • 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 until his actual death five years later.[52]
  • Russell Crowe: the actor was reported as dead on a Z-100 broadcast in New York City on June 10, 2010; this was later refuted by a representative for the actor.[53]
  • Johan Cruyff: widely considered the best ever Dutch football player, his death was falsely reported when De Volkskrant accidentally uploaded a test version of their mobile website.[54]
  • 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 was 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.[55]
  • 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".[56]
  • Miley Cyrus: On September 5, 2008, a false Reuters article spread around the web claiming that Miley Cyrus 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.[57][58] 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.[59] On September 3, 2013, messages began circulating on Facebook claiming that entertainer Miley Cyrus has committed suicide due to "traumatic stress".[37]


  • 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 8 June 2007.[60][61][62]
  • 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 on 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. (See John Darwin disappearance case for full details.)[63]
  • Calvin Demarest: 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.[64][65]
  • 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.[66]
Graffiti on Fats Domino's home from his rumored death during Hurricane Katrina.
  • Lord Desborough in 1920, when The Times confused the British politician with Lord Bessborough.[67] Lord Desborough died in 1945.
  • Jhulri Devi was officially declared dead in 1974 and chased off her farm by relatives in order to steal her land in Lal Bihari.)[21][68]
  • Joe DiMaggio (baseball player), 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.[69] DiMaggio died in March 1999.
  • Ronnie James Dio (singer) was erroneously reported dead in the early morning hours of May 16, 2010, by A retraction was soon issued, but Dio was in fact suffering from stomach cancer and died later that morning.[70][71][72]
  • Celine Dion On October 24, 2013, circulating messages were designed like news headlines claiming that Celine Dion died.[37]
  • Fats Domino (musician) was thought drowned during the Hurricane Katrina flooding that affected his Ninth Ward, New Orleans, neighborhood. After a few days, Domino reappeared, saying that he had evacuated to a friend's home in Baton Rouge.[73]
  • Kirk Douglas (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.[74]
  • Ian Dury (musician), 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 paper NME to call Geldof "the world's worst DJ".[75] Dury died in March 2000.


  • Harry Elionsky, it was reported on October 13, 1918 that he had died during the 1918 flu pandemic. Several reference books still list his death in 1918 as fact such as: "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.[76]
  • 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.[77] 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 incident.) The Queen Mother died on 30 March 2002.
  • Queen Elizabeth II's death was announced on BBC Radio West Midlands 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."[78]
  • Marjorie Halcrow Erskine (also known as Marjorie Elphinstone): having presumably been declared dead, this resident of Chirnside (possibly Ardtannies), Scotland was presumed dead and buried in 1674 in a shallow grave by a sexton, who returned later to steal her jewellery. When he tried to cut off her finger to remove a ring, she revived and let out a groan when robbers tried to steal it. They fled, and she walked home.[79]
  • Nora Ephron: the American writer, who was in poor health, was falsely declared dead in a report from gossip columnist Liz Smith on June 26, 2012.[80] Ephron died later that day.
  • David Ervine: the Northern Irish politician suffered a heart attack and brain haemorrhage on 7 January 2007. The RTÉ News at 9pm led with the news that he had died, correcting the error later in the bulletin. RTÉ's web site also reported him dead. Ervine died the following afternoon.[81]


  • Frederick Fane, cricketer, reported in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1956 edition as having died on 9 December 1954. The 1961 edition reported his real death, aged 85, on 27 November 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."[82][83]
  • Frederick John Fane (cricketer),[84] father of Frederick Fane (see above). According to Wisden 1961, he too suffered a premature obituary, though no details were given.
  • 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.[85] Fay died in November 2003.
  • Freddy Fender (Tex-Mex musician) was falsely reported dead in a 2001 report from Billboard. Fender laughed off the false report at the time.[86] Fender died in 2006.
  • Will Ferrell (comedian), reported by iNewswire to have died in a paragliding accident in March 2006. The press release was a hoax; Ferrell had never been paragliding.[87]
  • 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.[88][89]
  • 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.[90]
  • Gerald Ford (former US President) in the incident. Ford died in December 2006.
  • Matt Frewer: according to the 2008 book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths, Frewer was once the subject of a premature obituary. However, no further details are given.[91]


Marcus Garvey died after reading his own obituary.
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor: In early 2011, many websites, including her WorldHeritage page[92] 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.
  • 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.[93]
  • Marcus Garvey: after suffering a stroke in January 1940 (1940-01), the black nationalist read his obituary in the Chicago Defender which described him as "broke, alone and unpopular". Apparently as a result, Garvey suffered a second stroke and died.[2]
  • 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".[94]
  • Ghazali Shafie, then Foreign Minister of Malaysia, was reported by the New York Times to have died in an aeroplane crash in 1982. Ghazali had in fact survived the crash, read his obituaries, and lived until 2010.[95][96]
  • Gabrielle Giffords: A member of the United States House of Representatives, Giffords was one of numerous people shot during a meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, 2011.[97] Giffords sustained a serious gunshot wound to the head, but was not one of the six people immediately killed by the attack.[97] NPR erroneously reported that she had been killed, however, and that report was picked up and circulated by numerous other media outlets, including CNN,[98] Fox News Channel,[98] the New York Times,[98] and Reuters.[99]
  • Cookie Gilchrist: Gilchrist, a former fullback in the Canadian Football League and American Football League, was presumed dead by his hospice worker on January 8, 2011, and reported the news to his nephew, Thomas Gilchrist. However, upon laying him down, Cookie was revived. Gilchrist died two days later.[100]
  • 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.[101]
  • Jeff Goldblum: On June 25, 2009 — the same day actress Farrah Fawcett and musician Michael Jackson died — actor Jeff Goldblum was reported dead on Australia's Channel Nine news. The report was quickly debunked, and traced back to a hoax website.[102]
  • 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, by extraordinary coincidence, 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.[103]
  • 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.[104] 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.[105]
  • 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.[106]
  • Robert Graves: the writer was left for dead in 1916 after receiving life-threatening injuries at the Battle of the Somme. He made a remarkable recovery, and read a report of his death in The Times.[107] Graves died in 1985.
  • 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.[108][109]
  • 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.[110]
  • 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).[111] 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.[112]
  • 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.[113]


  • 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.[114]
  • 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.[115]
  • Ernest Hemingway: after the author and his wife Mary Welsh Hemingway 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.[116] Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in 1961.[117] 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.[118] The real Bill Henry died in 2014.
  • Michael Heseltine MP in 1994, when then-DJ Chris Morris implied on BBC Radio 1 (as a prank) that the British politician had died. This led to an on-air tribute by fellow MP Jerry Hayes (during which Morris managed to make Hayes laugh inappropriately), and Morris' subsequent suspension. (See also Jimmy Savile.)[119]
  • 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.[120]
  • 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."[121]
  • 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."[122]
  • Lena Horne: in 2008, Entertainment Weekly online posted a premature obituary for the singer-actress.[123] Horne died on May 9, 2010.
  • Bob Hope, twice (aided by his great longevity). In both cases a pre-written obituary of the entertainer was accidentally published on a news web site:
  1. In 1998 his obituary appeared on the Associated Press web site, leading to the announcement of his death in the United States House of Representatives, broadcast live on C-SPAN.[124][125]
  2. In the 2003 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 2 October 2008, and withdrawn in a subsequent issue.[126] 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 September 12, 2001.[127] Houston died February 11, 2012.
  • Humphrey, the Downing Street cat (or 'Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office') under Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair, was feared dead on two occasions:
  1. 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."[128]
  2. 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.[129] Humphrey's actual death was announced by Tony Blair March 2006.[130]
  • 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.[131]


  • 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.[132]
  • Pope John Paul II:
  • 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.[28]
  • In 2003, by CNN again, this time in the incident. The draft obituary, which had used the Queen Mother's as a template, noted the Pope's 'love of racing'.
  • On the day of his official (and actual) death on April 2, 2005, Fox News confirmed he had died after it received incorrect reports from the Italian media that his ECG had gone flat.[133]
  • 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.[134]
  • James Earl Jones: in 1998 the actor was mistakenly pronounced dead during a radio broadcast of a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game by play-by-play announcer Lanny Frattare. Frattare had confused him with James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King's assassin, who had recently died.[135][136][137] Jones was also the subject of an internet death hoax in August 2015, when a parody website posted news of his "death" which quickly spread via social media.[138]
  • 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.[139]
  • Steve Jobs: On 27 August 2008 Bloomberg accidentally published a 17-page obituary. In a subsequent public appearance Jobs joked about the accident by displaying on screen during a keynote an imprecise quotation of Mark Twain (who was also the recipient of a premature obituary) reading "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".[140][141] Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011, at the age of 56.


  • 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.)[21]
  • Kanaka: this famous South Indian film actress was leading a life away from limelight when there occurred fake reports that she was suffering from cancer, and was undergoing treatment in Alappuzha medical college, on 25 July 2013. Five days later, on 30 July 2013, there came news that Kanaka died that morning after a long battle with cancer. Many news channels reported this news, and social media users paid homage to her. However, around 6 o'clock in the evening, she called a press conference to prove that she was alive and well. Some days later, there came reports that she faked her death, but nothing was proven.
  • George Kaye: in November 2005, the Irish musician was reported dead by The Daily Mirror following a plane crash.[142]
  • 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.[143] 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.[144] Singh actually died of natural causes at the age of 99 on March 20, 2014.
  • Michael "Corporal" Kirchner, former professional wrestler, was reported dead in an article at on 15 October 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.[145]
  • K. Karunakaran (Indian politician, former Chief Minister of Kerala, India): reportedly dead on 12 November 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.[146]
  • 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.[147]
  • Larry Kramer: in December 2001, the gay rights activist was reported dead by Associated Press following a liver transplant.[148]
  • Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam: the well known Indian scientist and former President of India, who was known as 'the Missileman of India', due to his contributions in making missiles, was mistaken to be dead by Neera Yadav, the education minister of the Indian state of Jharkhand, during a science exhibition in a school on 20 July 2015. The controversy came because Kalam's photo was decorated with a garland, citing that he was still alive at this period, and only the photos of dead people are usually garlanded in India. However, Kalam survived this incident only for a week, and died during a speech at IIM, Shillong, on 27 July 2015.
  • Salim Kumar: this Malayalam film actor, who is well known for his comic roles and also won a national award for best actor, was reported dead at least five times on social media between 2012 and 2015. A major example was on 6 January 2015, when there came false reports that the actor had died after suffering from a heart attack. Within an hour, the news was declared to be fake by Nadirshah, an actor-cum-singer and close friend of Salim Kumar. Nadirshah said that he had spoken to Salim Kumar just minutes earlier.


Lee Kuan Yew a Death hoax website reported false news of Lee's death.
  • 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.[149]
  • 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.[150] 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.[151]
  • 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.[152]
  • 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.
  • Lee Kuan Yew, also known as LKY, first Prime Minister of Singapore. On 18 March 2015, a Death hoax website reported false news of Lee's death.[153] Yew died five days later.
  • 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.)[154]
  • Kimo Leopoldo, mixed martial arts fighter, was the subject of numerous premature obituaries on July 21, 2009. Internet reports that Leopoldo had died after complications from a heart attack late in the evening on July 20 were picked up and republished by a large number of mainstream media outlets, including The Huffington Post, TMZ, The New York Daily News, The Orange County Register, and USA Today.[155]
  • 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.[156]
  • 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.[157]
  • Bill Lockwood, a former English Test cricketer, had an obituary erroneously published by The Register, a South Australian newspaper, in November 1927,[158] over four years before his actual death in April 1932.[159]


Paul McCartney is one of several reported dead by radio DJs.
  • Claude Maxwell MacDonald, was the British minister in Beijing during the Boxer Rising in 1900, and had his obituary published in "The Times" along with those of other prominent foreigners in the city.
  • 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.[160]
  • 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.[161]
  • Madonna was proclaimed dead by a BBC News video uploaded on YouTube on 28 September 2010. The video has been considered by many a leak from BBC News archive of obituaries, although the news network never commented on this.
  • Robyn Malcolm (New Zealand actress) was proclaimed dead in May 2011 through Facebook. It was stated that she had fallen 60 feet at Kauri Cliffs while filming onset.
  • Nelson Mandela (South African leader) was reported as having died in an article on the Deutsche Welle website on June 14, 2013.[162] The site later blamed this on an unspecified "technical difficulty".[163] He was also one of those whose undated obituaries were released in the incident. Mandela died in December 2013.
  • Vanni Marcoux, French baritone, was incorrectly reported as having died in World War I in 1914. He actually died in 1962.[164]
  • 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 8 July 1894 in Sprakers, New York however woke up in her coffin 2 days later en route to the graveyard on 10 July 1894.[165]
  • Gabriel García Márquez (writer), reported dead by Peruvian daily La República in 2000 shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.[166] A number of newspapers also published his alleged farewell poem, but 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.[167] Márquez underwent successful treatment for his cancer and lived long enough to write and publish the first volume of an autobiography.[168] He died of pneumonia on April 17, 2014, at the age of 87.
  • 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 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.[169]
  • 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.[170] Matera really did die a few years later on June 15, 2011.[171]
  • 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.[172]
  • Jerry Mathers: rumours that the Leave it to Beaver actor had been killed in Vietnam spread to newspapers by December 1969. (Claims that Associated Press and United Press International put out the story, and that it arose from confusion with the death of another soldier called Mathers, appear to be false.)[173]
  • Paul McCartney was proclaimed dead in 1969 (though McCartney was supposed to have been killed in 1966) 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.[174]
  • 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.)[175]
  • 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 fiancee refused to see him thereafter, believing he had turned into a zombie.[79]
  • 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.[176] Menino later died in October 2014.
  • Bertrand Meyer was proclaimed dead by the Heise News Ticker in 2005. See Bertrand Meyer WorldHeritage Hoax.
  • 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.[177]
  • Prasad and Mahaprasad Mishra (Indian brothers) were officially declared dead in 1979 by four nephews in order to steal their land in Lal Bihari.)[21][68]
  • Kel Mitchell was falsely declared dead in widely circulated internet messages in July 2006 due to unknown causes.[178]
  • cerebral malaria. He recovered.[179]
  • Ron Moody (actor best known as Fagin in the film Oliver!) was reported dead twice (according to The Times, June 12, 2015[180]): 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 11 June 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.[181][182]
  • 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.[183]
  • 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.[184]
  • Levy Mwanawasa: On 3 July 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.[185] Mwanawasa died 47 days later from complications of the stroke.[186]


  • K. R. Narayanan (former President of India 1997–2002): while in serious condition in the morning of 9 November 2005, his death was rumoured by some TV channels and later known to be false. Narayanan died later the same day. The problem arose as he was in a gravely ill condition due to Alzheimer's Disease and Pneumonia.
  • 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.[106] Narayan died in October 1979.
  • Judd Nelson: In October 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.[187]
  • 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")[188] and that Nobel "became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before"[1] 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."[189][190]


  • Maureen O'Hara: the film actress was listed as dead on the Internet Movie Database in 1998, apparently due to confusion with actress Maureen O'Sullivan.[191] O'Hara died on October 24, 2015.[192]
  • 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 Aug 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.[193]
  • 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.[194]
  • 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. Though 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.[195] Onoda died on January 16, 2014, at the age of 91.
  • Sharon Osbourne: in October 2004, a draft obituary of rock star Ozzy Osbourne's wife was accidentally published on the ABC News web site owing to a technical error.[196]


  • He died in October 2006. [197]
  • Eduardo Paolozzi: the artist's death was incorrectly reported in a magazine when he suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2001.[198] 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.)[199] 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.[200][201] Paterno died the next morning.[202]
  • 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.[203]
  • 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.[204]
  • 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.[205]
  • Peret: on August 27, 2014, Spanish newspapers published that the singer had died. National press agency EFE and the Catalonian government published reports about his death. Two hours later, his family announced that Peret was seriously ill but not dead. Another two hours later, newspapers again announced his death, this time confirmed by his manager.[206]
  • 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.[207]
  • William "The Refrigerator" Perry was erroneously reported by TigerNet, a fan site of the Clemson Tigers football team, who confused the former NFL defensive tackle with another person with the William Perry name. Perry was, at the time, watching his former team, the Chicago Bears, play a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.[208]
  • 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.[209]
  • 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.[210]
  • Harold Pinter: on 13 October 2005 the newsreader on Sky News, apparently relaying information she was having difficulty hearing on her earpiece, announced that the writer had died. (She also mispronounced his name, and described him as a 'play writer'.) She rapidly corrected this to report that in fact he had won the Nobel Prize for literature.[211] Pinter lived until December 2008.
  • Perry Pirkanen: see Luca Barbareschi.
  • Joe Piscopo: according to the 2008 book Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths, Piscopo was once the subject of a premature obituary. However, no further details are given.[212]
  • Velupillai Prabhakaran: the Tamil Tiger leader was reported by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as being among the dead or missing in the December 2004 tsunami. This was taken by many to suggest that he was specifically dead. The corporation later retracted the report.[213] He was killed in a battle against Sri Lankan Army troops in May 2009.
  • 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).[214] Price died the next day, with a family spokesman confirming the death.[215]


  • Ronald Reagan (former US President), in the 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 an overdose. Reed died on October 27, 2013.[216]
  • 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.[217][218]
  • 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?"[219]
  • 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 and well a few days later, apparently having faked his own death to claim on life insurance policies.[220] Roth found himself in trouble again 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.[221]
  • 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.[222]
  • Bertrand Russell: the philosopher was reported dead in the Japanese press in 1920 when he was suffering from pneumonia.[223] 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[224] 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.[225]) Russell died in 1970.
  • Bob Ruthman: Ruthman, an author who was a roommate of journalist Andy Rooney during their time at Colgate University in the 1930s, was falsely reported dead by TMZ after experiencing a heart attack and being prematurely pronounced dead while at Rooney's funeral in November 2011. Ruthman was later revived, and the numerous news reports indicating his death were corrected within two hours.[226] Ruthman died nine days later.


  • 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 20 October 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.[227]
  • 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.[228]
  • Jimmy Savile (broadcaster) in 1994, when then-DJ Chris Morris announced on BBC Radio 1 (as a joke) that he had collapsed and died. Savile began legal action against Morris. He actually died on Oct. 29, 2011, two days before his 85th birthday. (See also Michael Heseltine.)[119]
  • 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.[229] 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 29 November 2005. The newspaper retracted the reference on 2 December, saying, "We are embarrassed but happy for Mr Schlesinger."[230] Schlesinger died February 28, 2007.
  • 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.[231][232] 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.[233]
  • Katharine Sergava (Oklahoma! actress & dancer), whose obituary was published in 2003 in the Daily Telegraph and a few days later in the New York Times. The latter newspaper blamed the former for the mistake.[234] Sergava died November 26, 2005.
  • 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."[235]
  • George Soros, whose obituary was published by Reuters on April 18, 2013.
  • 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.[236]
  • Ken Stabler: On July 9, 2015 The Tuscaloosa News accidentally leaked a draft obituary for Stabler, a former NFL quarterback, before he had been confirmed dead. Stabler had indeed died the previous day, with his family confirming the news.[237]
  • 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.[238][239]
  • 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.[240] 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.[241] Stonehouse died 14 April 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.[242] Storey died March 15, 2006.
  • 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."[243]


Mark Twain: "The report of my death was an exaggeration".
  • 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.[244] Baroness Margaret Thatcher actually died on 8 April 2013.
  • Orlando Thomas: A former professional football player afflicted with Lou Gehrig's Disease, Thomas was incorrectly reported as dead by the official website of the Minnesota Vikings, his former team, on October 28, 2009.[245] The story of Thomas's death was then picked up and re-reported by various news services, including the Associated Press.[246]
  • András Toma: Hungarian POW in World War II, was captured in early 1945 and was declared dead in 1954. He was found in 2000 and returned home. He died in 2004.
  • Donald Walter Trautman (Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania) was reported dead in 4 April 2007 edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano; in fact it was his predecessor Bishop Michael Murphy who had just died. "I told people that there was an early resurrection", Trautman said. The Tablet printed a cartoon about the incident, depicting one angel at a reception desk telling another: "Bishop Trautman's just e-mailed us with a cancellation."[247]
  • Stephanie Tubbs Jones: The Cleveland, Ohio, congresswoman was incorrectly reported as having died 20 August 2008 after suffering an aneurysm. The report prompted an official statement from John Kerry mourning her death. Tubbs Jones did however, die later that day.[248]
  • Thuy Trang: who rose to fame in the mid-1990s playing Trini Kwan/The Yellow Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, was incorrectly reported dead following an automobile accident in 1997. Ironically, Trang did subsequently die in a car accident, four years later.
  • Mark Twain: American author, was reported dead twice:
  1. 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. Though (contrary to popular belief) no obituary was published, Twain recounted the event in the New York Journal of 2 June 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").[249][250]
  2. On 4 May 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.[251] 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.[252]
Twain died in 1910.


  • [253]


  • 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.[254][255]
  • 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".[256] She realized and corrected her mistake the next day.[256] Vigoda claims that during the 1980s, the widespread belief that he was dead cost him work.[257] Erroneous reports of Vigoda's death have become something of a running joke, such as in television sketches. The website "Abe Vigoda Status" features nothing but a smiling photo of Vigoda, a live clock calibrated to the day and second, and the advisory "Abe Vigoda is" followed by (thus far) the up-to-the-minute information "alive."[258]


  • Paul Walker: The actor was the subject of a death hoax on November 29, 2013. Ironically, one day later, he was killed in an automobile crash; the hoax report had led many to initially disbelieve the true death reports.[259]
  • Matthew Wall: On 2 October 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.[79]
  • 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.[106]
  • 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.[260]
  • 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.[261] She emerged from captivity over three weeks later, having endured forced marches, interrogations, and two strains of malaria.[262] 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, Michigan Citizen 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.[263]
  • Kanye West: was the subject of an Internet hoax news report on 20 October 2009 claiming that he had been killed in a car crash. The rumour quickly spread via social networking websites such as Twitter, prompting West's girlfriend Amber Rose to respond "This 'RIP Kanye West' topic is not funny and it's NOT TRUE!"[264]
  • 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. Though 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).[265] He died on 12 July 2013.
  • Betty White (actress and comedienne) has been subject to two erroneous reports:
    • On July 7, 2009, a Today Show on-site correspondent covering Michael Jackson's memorial service from Forest Lawn Memorial Park erroneously named White as one of the famous celebrities buried there. Today host Meredith Vieira was quick to correct the error at the end of the report, stating that the correspondent likely meant to name Bette Davis instead.
    • 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 is a regular cast member.[266]
  • Jaleel White: In June 2006, an internet rumor was spread via email that White had committed suicide. The email contained a fake Associated Press report stating that White was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment after shooting himself. The report, which contained fake quotes from former co-stars and associates, also claimed that White left behind a suicide note that contained Steve Urkel's popular catchphrase, "Did I do that?" No legitimate news outlets ever picked up the story.[267] Five months after the hoax, White addressed the rumor stating, "I don’t even know what to say about that darned thing. As much as you try to live your life right, you’re gonna get sucker-punched now and then. That was my sucker punch back in June".[268]
  • 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![269] Whitman died in June 2013.
  • 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.[270]
  • 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.[271][272][273]
  • Walter Williams: On 26 February 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.[274] Williams actually died of natural causes just over two weeks later, on March 13.[275]
  • 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.[276]
  • Edward Osborne Wilson (biologist and environmentalist), listed as dead in a 2005 San Francisco Chronicle article.[191]
  • Mara Wilson (actress) was listed as dead on the Internet Movie Database in 2000, with the cause being "broken neck".[277]
  • Owen Wilson reported to have died in a snowboarding accident.[278]
  • 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.[279] 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.[280]
  • 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 4 October 2010.[281]
  • 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,[282] and he died the next day.


  • Paltan Yadav was officially declared dead in 1980 by relatives in order to steal his land in Lal Bihari.)[21][68]
  • Shoichi Yokoi: trapped on Guam when U.S. troops recaptured it near the end of World War II, this Japanese soldier lived in an underground 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.[283]
  • Carl Gabriel Yorke: see Luca Barbareschi.

  • 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 apparently been the subject of several false death reports:
    • On August 25, 2012, a headline on reported "Astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on moon, dies at age 82". In fact, Neil Armstrong had died. NBC said they corrected the error after seven minutes.[284][285] Some believe it was the result of confusing Armstrong with fellow astronaut John Young, who is still alive.
    • 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."[286]
    • 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 " a great loss to both rock and roll."
  • Bill Young: a Republican congressman from Florida, was mistakenly reported dead on October 17, 2013, during the Fox News program, The Real Story. The report came shortly after MSNBC reporter Luke Russert had tweeted that Young had died.[287][288] Young died the following day.
  • Alberto Youssef: a convicted money-launderer was falsely reported dead by a hoax that circulated in the social network in the day of the Brazilian presidential elections. The report accused the ruling Worker's Party of assassinating Youssef to protect the reelection of Dilma Roussef because of Youssef's plea bargain in the Car-Wash Operation.[289][290]


  • 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.[291]

The incident

CNN's obituary of Dick Cheney, identifying him as the "UK's favorite grandmother".

Multiple premature obituaries came to light on 16 April 2003, when it was discovered that pre-written draft memorials to several world figures were available on the development area of the CNN website without requiring a password (and may have been accessible for some time before).[292] The pages included tributes to Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Pope John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan.

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). Though 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 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 very much 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.

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External links

  • Dead People Server – database of dead celebrities; includes list of people incorrectly rumoured to be dead.
  • Dead or Alive – allows you to check whether famous people of all kinds are dead or alive.
  • Regret the Error – reports media errors of all kinds, especially in North America.
  • Snopes – urban legends, including people rumoured to be dead.
  • Reggie Online – people who have faked their own deaths (or otherwise turned out to be unexpectedly alive).
  • Smoking Gun page about the CNN incident
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