With the number of death hoaxes which circulate online every week, we have compiled them into a single location for easy perusal.
Below is a running collection of internet death hoaxes (and real celebrity deaths), updated April 21, 2016.
Celebrity Death Reports
4/21/16. The publicist for Prince confirmed that the artist died at his home in suburban Minneapolis. Prince Rogers Nelson was 57 years old. A number of social media users seeking to verify the news found a fake story by Mediamass claiming that his death report is a hoax. See our full report on Mediamass for more info.
George Martin: True
3/8/16. After Ringo Starr posted two tweets about the death of George Martin, corroboration was slow to trickle in, leading some fans to find the fake Mediamass article proclaiming it to be a hoax. Hours later, Billboard confirmed with a Universal Music Rep that Martin had in fact passed away at the age of 90.
Nancy Reagan: True
3/6/16. Reps for the former first lady confirmed that she had died at the age of 94.
Harper Lee: True
2/19/16. AL.com reported that “multiple sources” in her hometown of Monroeville confirmed that Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” passed away at the age of 89.
Maurice White: True
2/4/16. As news broke that Earth, Wind, and Fire co-founded Maurice White died, some readers found the bogus Mediamass article and proclaimed it to be a death hoax. Multiple news sites confirmed that White did pass away at the age of 74.
Glenn Frey: True
1/18/16. As news broke of the death of Glenn Frey of The Eagles, many readers found the fake Mediamass article saying his death was a hoax. Frey’s death was confirmed on the band’s website. That site had so much traffic after the announcement that it became inaccessible. Frey died due to complications from heumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.
Bob Denver: True, but a Decade Late
1/16/16. Reports that Gilligan’s Bob Denver had died circulated on social media. Denver did in fact die, but that was over a decade ago. It is the latest in a trend in which old reports of celebrity deaths are inexplicably recirculated years after the fact. Bob Denver died in 2005.
Alan Rickman: True
1/14/16. Social media lit up with reports that actor Alan Rickman had passed away. Although some ran across a fake Mediamass article about his death being a hoax, Rickman’s family did confirm that the actor had died.
1/12/16. When reports that 35-year old American artist Ashley Olsen had been found murdered in Italy, some social media users mistakenly thought this was referring to the 29-year old former star of Full House and half of the “Olsen Twins.”
Robert Redford: False
12/31/15. On New Year’s Eve, Robert Redford’s publicist released a statement referring to death reports about the actor as a “sick hoax.”
Steve Burns: False
November 2015. Rumors circulated that Steve Burns of Blue’s Clues fame was killed in a car accident. The story was created by a fake news website and completely without merit. Burns is alive and well.
David Jason: False
September 2015. Social media lit up with rumors that British TV legend David Jason had died. This was fueled by a hoax article which claimed the actor had died at the age of 75.
James Earl Jones: False
Late August 2015. Internet rumors swirled that legendary actor James Earl Jones had passed away. Despite being easily proved false, the rumor persisted for several days.
Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean): False
August 2015. Rumors circulated that Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean had passed away. Atkinson has been the subject of several false internet rumors over the years, including multiple death hoaxes, and a strange 2013 (false) rumor that he had converted to Islam.
Roddy Piper: True
July 31, 2015. Sources confirmed that wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died at the age of 61 from cardiac arrest. Piper’s agent confirmed the death to TMZ and Variety.
Patrick Macnee: True
June 2015. After unconfirmed rumors circulated online, the death of Avengers actor Patrick Macnee was confirmed by a statement on the actor’s official website. “Daniel Patrick Macnee died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 93, with his family at his bedside, according to his son, Rupert,” the statement began.
Some social readers stumbled across the fake Mediamass article proclaiming the actor’s death to be a hoax.
Jackie Chan: False
June 2015. Jackie Chan belongs to a select group of celebrities whose deaths are reported seemingly every week. Other members of this group include Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, and Betty White. On June 14, 2015, rumors of Chan’s death began circulating (again) online, with no sources or corroboration. No news outlet has reported Chan’s death.
Gene Wilder: False
June 2015. Rumors circulated that actor Gene Wilder had died. The rumor circulated twice in one week, neither time offering any sources as evidence. Further confusing the issue is that many readers have stumbled upon the fake news generator “MediaMass” which publishes the same “death hoax” article for virtually every major living celebrity and politician. See the link below regarding MediaMass. It’s possible that the current round of death hoaxes coincided with Wilder’s 82nd birthday which occurred on June 11. Those seeking information about Wilder may have encountered the fake MediaMass post with a headline that reads “Gene Wilder dead 2015.”
Rue McClanahan: True, but 5 Years late
June 2015. In an odd twist of events, reports of the death of actress Rue McClanahan of “Golden Girls” fame were circulated heavily online – when the actress actually died 5 years ago. See the full story here.
Christopher Lee: True
June 2015. Lord of the Rings actor Christopher Lee passed away on June 7, after a career spanning 70 years.
Percy Sledge: True
April 2015. Major media sources announced on April 14, 2015 that Percy Sledge, the singer best known for the hit “When a Man Loves a Woman,” has died at the age of 73.
Martin Lawrence: False
April 2015. A fake news article by News Buzz Daily published a phony death report for Martin Lawrence. The story picked up steam around April 13 on social media, with fans looking for verification about the comedian’s status. Lawrence was seen tweeting since that fake report was published.
Willie Nelson: False
A fake news article by the official looking MSMBC (not to be confused with the real MSNBC) claimed that Nelson was found dead in his home at the age of 81. The realistic looking story was shared by many readers, unaware that the article was completely fabricated. In small print at the bottom of the article were the words, “This story is not true.”
Lauryn Hill: False
When 19 year old basketball player Lauren Hill passed away, fans of singer Lauryn Hill mistakenly believed that the celebrity had died. See the full story here.
Have you seen a celebrity death report circulating online? Let us know about it.
Note: If you see a report about a celebrity death hoax on the website Mediamass, keep in mind that is a fake news generator which has the same article for hundreds of living celebrities.