Following the death of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 8, 2013, the memorial hashtag #nowthatchersdead began trending worldwide. But it didn't take long before Tweeters misread the missive as "Now that Cher's dead," improbably plopping the "Life After Love" artist into the center of the Internet news mill for a day. Cher's not dead. And she certainly isn't the first celebrity falsely declared deceased by dubious reportage or an out-and-out hoax. Read on for our favorite weird celebrity death rumors.
To hear the Internet tell it, Justin Bieber has committed suicide (2009), been shot to death in a nightclub (January 2010), suffered a fatal drug overdose (June 2010), and just straight-up kicked the bucket (May 2012 - via an unexplained "RIP Justin Bieber" Twitter trend). Such hoaxes have become routine in the age of Internet stardom—though we do extend our sincere condolences to the Biebs' late hamster, Pac, who probably deserved better.
Rap mogul Lil Wayne actually did end up in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a seizure this March, but reports that the Young Money millionaire was being administered his last rites were straight-up trash talk. Weezy tweeted the same afternoon "I'm good everybody. Thx for the prayers and love," and will begin touring his newest album (ominously titled I Am Not A Human Being
II) in July.
Within hours of its creation on August 17, 2011, the Facebook group
called "Jackie Chan R.I.P." earned nearly 150,000 likes, and spawned a
global Twitter trend. Earlier, in March '11, Chan was falsely reported
dead of a heart attack—as if the Heart of Dragon could be so easily defeated.
Barbadian pop princess Rihanna has both died in a fiery plane
crash (via Twitter rumors in January '11) and "sunk into an
[alcohol-induced] coma before succumbing to heart attack" (via a
photoshopped article on a phony French news site in August of the same
year). RiRi is actually alive and well, often appearing in daily headlines next
to former abusive beau Chris Brown, who has also died once or twice.
The rumor that Paul McCartney died in 1966 remains one of the most
famous urban legends of rock. Reports of a late '60s car crash and
diminished public appearances by the Cute Beatle spiraled into an
international conspiracy investigation after an Iowa student newspaper
released a probing article titled "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?" The hundreds of "clues" that emerged from coded messages in The White Album and Abbey Road (the final garbled seconds of "I'm So Tired," for
example, supposedly rewind to say "Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss
him, miss him") are hard to ignore—but a very much breathing 70-year-old Paul embarking on a global headlining tour is pretty compelling evidence too.
Speaking of young money, remember in February 2012 when all those news
sites started picking up the story that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un was
assassinated? Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging service similar to
Twitter, broke the story that the Korean dictator was shot and killed by
"unknown persons," subsequently setting the global news mill into a
frenzy. The rumors were fake, as anyone within earshot of a TV set knows too well, though the
Internet persists in picking on li'l Kim to this day.
One of America's earliest tabloid media fails occurred in 1897, when Mark
Twain was mistakenly reported dead instead of his ailing cousin, James Ross
Clemens. Twain was assumed dead a second time in 1907—here by the New York
Times—when reporters briefly lost track of him on a steam ship voyage
from Virginia to New York. Twain's twin brushes with the grave prompted him to later pen one of his most enduring one-liners: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
When crime-writer Agatha Christie went missing from her Berkshire estate for 11
days, friends and family feared the worst. Over 15,000 volunteers were
sent to scour the countryside for the presumed-dead author; Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle, the mind behind Holmes himself, even took one of Agatha's gloves to the neighborhood psychic. Turns out Agatha
stormed off to begrudge her adulterous husband, and may have
experienced a spell of stress-induced, out-of-body amnesia known as a
"fugue state" along the way. Christie was discovered alone, confused, and using an
assumed name, making this disappearance the Crime Queen's most enduring
Prolific comedian/voice actor Tom
Kenny—whose signature titter is probably emitting from speakers somewhere in your
house or car right now—has giggled through multiple false reports of
his death. Most recently, in September 2012, an image beckoning "RIP
Tom Kenny…retweet to say thanks for making your childhood happier" went
viral on Twitter. Lies. When SpongeBob SquarePants proclaimed "I'm ready," we don't think he meant "for the Great Beyond."