Internet Death Hoaxes

Internet Death Hoaxes

Part of a series on Trolling / Troll. [View Related Entries]
[View Related Sub-entries]

Updated May 26, 2015 at 12:50PM EDT by Z..

Added Mar 09, 2010 at 01:38PM EST by Biotic Zombie.

PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.


Internet Death Hoaxes refer to unfounded rumors or misreports of someone's death, usually a celebrity, or otherwise famous public figure, that spread virally online, particularly through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.


One the original pre-internet celebrity death hoaxes was a rumor of Beatle Paul McCartney's death in 1966.[4] One of the first death hoaxes to spread online was the 2010 Morgan Freeman death hoax.On December 16th, 2010, Twitter user OriginalCJiZZle[6] tweeted a message asserting that actor Morgan Freeman had died, prefaced by an RT (retweet) signature credited to CNN to make it appear as if the news organization had tweeted the original report:

"RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home<< wow legendary actor #RIPmorganfreeman."

CNN[8] quickly issued a response explaining that it had not reported on Freeman’s death via Twitter[5]:

"CNN did not report Morgan Freeman death. Rumor is false. CNN will aggressively investigate this hoax."

The same day, CNN[7] published an article titled “Who said Morgan Freeman is dead? Not us," in which the news outlet reiterated their previous response and included a confirmation from the actor's publicist Stan Rosenfield that Freeman was still alive.

Notable Cases

Steve Jobs

Between Apple CEO Steve Jobs' announcement of his diagnosis in 2004 and his death in 2011, there had been a number of premature obituaries and breaking news updates falsely reporting on the passing of Apple's co-founder. Jobs maintained his chief executie role in the company until August 2011 when he resigned from his post.

  • In August 2008, Bloomberg mistakenly published an obituary article of Steve Jobs that had been put together by the staff in the case of such event. The report quickly spread through its corporate news service and the rumor intensified as blogs and other news carriers began syndicating the story.
  • During the Macworld Keynote speech in January 2009, Apple-related forum MacRumors was infiltrated by a hacker who defaced the website with false news of Steve Job's death that read "STEVE JOBS JUST DIED." The news media speculated that the hacker was associated with Anonymous and 4chan .
  • In September 2011, CBS reported via one of its Twitter accounts that Steve Jobs had passed from a heart attack. The post was removed within minutes with a formal retraction, but not before the information was re-tweeted by some of the account’s 11,000+ followers.


On January 26th, 2012,[14] Twitter user Lorraine Star[13] tweeted out a rumor that singer Cher had died, making it appear as if the tweet had originated from CNN:

"RT @CNN: American recording artist Cher dies at 65 years old. Found dead in Malibu home."

The rumor was further fueled when Kim Kardashian[15] tweeted:

"Did I juist hear Cher has passed away? Is this real? OMG"

The rumor was dispelled on January 27th, when Loree Rodkin[17], a friend of the singer, tweeted:

"Whoever started that stupid rumor needs to have their face dragged across concrete..#cher is FINE"


On January 28th, 2012, RIP Adele was a trending topic on Twitter. This was proven untrue by the International Business Times and Gossip Cop.

Paul McCartney

On March 21st, 2012, RIP Paul McCartney[9] began to trend on Twitter. The rumor was dispelled by a post on Gossip Cop[10] published the next day.

Chris Brown

On March 23rd, 2012, rumors of singer Chris Brown's [19] death spread on Twitter and on YouTube through comments on his music videos. The singer was the victim of several previous death rumors including one that spread on Twitter on February 15th, 2012.

Celine Dion

On November 9th, 2013, a rumor about the supposed death of singer Celine Dion[11] circulated on Facebook. Authenticity was lent to the claim by an app that can put news organization logos on unaffiliated posts. Dion spoke to Digital Spy[12] the same day to dispel rumors, saying:

"Sometimes it's freaky because I have to call my family about it. I was celebrating the birthday of my twins in Montreal and I was getting these phone calls saying there was stuff on Facebook that I was dead. The thing that worries me is my mom. It makes me a little mad – she's 86 years old and if I'm not on the phone telling her I'm OK four seconds after it's on the news… it doesn't matter what they say, it's the impact it has on your family."

Justin Bieber

On January 8th, 2014, a rumor[20] that singer Justin Bieber had died in a car crash after driving over 120 miles per hour in his Ferrari circulated on Twitter. On January 12th, Global Associated News[22], a site known for spreading celebrity death rumors, published a post saying Bieber had died in a car crash:

"Justin Bieber died in a single vehicle crash on Route 80 between Morristown and Roswell. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics responding to the vehicle accident and was identified by photo ID found on his body. Alcohol and drugs do not appear to have been a factor in this accident."

The claim was proved false[22] when Bieber posted a photo of his new tattoo to his Instagram [23] account.

Jim Carrey

On January 12th, 2014, an rumor that actor Jim Carrey[18] circulated on Facebook, but was quickly disproved when Carrey appeared at the Golden Globes held that evening. A second death rumor circulated on Facebook on January 14th, suggesting the actor had died in a snowboarding accident. A representative for the actor released a statement saying:

"He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He's still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet."

Subway Jared

On May 5th, 2014, Twitter user nice_mustard[1] sent a tweet using the hashtag #RIPSubwayJared which implied Jared Fogle, who has been a spokesman for the sandwich chain Subway since 2000, had died. In less than 24 hours the hashtag #RIPSubwayJared[2] had been tweeted out over 6,000 times. Nice_Mustard also tweeted out a request that their original RIP tweet be retweeted and the hashtag be spread.

塩Follow MOUSE #RIPSubwayJared so sad that he died on his goodnight sweet prince. may the jeans be with you Reply t. Retweet * Favorite More RETWEETS FAVORITES 76 152 성지 0:34 AM-5 May 2014nice mustard Follow #RIPSubwayJared please rt and use this thanks folks. we'll get through this 44VEETS FAVORITES |嶞惈氢閆 Reply t. Retweet ★ Favorite More 67 10:36 AM-5 May 2014

The claim was proved false the same day in a post published on Gossip Cop.[3]

Betty White

On September 3rd, 2014, Empire News,[25] a satirical news site published an article about actress Betty White dying her hair with a pun in the title, "Actress Betty White, 92, Dyes Peacefully In Her Los Angeles Home." The title lead some readers[26] to believe White had actually died. Within 24 hours the hashtag #BettyWhite[27] was tweeted out over 100 times, with Twitter users inquiring whether White had died, or confirming it was simply a hoax. The hoax was covered that day my several sites including Business 2 Community[28] and the Inquisitr.[29]

EMPIRENEWS Entertainment. Politics▼ Business. HealthFitness. ScienceTech▼ Sports, World LATEST September 2, 2014 in Business// Lay's Potato Chips To Introduce New 'Kim & Kanye' Flavor Home Entertainment Actress Betty White, 92, Dyes Peacefully In Her Los Angeles Home Actress Betty White, 92, Dyes Peacefully In Her Los Angeles Home Posted on September 3, 2014 by Bob The Empire News Potato in Entertainment Headlines LOS ANGELES, California In a press release from her long-time manager Jeff Witjas, it has been confirmed today that actress Betty White, best known for her roles on TVs The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland is not a natural blonde. "Betty is a solitary kind of person," said Witjas. "She likes to relax in her home with her animals, and she rarely likes to discuss the fact, at least in public, that she is actually a brunette. She has been dving her own hair in her home for decades. Betty has often told

Macaulay Culkin

On November 7th, 2014, a fake memorial page for actor and musician Macaulay Culkin was created on Facebook, which linked to a spoofed MSNBC article claiming the 34-year-old actor had passed away earlier that day (shown below).[33] Within 72 hours, the article gained over 153,000 Facebook likes and 22,500 retweets.

Breaking News: Macaulay Culkin Found Dead at Age 34 Share 5562K Like 153k Send Tweet 22.5K ShareThis. 5649K Sources are reporting that Macaulay Culkin, best known for his role as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone and sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, has been tound dead at the age of 34 Multiple unconfirmed reports say Culkin was found dead Friday afternoon in his Manhattan apartment after police responded to a wellness check requested by a family member At least one occupant of the Manhattan apartment confirmed the apartment belongs to Culkin but police have not confirmed the man's identity at this time "The apartment was exceptionally clean and we found no signs of abuse or foul-play so we are depending on the coroner to make a final ruling of what happened here today," said Det. James Patterson, of the Manhattan Police Department Born August 26, 1980, Culkin began acting at the tender age of four. At the height of his fame, he was regarded as the most successful child actor since Shirley Temple This story is still developing. More details will be made available once they emerge

The Facebook memorial page was subsequently removed. On November 8th, Culkin’s Velvet Underground cover band Pizza Underground tweeted[30] a photograph of the actor with the caption “We’re on tour you silly people” (shown below, left). That same day, the rumor-debunking website Snopes[32] posted an entry for Culkin's death hoax. On November 9th, Pizza Underground[31] tweeted another photograph of Culkin being held up by a friend while posing as if he were dead, in reference to a scene from the 1989 comedy cult film Weekend at Bernie’s (shown below, right).

re pizza underground @cheesedayz Follow We'tour you silly popl:/ @anchovywarhol's 4:46 PM - 8 Nov 2014 93 RETWEETS 162 FAVORITES pizza underground @cheesedayz Follow weekend at with @anchovywarhol #greenroom 2:20 AM-9 Nov 2014 わt ★

In the coming days, several news sites published articles about the hoax, including Mashable,[24] UpRoxx,[25] The Daily Dot,[26] CBS News[27] and People.[28]

Good Night Sweet Prince

Goodnight Sweet Prince is a phrase and series of image macros that originally appeared on 4Chan approximately around 2006. Many assume the phrase was taken from the Shakespearean play “Hamlet”, although it is also quite possible /b/ also got the line from the either The Big Lebowski or Robocop; both taking it from Hamlet. It’s one of /b/’s many ways to troll people

RIP in Peace

R.I.P in Peace is an online slang expression marked by its redundant phrasing which can be used to commemorate an individual who has either passed away or some who has been a target of an Internet death hoax.

Search Interest

External References

[1] Twitter – nice_mustard

[2] Topsy – #RIPSubwayJared

[3] Gossip Cop – Subway Jared Fogle NOT Dead Despite #RIPSubwayJared Twitter Trend

[4] The Huffington Post – Celebrity Death Hoaxes Through The Years

[5] Slate – The Man Behind Morgan Freeman's Fake Death

[6] Twitter – OriginalCJiZZle

[7] CNN – Who said Morgan Freeman is dead? Not us

[8] Twitter – CNN

[9] E! Online – Paul Is Dead…Again? Twitter Tries to Kill Off McCartney

[10] E! Online – Paul McCartney Victim of Death Hoax

[11] Hollywood Life – Celine Dion: Facebook Death Hoax Horrifies Fans

[12] Digital Spy – Celine Dion on death hoax: 'It makes me a little mad'

[13] Twitter – lorraine_star

[14] Zap2It – Cher is not dead – latest celebrity Twitter death hoax

[15] Twitter – Cher is not dead – latest celebrity Twitter death hoax

[16] Twitter – Kim Kardashian

[17] Twitter – Miss Rodkin

[18] IBTimes – Jim Carrey Death Hoax: Reps Confirm Actor is Alive and Well As Reports on Snowboarding Accident Circulate on the Internet

[19] E! Online – Chris Brown Super Death Hoax! Twitter and YouTube Join Forces to Kill Off R&B Star

[20] Hollywood Life – Justin Bieber Dead? New Death Hoax Hits Twitter

[21] Gossip Cop – Chris Brown Victim of Death Hoax

[22] Global Associated News – Justin Bieber Dies In Car Crash

[23] IBTimes – Justin Bieber Death Hoax: Fake Report Claims Baby Singer 'Died in a Car Crash'

[24] Instagram – Justin Bieber

[25] Empire News – Actress Betty White, 92, Dyes Peacefully In Her Los Angeles Home

[26] Epooch Times – Betty White Dies? Satirical ‘Dyes Hair’ Death Hoax Now Viral; ‘Hot for Cleveland’, ‘Golden Girls’ Actress is OK

[27] Topsy – #bettywhite

[28] Business 2 Community – Betty White Dies? Social Media Users Mistake Hair Dye For Death

[29] Inquisitr – Betty White Dead? Death Hoax Goes Viral Because of Bad Grammar

[30] Twitter – @cheesedayz

[31] Twitter – @cheesedayz

[32] Snopes – Macaulay Culkin Dead?

[33] – Macaulay Culkin Found Dead at Age 34

[24] Mashable – Macaulay Culkin is not dead

[25] UpRoxx – Macaulay Culkin Becomes The Victim Of Another Internet Death Hoax

[26] The Daily Dot – Behind the Macaulay Culkin Death Hoax

[27] CBS News – Macaulay Culkin shoots down death rumors

[28] People – Macaulay Culkin Posts Weekend at Bernies Photo

Recent Videos 1 total

Recent Images 19 total

Top Comments

+ Add a Comment

Comments (80)

Display Comments

Add a Comment

'lo! You must login or signup first!