Online celeb death hoaxes coming fast and furious this holiday season
Another one bites the dust … or rather the powder.
Twitter and other social media flared up Wednesday afternoon with news that Owen Wilson died in a snowboarding accident in Switzerland.
It turned out to be utter nonsense, of course — just like earlier reports that Charlie Sheen and Adam Sandler suffered the exact same fate this holiday season.
“Absolutely false,” Ina Treciokas, Wilson’s spokesperson, told TheWrap. “I spoke with him earlier. He's not in Europe.”
Still, for a good 30 minutes — just like with Sandler on Dec. 28 and Sheen on Dec. 26 — Twitter lit up with shock over Wilson’s supposed passing. “Guys like I'm genuinely sad hey! Owen Wilson can't be dead!!” tweeted Sihle Sogawala.
In the case of the hard-partying Sheen, the rumors reached such a fever pitch the day after Christmas that the “Two and a Half Men” star’s ex-wife Denise Richards even took to tweeting herself at 1:11p.m. PST on Sunday. “The rumor about Charlie Sheen is not true,” Richards wrote. “He is alive and on his way over to see his daughters. Thank u for all your concern … .”
Wilson’s hoaxed death comes also on the heels of Soul Queen Aretha Franklin's; earlier this week she was reported to have died from the cancer she actually does have, Eddie Murphy and Morgan Freeman, whose supposedly died on Dec. 16 according to a fake CNN re-tweet. Real celebrity deaths, like the passing of Brittney Murphy just before last Christmas and James Brown back in 2006, provided just enough factual traction for these hoaxes to get the wheels spinning.
In the case of the 42-year old Wilson, tweeters bought into the hype or the hoax by linking to a fake story posted by a prankster news site.
Some social mediaheads pounced. “Owen Wilson = not dead,” tweeted AOL’s Social Media Director Matthew Knell at around 11:40 a.m. PST. “At least not in a living sense. Movie career, however…”
(Wilson’s last two movies, the recently released “How Do You Know” and “Little Fockers,” haven’t been what one could call critical favorites.)
As the re-tweets that the actor was alive and well started to spread, hoax turned to jokes; Greg Horowitz, Mediabistro’s Product Development Director, tweeted: “The creepiest thing about that Owen Wilson rumor is that it appears to be some sort of macabre viral marketing for a ski resort.”