Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Most Infamous Hoaxes
Balloon Boy
Balloon Boy
On October 15, 2009, the Heene family of Fort Collins, Colo. released a large Mylar balloon. The father, self-described storm chaser Richard Heene, is the host of a documentary series and a radio show that investigates the "mysteries of science." The family has conducted all sorts of experiments together such as searching for extraterrestrials and creating a data-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of a storm. This time though, according to his older brother, six-year-old Falcon Heene (above) launched the experiment on his own, untethering the balloon and climbing into it. After the parents notified the FAA and 911, all available searchers, including the Colorado Air National Guard, scoured the ground and skies for the balloon, which finally landed hours later, without the box or the boy. Happily, the search ended shortly thereafter where it began, when Falcon was found safe inside his home. He said he fell asleep in a box in the attic, "I played with my toys and took a nap." But later, in an interview on Larry King Live, when Heene asked his son why he didn't respond when his parents were searching for him, Falcon guilelessly said "You guys said we did this for a show." When pressed for an explanation Heene, whose family had been featured on two episodes of Wife Swap became uncomfortable, finally saying he was "appalled" by the questions, claiming that Falcon was likely referring to all the media coverage. On October 24, Mayumi Heene, Richard's wife and Falcon's mother confessed to the media that the entire incident had been set up to "make the Heene family more marketable for future media interests." The Heenes faced charges locally, one of their episodes of Wife Swap which had been scheduled to run on Lifetime on October 29, was been pulled, and the FAA's investigation is ongoing. After pleading guilty, Mayumi and Richard Heene were sentenced on December 23 in Larimer County, Colo., to 20 and 90 days in jail respectively. Even so, Richard maintains that the event was not a hoax and that he only pleaded guilty to keep his wife from being deported.
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