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The Charger Bulletin

Balloon Boy Hoax in Exchange for Publicity

Liz De La Torre

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As the world became fixated on the missing boy who had floated off fifty miles into the Colorado sky in a homemade flying saucer-like helium balloon on Oct. 15, six year-old Falcon Heene quietly slept in the garage attic of his home. Unbeknownst to him, colossal media frenzy revolved around him as authorities, helicopters, and the National Guard scoured various areas looking for him. Live coverage of the balloon saga had been delivered via national television, and Falcon’s missing body from the balloon only prompted authorities to believe that he had fallen out. On the contrary, the balloon boy extravaganza that kept us engrossed for days was, indeed, a ruse devised by the science-driven and inventive Heene family in order to bolster their marketability for a reality show deal. “Needless to say they put on a very good show for us and we bought it,” Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said, regarding the unnecessary pandemonium, “These people are actors. We were manipulated by the family and the media were manipulated by the family.” If anyone thought fabricating a story was bad enough, consider money-hungry Richard and Mayumi Heene exploiting their three children to sound more credible, even going as far as telling them to lie in the scam. With that said, it was only a matter of time before signs of a hoax surfaced.

In a special interview for CNN’s Larry King Live, the world was exposed to the Heene secret when Falcon’s parents asked him why he did not come out from hiding when they called his name to which he replied, “You guys said we did it for a show.” The Heene family had apparently appeared in ABC’s Wife Swap and was in talks to land another reality show. Now, reports reveal that an unnamed media outlet had agreed to fund the Heenes. It is still unclear if the media outlet was a co-conspirator or when the agreement was made, but charges can be brought up against the organization at a later date. The Heene parents are likely to incur charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, filing a false report, and attempting to influence a public servant. The last, which is the most serious of the chargers, could keep the Heenes locked up for anywhere from two to six years. Unlike their parents, the Heene kids would not face charges because of their young ages. However, prosecutor Wendy Murphy contends that the parents coercing their kids to participate in the con is reason for the Child Protective Services to intervene and possibly take the kids away, “Child Protective Services is likely to get involved whether they’re charged or not and we’re hearing that they will, in fact, be charged.”

Despite the bizarre balloon boy chronicle, this is not the first time the Heene family has vied for publicity. According to Robert Thomas, a one-time assistant to Richard Heene, Heene had apparently been planning some sort of exploit to endorse a reality show which did not include his children. Thomas revealed Heene’s notes for possible episodes, “We will modify a weather balloon, so that it resembles a UFO and will electrically charge the skin of the craft. The result will be a dramatic increase in local and national awareness about The Heene Family, our reality series, as well as the UFO Phenomenon in general.” While Richard Heene’s lawyer says the Heenes are willing to turn themselves in, it seems that nothing they do will save them from the public embarrassment of perpetrating a hoax. Sure, they may call themselves “mad scientists,” but what the world sees is just a group of crazy enough to stage one of the most theatrical events in news history.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
Balloon Boy Hoax in Exchange for Publicity