Follow TV Tropes

Following

Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

Go To

"Tax dodge nothing! You take one nap in a ditch in the park and they start declaring you this and that!"
Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Futurama

When a character who is alive is mistakenly believed to be dead. Quite often includes the character being shown his own death certificate. Often includes being declared Legally Dead, but isn't necessarily restricted to that. May result in a case of Attending Your Own Funeral and hearing a Premature Eulogy. Compare Faking the Dead, where the character deliberately misleads people into believing that he's dead, and No One Could Survive That!, where the character incidentally creates this impression by surviving something that by all rights should have killed him.

Advertisement:

Named after a statement that Mark Twain didn't actually say, kind of. The actual quote was from a letter he wrote to the New York Journal:

I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.

Subtropes:

A favorite tactic of supernatural killers, who return in the sequels after thought to be destroyed in the previous film.

See also First Law of Resurrection, where character was meant to be Killed Off for Real, but was brought back from the dead in sequels. A form of Dramatic Irony if the audience is aware he's alive while the characters aren't. Often goes hand in hand with Our Hero Is Dead.

Advertisement:

Note: As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

    Comic Books 
  • DuckTales: In the one-shot "Double Indemnity", Magica's clone of Launchpad forces the boys and Scrooge out of the plane into a sandstorm, and then Magica starts a camel stampede to get them trampled. They survive (of course) and Scrooge quickly gets back to declare that the assassination attempts failed.
  • In Marvel 100th Anniversary Special, Vance Astro (actually Peter Quill a.k.a. Starlord), quotes the line after unmasking himself.
  • Robin (1993): When Tim Drake detached his cape fleeing from a mass of Arkham escapees it was found wrapped around skeletal remains and he was presumed dead. His death was reported to all the Bats, only for Tim to almost instantaneously arrive at Barbara Gordon's tower and let her and Blue Beetle know he'd survived. Unfortunately they were unable to tell Nightwing until after The Joker had gloated about killing two of his little brothers and Dick had beaten him to death for it.
  • Superman:
    • In Superman: The Doomsday Wars, a suddenly speaking Doomsday gloats that "The rumors of my stupidity were greatly exaggerated". Both Doomsday and the person actually riding him, Brainiac, were thought dead by this point (Doomsday was presumed dead at the end of Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey and Brainiac was seemingly killed at the start of Doomsday Wars.)
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton, the Red Lanterns believe Supergirl has been killed when her Ring goes offline (a sure sign that a Red Ring-bearer is dead). They spend several issues believing Kara is dead until Guy Garner bumps into her during the "Atrocities" arc, whereupon he gives her a hug and asks how she survived. Kara proceeds to explain her heart was restarted with a literal sunbath when her Ring was removed.
    • Brainiacs Blitz: Brainiac traps Supergirl in a Kryptonite cage which he proceeds to blast into oblivion. Believing her dead, Brainiac prepares to retreat back to his asteroid base when Supergirl bursts through his ship's hull, telling him to not write her obituary yet. She was able to slip out of the cage just in time.
  • Ultimate X-Men: During Ultimatum Wolverine thought he killed the true James Madrox. Later it was revealed that it was yet another dupe.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Steve Trevor has been turned into a media pony by the military after his return from what was thought to have been his death at sea. He's not very fond of all the attention, or the fact that he's basically grounded for the duration of the media circus he's being put through.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin, when the Cave of Wonders collapses while Aladdin is inside it, Jafar naturally assumes that he is either dead or trapped forever. It isn't until the final act that he learns that Prince Ali, who has been a thorn in his side for some time, is Aladdin. Much to Jafar's delight, he also has the lamp, which Jafar had believed was lost forever when the cave collapsed.
  • In An American Tail, this is what Fievel's family believes after he falls off the boat to America. With the exception of his sister, Tania, they don't even want to entertain the idea that he might be alive. Even worse, they keep missing each other due to random chances.
  • In Finding Nemo, Marlin spots Nemo seemingly lying unconscious and belly-up in the dentist's chair, thinking he died and will never see him again. Unknown to him though, Nemo was only pretending to be dead so the dentist won't give him to Darla.
  • Hercules: For the first half of the movie, Hades believes that Herc had been killed as a baby, due to Pain and Panic lying about it, leaving him to believe that nothing could stand in the way of his plan to take over Mt. Olympus. It's at about the halfway point that Hades learns from Meg's information that Hercules is in fact still alive. Needless to say, he is more than a little upset with Pain and Panic.
    Hades: So you "took care of him", huh? "Dead as a doornail". Weren't those your EXACT words?!
  • At the beginning of The Land Before Time, Sharptooth fell down into a ravine during the earthquake that split the land, leading Littlefoot to believe he was dead. When Cera rejoins him and the others to mention she encountered Sharptooth and learned he was alive, Littlefoot believed she was lying, constantly telling the others that there wasn't any Sharptooth. It's not until later on that he finds out that Cera was telling the truth... when Sharptooth attacks them and they are forced to run for their lives.
    Cera: (Angrily) Now will you believe me?!
  • In The Lion King (1994), after going into self-exile over thinking he was responsible for Mufasa's death (he thought his roaring frightened a herd of wildebeests into the gorge when really, the hyenas chased them there and Scar killed Mufasa himself), everyone in the Pride Lands believes that Simba is dead. Even Scar assumes this, as the hyenas didn't tell him he got away from them. When he returns to take back the Pride Lands, everyone (barring Nala, who had already found out he was alive) at first thinks he is Mufasa's ghost.
  • In Megamind, Metro Man goes so far as to fake his death before retiring to live alone. He makes a return for the finale in a spiritual sense, as it's actually Megamind using a hologram disguise, and quotes the trope name almost word-for-word:
    Metro Man: My death was... greatly exaggerated.
  • In Wendell & Wild Father Level Bests nearly says the exact name of this trope to perfection when he announces "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" upon returning from the dead much to most people's shock.

    Jokes 
  • Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend, Finney. 'Did you see the paper?' asked Gallagher. 'They say I died!!' 'Yes, I saw it!' replied Finney. 'Where are ye callin' from?'
  • Gabriel Iglesias talks in one of his specials about having been subjected to a fake death announcement, and how he read an article about himself that actually made him tear up a little because "I was so nice!" Mostly, though, he was miffed because the only one to see the report and actually think to check on him was his friend Martin, "and I think he just wanted to make sure he still had a job." Gabriel describes their conversation thus:
    Martin: Hey. You dead?
    Gabriel: (confused) No.
    Martin: I figured. You'd have texted me.

    Music 
  • La Tumba Falsa (The False Tombstone) by Mexican group Los Tigres Del Norte tells about the narrator who was abandoned by an unfaithful wife along with multiple children. Rather then tell them the truth, he makes up a story that their mother died and points out a tomb in a cemetery with no visitors as being their mother's grave. The narrator lives in guilt as his children go their lives leaving flowers and paying respects to this particular grave.

    Recorded Comedy 
  • On "Cocktail Bar" (from Monty Python's Live at Drury Lane album), four businessmen engage in shop talk about an associate who made a financial killing, invested it, and is declaring himself as dead on April 5 as a tax dodge.

    Roleplay 
  • Occurs a couple of times in We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • In the alternate timeline, a flashback implies Cyrus had the mind-controlled Dialga kill DS, and she is reported dead to the other Trainers. Only when she arrives for the finale is revealed that Dialga resisted Cyrus's command long enough to imprison DS along with the other Legendaries instead.
    • Later, when DS and the Lake Trio finally find Palkia, who is the only one who can help them escape from the other dimension, they discover that Palkia has been petrified, presumably having been that way since the arc began.

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius:
    • Madam Oglavia Spudna has this response to a horrified captured librarian who has just realized who the well-known Torture Technician is as she was thought to be dead.
    • When Maxim challenges Old Man Death to a fight for his hat the old man mentions that some of the cavalry that they once rode with was through a few years ago and had said Maxim was dead. Maxim was reported dead since he was "detached" and didn't align himself with Wulfenbach like the rest of the Jägers.
  • In Joe vs. Elan School, after Joe returns home from three years in Juvenile Hell, Joe's friend Chloe tells him that, among other things — including that he'd moved to California or been sent to prison — she'd heard rumors that he was dead.
  • In The Order of the Stick, after Roy defeats Xykon in the Redmountains, he thought he finally fulfilled his mission, unaware that Redcloak had a Soul Jar that would enable Xykon to regenerate his body. It wasn't until the Azure City saga where Roy learned from his father that Xykon was still alive.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil and Lalli try to escape a giant via a frozen body of water, but the fact that it can't hold Emil results in Lalli killing the giant via a burst of magic that shatters both the giant and the ice. They manage to escape on an ice floe and get ashore somewhere far away from the rest of the crew. When Sigrun backtracks the next morning looking for them, all she finds is the giant's exploded corpse right next to the part of the body of water that got its ice blown to bits by the magic burst. She comes to the conclusion anyone would be killed by that and tells the rest of the crew upon returning.
  • Unsounded: Bell's butchers in Ethelmik think they've killed Emil and Elka when their pair goes over the falls, and Bell uses Emil as a martyr while pushing the story that it was an Aldish attack that destroyed the city. Emil gets a huge state funeral despite the lack of body, and then Emil and Elka show up still chasing the silver and trying to dismantle Bell's superweapon.

    Web Original 
  • On the Dream SMP, Tommy ends up on the receiving end of this twice.
    • The first time this happened was at the end of at the end of the Exile arc in Season 2. When Tubbo came to Logstedshire to visit him, he spotted the pillar Tommy made to jump to his death from, not knowing that Tommy didn't go through with his suicide attempt, and immediately assumed the worst with the result being everyone except Dream believes Tommy to be dead.
    • It happened again in a much more twisted way in Season 3. After being trapped in Pandora's Vault with Dream, the word was spread that he was dead, only for him to return to the SMP proper a week after his death was announced. The twist is that Tommy was killed by Dream but got resurrected, and no one knew that he came Back from the Dead until he returned from the prison.

    Real Life 
  • The Trope Namer is Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens, who gave the trope title as a statement in response to hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal. The Journal had mistakenly reported the illness of his cousin James Ross Clemens (who wasn't actually dead, either) as Twain's own death. The original quote was:
    James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, [...] is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration.
  • During the 1864 Siege of Petersburg in the The American Civil War, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, famous for leading a heroic stand at Gettysburg, was severely wounded when a bullet passed through both hips and tore through his groin. Doctors predicted his wound was fatal, and he was "posthumously" promoted to Brigadier General. Newspapers in his home state of Maine ran obituaries about his supposed death. The doctor's diagnosis turned out to be accurate, but the predicted timing was not. Chamberlain did die from his wound, but not for another 50 years, in 1914. He was the last recorded civil war veteran to die from battle wounds.
  • Rudyard Kipling was also once declared dead by a magazine, to which he wrote a letter saying "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."
  • Happens sporadically to non-notable individuals; usually, this results from poor communication between a family and the funeral home (i.e., a family member incorrectly reporting that someone had died, when in fact that person is still alive although death is likely imminent). On these rare occasions, the funeral home will submit for publication to local newspapers an obituary that had been pre-written.
  • Every major news outfit will have pre-written (or, for broadcast media, pre-edited) obituary notices ready to go for notable figures, particularly those considered at high risk of non-natural death and those old enough that natural death could happen any day now. As can be seen from several of the following examples, it's an unfortunately short step from "ready to go" to "gone out the door without proper verification, better call the Legal department". In addition, Obit packages for very notable figures can sometimes be put up for sale (Pope John Paul II's obituary was released on DVD, for example). The logistics of getting product to the shops in a timely fashion pretty much ensures that copies of it are floating around, open to misinterpretation, before the subject has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.
  • On August 27, 2008, Bloomberg accidentally published a 17-page obituary regarding Steve Jobs' death. In a subsequent public appearance Jobs joked about the accident by displaying on-screen, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Jobs actually died about three years later.
  • A newspaper mistakenly published an obituary for Alfred Nobel, instead of his deceased brother. Nobel was shocked to see a newspaper crowing that "the merchant of death is dead" due to his invention of dynamite and gun propellants, and was inspired to start the Nobel Prize so that he would be remembered for something else. It worked.
  • CBS News reported that Arizona Congressman Gabrielle Giffords had died after she was wounded in a mass shooting on January 8, 2011. At the time, she was actually in surgery in critical condition. She survived, although six other lives were lost in that same incident, including a Federal Judge and a nine-year-old girl.
  • Britney Spears went through this at least twice:
    • Her Myspace page was once hacked (or so they claim) with a fake death announcement.
    • In 2001, Spears was the victim of a prank news report on radio station KEGL in Fort Worth, Texas, where the disc jockeys claimed that the then 19-year-old pop princess was killed in a car accident and that her then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake was also either killed or that his death was expected shortly. Outrage quickly followed, major news media quickly debunked the report and the disc jockeys responsible for the report were fired.
  • Prior to his real death in 2008, Doctor Who regular Kevin Stoney (who played Mavic Chen, Tobias Vaughn, and Tyrum) was reported dead in 1985 according to Dreamwatch. However, he appeared at a convention in 1987 to prove he was still alive, which shocked many fans.
  • In India, it's popular to bribe an official to declare a relative dead so that you can inherit his property. It has all the advantages of murder without the unpleasant messiness. Lal Bihari had this happen to him and it took him years to literally get his life back. He was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for his foundation of the Association of Dead People. One tactic of Association members is to get arrested at protests, leaving the authorities to explain how dead people can be arrested.
  • On June 25, 2009, Jeff Goldblum was reported dead of a fall on a movie set in New Zealand. This was a cruel online hoax capitalizing on several recent celebrity deaths, most infamously Michael Jackson's — Goldblum had never even been to New Zealand and certainly wasn't filming a movie there! On June 30th he went on The Colbert Report (on which he had made several recent appearances) to deny the reports of his death. He then subsequently caved to the evidence (an Australian news program clip reporting his death), confirmed his own death, and gave his own "eulogy." In a 2010 appearance on Jonathan Ross's show, he went into detail about what it was like both to learn he was believed to be dead and to get calls from colleagues, family members, and friends who heard the "news".
  • In the aftermath of the demonstration on 17th November 1989 that launched the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, a rumor has spread that a student named Martin Šmíd was killed during the event. This turned to be a misinformation; a student of that name was at the demonstration but left before the police attack began. He was interviewed on television, presumably to dispel the rumor...and the transmission started at just the wrong moment when he was saying, referring to the events of the day: "Death touched me." (In case this figure of speech doesn't translate well to English, he meant: "I was horrified.")
  • Some accidental premature publishing on cnn.com revealed that CNN at least has outlines and some graphics prepared for obituaries of famous people who have yet to die, in anticipation of eventually having to get one up on short notice. Notably, they had one for Dick Cheney that was clearly not ready, as it called him "England's favorite grandmother" — a line from Queen Elizabeth II's premature obit.
  • When pioneer astronaut Neil Armstrong died, NBC's website reported that Neil Young had died. (In a Jay Leno man-on-the-street session years previous, Young had been named as the "first man to walk on the moon" by an elderly lady.) The London Telegraph called Armstrong the first woman in space, inspiring little girls everywhere (possibly thinking of Sally Ride, who had died months earlier — and even then she was only the first non-Soviet woman).
  • In 1964, news bulletins widely broadcast a report that Nikita Khrushchev had died of "hecaphylphocatirosisus". Apparently, this went out when someone did not notice the notation "Can you confirm this?"
  • For a complete list of premature obituaries, check out The Other Wiki.
  • Although he was never officially declared to be dead, a very popular meme in the late 1960s suggested that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident around the mid-1960s and was replaced by a lookalike, which really took off in the underground media. The fact that the 'evidence' for this theory largely seemed to stem from a number of obscure and oblique 'references' on Beatles album covers and in song lyrics suggested that large quantities of drugs being ingested probably had something to do with it, but the rumours bedeviled McCartney for years no matter how many times he denied them, including a variation on the Mark Twain 'quote' above: "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. If I were dead I'd be the last to know."
    • It had been said that the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein cooked up the "Paul is dead" conspiracy. Epstein had doubts about "Paperback Writer" selling as it wasn't a typical Beatles love song, so he hatched the idea for one of them to "die" to drum up publicity for the single. Ringo and George passed on the idea; John offered to be the guy but that was nixed as everyone knew he was a joker anyway. So Paul, by virtue of elimination, was elected to be the "dead man." One of the clues to Paul's supposed demise was the license plate on a car on the Abbey Road cover, which read "28 IF", meant to stand for Paul would have been 28 the following June. Flash forward to 1993 when Paul released his Paul Is Live album which featured him on the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing and a similar license plate: "IS 51."
  • A few years ago, there were a number of rumors that actress Natasha Lyonne was at death's door, due to various drug addictions. According to IMDb and the entire run of Orange Is the New Black (in which she is a part of the main ensemble), she's still alive.
  • A popular rumor in the '70s and '80s was that Jerry Mathers (of Leave It to Beaver fame) had been killed in Vietnam. Not only is he quite alive and still acting, he never even served in Vietnam.
  • At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a rumour suddenly swept through William The Conqueror's army that Duke William had been killed. The Duke heard of this and took his helmet off so that his army could recognise his red hair. He proceeded to win the battle (in which his opponent King Harold really was killed) and complete the Norman Conquest.
  • When Queen Victoria was in her final years, it was frequently reported that she had died and implied that they were just pretending she was still alive to keep her son off the throne.
  • In 2008, an internet troll began circulating reports that voice actor Jerry Jewell had died in a car accident. Jewell remarks on it in the DVD commentary for Baccano! episode 9, which was being dubbed around that time: "Yes, I died in a car accident. But I had to record. That's what I'm willing to go through to get the job done." Fitting considering the anime in question, and the fact that such things happen to the characters in it regularly.
  • LulzSec once placed a false story on The Sun's website claiming that Rupert Murdoch had died from a drug overdose. It was quickly removed but still managed to be reprinted by The Times and a number of other news sites.
  • Steve Burns from Blue's Clues was surprised to hear he had died and been replaced with a lookalike (his character actually left the show to go to college and his brother Joe took over; the show even did a transition episode to explain the in-universe story to viewersnote ). No matter how many times he said he was still alive, some people still believed he was dead.
  • In describing the assessments of his medical condition once given to him by various doctors, composer Frédéric Chopin commented "I have been sick as a dog during these past two weeks. Three doctors have visited me. The first said I was going to die; the second said I was breathing my last; and the third said I was already dead."
  • Abe Vigoda, known for his acting roles in The Godfather and Barney Miller, was wrongly reported as dead in 1982 by People magazine. Vigoda found this amusing, and had a photo published in Variety of himself sitting up in a coffin reading the mistaken issue of People. In 1987, it happened again after a reporter from Secaucus, New Jersey mistakenly called him "the late Abe Vigoda", which once again prompted much amusement and what spawned the Running Gag about Vigoda's "dead or alive" status. It got to the point where a website was made (abevigoda.com) to provide real-time updates on the status of Abe Vigoda (current status: Abe Vigoda is dead). When he actually died in 2016, many reports had to state that this wasn't a hoax or misstatement.
  • IMDb once mistakenly reported that Mara Wilson (of Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire fame) was dead. Her joking response was that they were half right.
  • Tom Kenny discussed on Marc Maron's podcast how he was once reported dead, and how he thinks that rumors like that are more likely to happen to someone like him, as he's relatively well known but not super well known (using George Clooney as an example of the latter), so the rumors take longer to debunk. The same thing happened to Rodger Bumpass, although he has claimed this to be untrue (the death of Squidward's German voice, Eberhard Prueter, might have been the cause for those rumors).
  • Jaroslav Hašek, author of The Good Soldier Švejk, summed up various accounts depicting his alleged death during his World War I captivity in Russia (and short stint as a Bolshevik commissar):
    "After I returned to my home country I learnt I had been hanged three times, two times shot, and once even drawn and quartered by wild Kirgiz insurgents, near the Kale-Ishela lake. Finally, I was stabbed during a brawl by drunken sailors in an Odessa pub. The last account I deemed the most likely."
  • Bob Hope was twice a victim of death rumors — once in 1998, when he was still in good health, and again in 2003, just three months prior to his actual passing – with a pre-written obituary of the entertainer accidentally published on a news web site. In the 1998 case, where his "death" was actually published on the Associated Press' website, Hope's death was announced in the U.S. House of Representatives, broadcast live on C-SPAN (with camera shots of visibly upset legislators being shown). The 2003 obituary was published on CNN's website.
  • Country music pioneer Ray Price was also a victim of the premature obituary, as many national news outlets (from Rolling Stone to USA Today) had reported the singer's purported passing on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, from cancer — only for Price's wife, Janie, to reveal that although he was near death, he was still alive. See this link for more details. Incidentally, Price did die -- approximately a day after the premature obituaries were announced online, leaving behind one of the greatest legacies ever in country music.
  • In 1976, ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus appeared on German television to counter a rumour that he and his bandmates had died in a plane crash in what was then West Berlin. Some versions of this rumour claimed that Anni-Frid Lyngstad (aka Frida) had survived, but with such severe injuries that her singing career was effectively over. Needless to say, ABBA were never actually involved in a plane crash (though they did have a near-miss in 1979) and all four are currently still alive.
  • On March 16, 2014, US Magazine reported that Wayne Knight had been killed in an auto accident. Upon hearing this, Wayne tweeted "Some of you will be glad to hear this, others strangely disappointed, but...I am alive and well!", later adding "Does someone have to DIE to trend? Geez!"
  • In 2010 Tawnee Stone, a web softcore porn personality from the mid-1990s, was reported to have died in a car accident; but it was the character Tawnee Stone, not the actress who had done the scenes (and who hadn't made any new material in a long time). The producer spread the rumor to revive interest.
  • In the Christmas charity livestreams for the Yogscast in 2013, Simon Lane put a photo of fellow member Alex "Parv" Parvis (also the guitarist for the band Area 11) onscreen, claimed he'd died and said that the photo was a mini-memorial. It very promptly became a meme in the form of "RIP PARV", in no small part thanks to people who believed it was true, and he came back from a gig with the band that very evening to find out he was "dead". Even after he cleared the situation up, there were people who still didn't believe he was still alive nearly seven months later.
  • Similarly, Simon Lane was a victim of this himself, after some people tried to pretend he had died in order to scam money, under pretences that it would go towards a revival of Shadow of Israphel. Subsequently, his and Lewis Brindley's joint channel turned off comments for around two months, since this was the last straw (other comments had been self-promotion of small channels, spamming for reports of SOI, Moral Guardians complaining unnecessarily, and so on).
  • In 2009 actress Nancy Allen was reported to have died of cancer; she later came out and told the public this was untrue. She's still very much alive in 2022.
  • For the longest time, the English voice of Mewtwo in Pokémon: The First Movie (credited as "Philip Bartlett") was believed to have died in 2001. However, in 2014, the actor himself came out to put an end to all the confusion, revealing that he was still alive and that his real name was Jay Goede.
  • Judi Dench was the object of a cruel Internet hoax in October 2015. Stories were circulated on the Internet falsely stating she had died. Most credible news reporters checked and refrained from publishing, but the story still circulated virally. Dench herself had to put out an official statement to the effect that she is still here and hopes to be present in the world for some time yet.
  • Robert Anton Wilson. Who in the very early Internet days of 1994 was perplexed when people began phoning and writing to his "widow" to express condolences over her sad loss. Wilson had no idea how the rumour started, but when writing about the metaphysics of being "dead" whilst still being alive, said he really appreciated some of the nicer obituaries that were being printed. Apparently an Internet bulletin board had put it out as a joke to see who was taken in.
  • In The '90s, four major Australian broadcasting stations announced the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Within an hour they realised it would have been better to have confirmed the story, as they were told in no uncertain terms the 93-year old Queen Mum was still alive. It turns out an Australian working for Sky News in London had walked in on a test screening of the QM's obituary, got the wrong end of the stick entirely, and rang home to Brisbane with the "scoop." The local radio station put it out, and... let's just say that quite a few Australians no longer work in broadcast news.
  • Sometime in 2008, Miley Cyrus' website was hacked with a message saying that she was killed by a drunk driver. Presumably, she wasn't impressed, as she's still alive and doing music.
  • One of the more famous examples of this trope was the rumor that John Gilchrist, who played the kid from the famous Life Cereal commercial, died from overexposure from carbon monoxide after eating Pop Rocks with Coke. The rumor was debunked and Gilchrist is still with us working as a director of media sales for MSG Network.
    • In a similar case, Sven Ruygrok appeared in an infamous commercial for Frosties cereal in the UK, leading to a cyberbullying campaign against him and many rumors on the internet that he had committed suicide because of the bullying. Ruygrok has publicly spoken to confirm he is still alive and give his side of the story.
  • "I was never killed by Holmes or anyone else." — Businesswoman Kate Durkee on learning that she was being counted among H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle victims, 1896.
    • Durkee was one of four people to come up against claims that Holmes had killed them, by the way.
  • In the midst of a celebrity death epidemic in January 2016 that claimed David Bowie and Alan Rickman among others, someone made a deeply ridiculous article stating that The Muppets' Animal (a fictional character) had died. While the Muppet team has yet to respond to this, Snopes was quick to debunk the rumor.
    • See also the fake obituary for the Pillsbury Doughboy, which was more of an excuse to write a Hurricane of Puns.
  • This trope happened to Jackie Chan sometime in 2013, but it didn't take long for it to be confirmed as a hoax.
  • When Sir George Martin, the longtime producer of The Beatles, died in March 2016, people confused him with George R. R. Martin, who dispelled rumors of his own death on his LiveJournal account.
  • When college basketball star Lauren Hillnote  died from cancer in April 2015, a lot of people thought that The Fugees frontwoman Lauryn Hill had passed away. She didn't.
  • A clickbait article titled "These celebrities died without anyone knowing" was highlighted with a picture of Jennifer Coolidge. When someone pointed this out to her on Twitter, she responded "Yes, I am dead, and it's great!"
  • The main article page for a while depicted actor Chandler Riggs responding via Twitter to a similar scenario, where a photo of him was captioned with a link to "actors who died quietly this year." His response: "I wish LOL".
  • Played for Laughs with the final Let's Play Minecraft with Ray Narvaez Jr as part of Achievement Hunter as the team keeps treating Ray's last day as if he's going to die and Ray responding that he's not dying. The fandom tends to play along with this joke.
  • In a truly tragic and bizarre turn, when popular fan fiction writer "becuzitswrong" (whose collective stories have over half a million subscribers on fanfiction.net) started suffering serious delays in updating because of chronic health problems, a rumor made the rounds that the writer had died. Eventually, he posted an update to several fan fiction archives saying that, no, he was still alive and would be returning to regular updates soon. He even went so far as to quote the line "reports of my death were greatly exaggerated" and said that "things have finally calmed down and I am starting to write again. It is a wonderful feeling." Unfortunately, he died for real less than a week after this announcement was posted.
  • Following the 2011 Japanese earthquake, rumors of Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri dying as a result spread on the internet. These were proven false within days.
  • The Daily Telegraph mistakenly reported the death of folk violinist Dave Swarbrick of the band Fairport Convention in 1999, saying that he had died at home in Coventry. Swarbrick later quipped, "It isn't the first time I've died in Coventry." He died for real in 2016.
  • During Julia Louis-Dreyfus' acceptance speech at the 2016 Emmy Awards, she paid tribute to her father Gérard, who'd passed away two days earlier. However, many Twitter users started mistakenly paying tribute to Richard Dreyfuss, which somewhat amused him.
  • deadoraliveinfo.com used to be a good site to disprove this trope, but new names have only been added infrequently since about 2008, and as of 2017 there's very few people in the database born after 1958.note  Not to mention that it still lists certain dead people, such as Ruby Mohammed, Joan Fontaine, Maureen O'Hara, Stan Freberg, and the previously-mentioned Ray Price as still being alive. That said, the siterunners will still update someone's life status to accommodate their death (and occasionally the cause) if they really need to. Nowadays the Celebrity Death Beeper is your best bet.
  • Ugandan anti-death penalty activist Edward Edmary Mpagi spent 18 years on death row for the murder of a businessman named George William Wandyaka. In reality, Wandyaka had been injured during a home robbery but survived. However, the civil war in Uganda cut communications between Masaka (where the attack took place) and the capital Kampala (where Mpagi was arrested), preventing the correction of the error.
  • After the Beastie Boys' debut album, Licensed to Ill, was released, rumours started to circulate that Mike D had died from a drug overdose. In response, "Shake Your Rump" from Paul's Boutique included the following lyrics:
    Well, I'm Mike D, and I'm back from the dead
    Chillin' at the beach, down at Club Med
  • Mambo musician Pérez Prado (born as Dámaso Pérez Prado) was mistakenly reported dead by newspapers in 1983. In reality, it was his brother Pantaleón Pérez Prado (also a musician, and who also had gone by just Pérez Prado years before) who had passed away.
  • Said word for word by Olivia Newton-John, battling cancer but denying rumors that her time was drawing near. Her actual death was announced in August 2022.
  • Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was mistakenly reported dead during an illness in 175 AD; hearing the news, the troops of Syrian-Roman General Avidius Cassius acclaimed him as new emperor in the Middle East, only to murder him three months later when they learned that Marcus Aurelius was very much alive and preparing military action against them. Some suggest Marcus Aurelius's wife, Faustina the Younger, deliberately misled Avidius Cassius as part of a convoluted way to secure the succession of her teenage son, Commodus, and that Marcus Aurelius was aware of this and it was the reason why he ordered Avidius Cassius's correspondence to be destroyed.
  • Model and pin-up legend Bettie Page disappeared at the height of her popularity in The '60s and was widely believed to have died. Considering her rather wild and self-destructive lifestyle, this was not an unreasonable assumption. In The '90s, an investigation into her fate was launched, only to uncover that she was in fact still alive and living in Los Angeles, poor and completely unaware of her iconic status. A horde of fans and admirers (Hugh Hefner not least among them) worked to ensure that she received royalties for reproductions of her work, allowing her to live in relative comfort until her death in 2008. She never returned to the public eye, however, preferring to let her fans remember her as the sex symbol she had been.
  • During the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 three workers were sent into the tunnel beneath the reactor to open a set of sluice gates and drain water tanks that were in danger of exploding and worsening the damage. Given the amount of radiation they would be exposed to it was considered a Suicide Mission and initial reports suggested that all three of them had died of Acute Radiation Sickness afterwards. Whether this was part of the official attempts to cover up the extent of the disaster or simply a result of bureaucratic miscommunication is unknown, but the story that they had died persisted for many years. Eventually it was discovered that all three men had actually survived their trip beneath the reactor. As of 2019 two of them, Alexei Ananenko and Valeri Bezpalov, are still alive while the third, Boris Baranov, died of a heart attack in 2005.
  • In 1855, a human body found under a bridge in Milwaukee was identified positively by ten witnesses as belonging to a gentleman called John Dwire. During the inquest, Mr. Dwire, who had been living 16 miles away at Kemper's Pier, declared on oath, "Lest anyone here should still think I'm dead, I have come in person to assure him that I am not the corpse found in the river last Saturday morning". The true identity of the corpse was never discovered.
  • In 1989, during the making of the Nine Inch Nails music video for "Down In It", a weather balloon holding up a camera being used for filming ended up floating away and the crewmembers were unable to recover it. The balloon traveled 200 miles, where it landed in a field in Michigan and was found by a farmer. After the camera was handed over to the police, they saw footage of what they believed to be the decayed corpse of an unknown man surrounded by two men in what they thought was a gang killing. The footage was then sent to the FBI, where after a year of investigation the truth was discovered: the 'decayed corpse' was actually NIN frontman Trent Reznor covered in cornstarch to appear dead and decayed for the purpose of the music video, and the other two men were then-members Chris Vrenna and Richard Patrick. Reznor, who as of 2022 is still alive, found the whole ordeal amusing.
  • "Predictions for the Year 1708", a satire of astrology, written by Jonathan Swift under the name "Isaac Bickerstaff", predicted the death of astrologer and almanac-writer John Partridge, who had annoyed Swift with a comment about the "infallible" Church of England (effectively equating it with the Roman Catholic Church). On the predicted date, a letter circulated "confirming" Partridge's death and giving him a sarcastic eulogy. Partridge had recurring difficulties convincing people that he was in fact still alive until he finally died for real a few years later.
  • Donald O'Brien, an actor who starred in many Spaghetti Westerns and Italian horror films in the 1960s and 1970s, was falsely reported to have died on November 29, 2003; a misconception that's still reflected in many online sources. It didn't help that he'd had health problems since the 80s and gone into retirement in the 90s. As of 2016 he was still very much alive and living in Paris, and apparently finds the entire situation very amusing.
  • Death of French politician and businessman Bernard Tapie has been erroneously announced several times. In one of those (October 2019), French newspaper Le Monde mistakenly published online a pre-written eulogy, and the mistake was obvious since crucial information like date or age of death were left blank; cause of death was cancer, and Tapie was indeed suffering from cancer. He eventually died in October 2021.
  • In December of 2020, many people thought that Dick Van Dyke died after he began trending on Twitter. Van Dyke responded by saying that no, he's not dead; it was actually his 95th birthday. By the way, he's still alive as of November 2022.
  • Prior to her passing at the end of 2021, Betty White had a lot of false reports of her death circulate on the internet. Strangely, when The Guardian announced her passing, there was no "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer included despite this trope taking effect so many times.
  • In an odd case of this, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, ABC put up a bumper photo of JFK with the byline "1917-1963"... twenty minutes before wire services were cleared to announce it by press secretary Malcolm Kilduff. Apparently, ABC was going on unofficial news relayed from Eddie Barker of CBS affiliate KRLD. Due to this, NBC ended up being the first news outlet to make the official announcement, about a half-hour after Kennedy was declared dead.
  • Ernest Hemingway after surviving not one but two sequential airplane crashes in Africa.
  • Showing that this trope doesn't just apply to people, German radio reported that the carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) had been sunk in May 1942 during a mission to transport RAF Spitfires to Malta. The ship's crew, who hadn't even been attacked, much less sunk, had themselves a good laugh, then gathered to symbolically throw a bucket of water overboard and declare their ship had been 'salvaged'.
    • Similarly, the Japanese claimed to have sunk the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) (yes, that one) three different times, but she survived the entire war.
  • Susan Olsen, who played Cindy on The Brady Bunch, has revealed that fans are often surprised to learn that she's still alive, thinking she died of a drug overdose at age 18. Those people, of course, have her confused with the tragic Anissa Jones, who played Buffy on Family Affair, because both girls sported blonde sausage curl pigtails (Cindy's hairstyle was inspired by Buffy's, at 7-year-old Olsen's own request).
  • Jay Leno was falsely reported dead in April 2019. However, the article reporting his "death" got his year of birth AND his age wrong. (1949 instead of 1950, 71 instead of 68.)
  • On July 26, 2022, a post from the wife of Leave It to Beaver star Tony Dow (who played Wally Cleaver) to social media reported that Dow had passed away from complications of liver cancer (which had been announced two months earlier); with the post being shared by others he knew, including co-star Jerry Mathers (who played the title character) and eventually being picked up by the media. Later that afternoon, Dow's son posted a follow-up message that Dow was still alive but receiving hospice care. Tony Dow really did pass away the next day.
  • Bizarrely inverted in 2015 by the British children's TV art presenter Tony Hart (roughly the British equivalent of Bob Ross, for American readers), who was mourned as newly dead on social media after a single Tweet blew up and got him trending. In fact, he had died five years earlier and people had either forgotten he was dead or not seen the news at the time. His daughter subsequently commented that at least the mix-up had shown her that people still cared about him.

 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Thought You Were Dead

Top

Mrs. Puff "mashed"

When the potato Mrs. Puff used to fool SpongeBob gets mashed up, SpongeBob thinks he killed her and cries, only for the real Mrs. Puff to show up not long after and he realizes everything.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ReportsOfMyDeathWereGreatlyExaggerated

Media sources:

Report