Psych!: Seven Premature Celebrity Death Reports

“Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey,” according to rocker Jon Bon Jovi, who was the latest celebrity victim of a fake death notice.

Bon Jovi’s death was announced last night via Facebook and Twitter, prompting the singer’s band to tweet a photo of him standing in front of a Christmas tree holding a sign with the above quote about Heaven.

Of course, Bon Jovi is only the latest in a long history of well-known people who were presumed dead before their time. Comedian Bill Cosby’s death was also falsely reported on Twitter – on two separate occasions – which Zoomer wrote about at the time. As a result, we’re counting down our top seven living people whose demises were greatly exaggerated.

By Mike Crisolago

Mark Twain

The most famous phrase about death being greatly exaggerated is attributed to Twain. At that time, it was Twain’s cousin who had actually passed. Ten years later, in 1907, Twain was again presumed dead, with an account appearing in the New York Times when he was thought to be lost at sea. Once again, he set the record straight. One has to wonder if by that point anyone actually believed the obituary three years later, when Twain really did die.

Marcus Garvey


Garvey holds the dubious distinction of being the only person on this list who actually died as a result of reading his own obituary. The Jamaican journalist, activist and national hero suffered a stroke in 1940 and was erroneously reported dead. Upon reading his obituary, the assertion that he had died “broke, alone and unpopular” triggered a second stroke, and Garvey passed away the next morning.

Paul McCartney

From rumours of a car crash to a campus newspaper report to the symbolic interpretation of album cover art and the playing of records backward to find hidden messages, it seems that no one has gone further or tried harder to prove the death of a celebrity than those who propelled the “Paul is dead” story to national prominence. If the theory is true, though, that look-a-like the other Beatles hired to replace him has being doing an exceptional job.

The CNN Obitu-Blunder

In April of 2003 accidently made public a number of mocked-up celebrity obituaries. Many of the obituaries employed templates from other famous deceased celebrities, making for an interesting read. For example, Fidel Castro was remembered as a “life guard, athlete, movie star,” which was actually from Ronald Reagan’s obituary.  Meanwhile, the entry for Bob Hope, which was based on an obituary for the Queen Mother, listed the entertainer as the “UK’s favourite grandmother.”

Pope John Paul II

If you live a long life and are the focus of a near-successful assassination attempt, there’s a reasonable chance that your demise may be prematurely reported. Pope John Paul II is the only person on our list to have their passing reported incorrectly three times. After an attempt on his life in 1981, CNN implied his death in their coverage of the situation. CNN again got it wrong in 2003 when the Pope’s name appeared in the above website goof-up. By 2005, CNN had learned to wait for confirmation of the Pope’s passing, especially as he lay ill. That didn’t stop Fox, though, from reporting incorrect news of his demise shortly before he actually did pass away.

Margaret Thatcher

Technically, Thatcher died in 2009. Of course, the Thatcher in question was then-Canadian Minister of Transport John Baird’s cat. Still, when news spread of Thatcher’s death at a Conservative black tie dinner (thanks to a text Baird sent one of his friends at the dinner), a letter of condolence was in the works before Buckingham Palace set the record straight.

Gordon Lightfoot

When Canadian rocker Ronnie Hawkins received the news of Lightfoot’s passing from someone who posed as Lightfoot’s grandson, it triggered a series of communications heard across the country. The news came as a shock to many, including Lightfoot himself, who heard the report on the radio as he drove to work.