The fake celebrity death toll following Michael Jackson's death continues to rise. The body count so far:
(found dead in a Berlin hotel room), Natalie Portman
(fell off a cliff), George Clooney
(fell off a cliff), P. Diddy, Jeff Goldblum (fell off a cliff), Harrison Ford, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Louie Anderson.
The media is describing this death rumor craze as an internet phenomenon. Of course, the internet is the medium through which the rumors are circulating. However, such death rumor crazes are not unique to the internet. There have been similar crazes in the past. The only difference now is that, thanks to the internet, the rumors can spread faster, but also can be debunked faster. Consider this April 14, 1945
report from the New York Times, excerpted below:
Flood of Rumors Gives City Jitters
Legitimate and Ludicrous Calls Swamp the Switchboards in Wake of Roosevelt Death
Widespread jitters bordering on mass hysteria seemed to sweep New York yesterday in the wake of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death, as rumors of killings, accidents and deaths involving prominent persons flooded the city.
Newspapers, radio stations, government offices, banks and corner drugstores were deluged with thousands of telephone calls asking "is it true?" that such and such a person had been killed. The telephone calls in some cases followed patterns so closely that some harassed switchboard operators were convinced the wave was organized as a possible attempt to hamper communications. But the prevailing theory was that irresponsible and flighty persons had fallen prey to their own gullibility.
The names of Van Johnson, film actor, and Comdr. Jack Dempsey were linked by the majority of callers, including two that Commander Dempsey and the actor had been killed together in an automobile accident. Other names mentioned were those of Mayor La Guardia, Harry Hopkins, Robert Taylor, Herbert H. Lehman, Charles Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Errol Flynn, Babe Ruth, Jack Benny and Jimmy Walker.