Remember Balloon Boy?
October 1, 2019 5:53 AM   Subscribe

The Balloon Boy Hoax—Solved (?) "Ten years ago this month, the country was captivated by a bizarre spectacle in Fort Collins that was colloquially dubbed the Balloon Boy Hoax. Although Richard Heene, the so-called Balloon Boy’s father, pleaded guilty to charges related to the prank, it was never fully clear whether it was the scam that police made it out to be."

Denver's Mile High Magazine posts almost 6,000 words, claiming to reveal the true story. And, I don't understand the end. At all. Previously: 1, 2, 3
posted by The Blue Olly (37 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean....the article is as contradictory as the original tale. Mayumi's notes in the attorney file say that they planned it. There is a pause where the author confronts Richard Heene about this, things go quiet, and then Mayumi claims she made up that story that was buried in the notes.

So it's not solved, it's pretty much the exact same story that's been told from both sides (they made it up for fame/money, they didn't make it up, but people think they did). I don't think we'll ever know one way or the other, really.
posted by xingcat at 6:12 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've moved on.
posted by thelonius at 6:20 AM on October 1, 2019 [21 favorites]


O for the years when this was the kind of hoax foisted on the media and the public.
posted by penduluum at 6:30 AM on October 1, 2019 [79 favorites]


I mean, the kid was not in the balloon. And he stress-barfed on national television when the weight of lying was too much. I believe what Mayumi wrote. The whole ordeal is sad and I feel bad for the kids.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:30 AM on October 1, 2019 [12 favorites]


Demi Adejuyigbe wrote a song for the ninth anniversary last year
posted by dismas at 6:32 AM on October 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


I also believe what she wrote; she wrote it when she was afraid of being deported, and now, understandably, it's all in the past for her and she'd probably prefer to forget it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:53 AM on October 1, 2019


The Heenes' next project is a remake of the 1986 Harrison Ford drama, The Mosquito Coast.
posted by Naberius at 6:54 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


So, great, Richard is clearly abusive. Wonderful. Love it.
posted by all about eevee at 7:02 AM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


Who would have ever thought reality TV people would be dishonest attention-seekers hoping to get rich quick?
posted by Robin Kestrel at 7:15 AM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Pretty depressing, huh?

I'm looking forward to our glorious socialist future (it's coming, right?) because I'm curious as to whether, when no one is afraid of being homeless or destitute or being ripped away from their families, people will still make such terrible decisions.
posted by Frowner at 7:21 AM on October 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


I wonder where Carl is today?
posted by adept256 at 7:28 AM on October 1, 2019


My favorite part was when one of the family members audibly farts on Larry King Live.
posted by wires at 7:36 AM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I still really like what I ended up recording for my Oh Balloon Boy song, based on mikepop's lyrics.
posted by cortex at 7:49 AM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


> I'm looking forward to our glorious socialist future (it's coming, right?)

hey has anyone done that fredric jameson "griemas square" thing to the opposition between socialism and barbarism?

also is it alright to totally derail a thread when the subject of that thread should be handled through damnatio memoriae?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:51 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ten years ago.

TEN.

I remember being in that thread here, live, as it happened, like it was last month.

What the FUCK, linear time? Why are you like this?
posted by tzikeh at 7:56 AM on October 1, 2019 [43 favorites]


> penduluum:
"O for the years when this was the kind of hoax foisted on the media and the public."

Oh, you think this wasn't a trial balloon?

I'll see myself out, thanks.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2019 [15 favorites]


I'm looking forward to our glorious socialist future (it's coming, right?) because I'm curious as to whether, when no one is afraid of being homeless or destitute or being ripped away from their families, people will still make such terrible decisions.

I mean, of course they will. It's just that everyday people will be able to recover from their terrible decisions or be insulated from the consequences of terrible decisions of family members, much like rich people are insulated currently.

posted by eviemath at 8:13 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


What an odd way to end an article. Great way to end like a short story or something, but weird for an article. Richard Heene seems like a pretty garbage dude. Delusional as hell, too.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:25 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


Frankly, I wasn't aware there was any particular controversy over whether it was a hoax. Like, do you expect a hoaxer to tell you the truth?
posted by tavella at 8:27 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


My favorite part was when one of the family members audibly farts on Larry King Live.

And that show had been so classy up until that point.
posted by fairmettle at 8:29 AM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Don't give the monsters air to breathe.
posted by Pembquist at 9:02 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


, live, as it happened, like it was last month.

and it spawned a MetaTalk ... because Newsfilter.

Which eventually led me to make this comment:

Or it could be quantum physics. Shrodinger's Boy. A box is floating in a balloon high up in the air. Until the balloon comes to ground, two possible realities (that is, two different universes) are more or less equally probable:

Universe A - the boy in the box
Universe B - the boy is in a different box, upstairs in his home, asleep


Which I only quote now because it seems that this WEIRD TRUE STORY is again imposing a sort of Shrodinger's twist on things.

So it's not solved, it's pretty much the exact same story that's been told from both sides (they made it up for fame/money, they didn't make it up, but people think they did). I don't think we'll ever know one way or the other, really.

If I ever have to write an essay or give a lecture on the problem of Shrodinger's Cat, I think I've got my starting point.
posted by philip-random at 9:03 AM on October 1, 2019 [6 favorites]


wires: My favorite part was when one of the family members audibly farts on Larry King Live

As I have mentioned before, the title of that video is "Balloon Boy Falcon Farts on Larry King" and that is an AMAZING title and I will always laugh at it (mostly because I initially read it the same way ambrosen did).
posted by hanov3r at 9:55 AM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


I had the opposite reaction, tzikeh. "Only ten years ago?" Somehow I have this lumped in with Baby Jessica (which was not a hoax) in my brain.
posted by queensissy at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2019


Weird fucking article. Either both parents are horrible, pathological liars or just the father is—and if that's the case, he's also a manipulative and domineering (and possibly abusive) husband and his family should probably file a restraining order against him. (Naberius's Mosquito Coast reference was spot-on.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2019


To me its like, they did plan it. But then the kid hid in a weird place. And some of them actually got scared when they couldn't find him.
posted by agregoli at 10:26 AM on October 1, 2019 [7 favorites]




Man, I remember that day on Metafilter too. I couldn't post at work, but I was refreshing my phone in my office, where everybody was just pretending not to be following the news, occasionally shouting an update. Sometimes I think that's the day I truly became addicted to the internet as it is. I always liked it, I've been extremely online since it was first possible, but even so, that was really the day. Ten years!

I rarely say this about a piece, even the frothiest of them, but I'm not sure I see the point of this article. Granted, it is interesting to see how the thing could have been both a planned hoax and a cause of genuine panic in the family. But it was settled in the public mind that it was planned. The reporter finds fresh proof of this, presents it to Richard, and gets Mayumi yelled at. And for what? They're all pieces of work, but Mayumi appears to be at the bottom of an unhealthy and possibly abusive dynamic. (See Richard's songs about "pussification" and the way the boys treated their mother.) I'm not somebody who likes to talk about "raking up the past for nothing," but, well, here we might have it.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


Richard seems to be mentally ill at best and manipulating human garbage at worst. I wonder if Richard reached out to the writer to try and rehabilitate his reputation and the writer played along until they did their due diligence and found the notes because otherwise why give this guy a forum?
posted by photoslob at 1:16 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


As a kid I read Mosquito Coast. Such a deeply disturbing book. Reading the article, like others have said above, it felt just like the book. A father who obviously has major issues, dragging his family through terrible events.

I feel sorry for the wife. This quote in particular: “She’s traditional Japanese, which means she takes the caretaker role very, very seriously,” a family friend says. “She lives to serve Richard and the boys. She would never want embarrassment or shame for any of them.”

And even more sorry for the kids.
posted by greenhornet at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


And I laughed like I always do
And I cried like I cried for you
And Balloon Man blew up in my hand
posted by kirkaracha at 6:35 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I never heard of this before because reality TV people are the worst people that aren’t politicians. But clearly the article isn’t high class either—WTF was that credulously-reported bumph about “charging the balloon to a million volts with a taser so they could control it?” I mean, that sounds like some real Gilligan’s island-level science reporting right there.

Too bad for the kids, though.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:37 PM on October 1, 2019


Yep, agregoli's conclusion up thread is mine-- I believe mayumi's notes that it was planned, but since falcon had been playing around the balloon earlier and they couldn't find him in the hiding spot, they really did believe he was up there.
posted by jj's.mama at 9:47 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


> they really did believe he was up there.

Plus they'd planned it to be a rather modest little publicity stunt and it grew quite a bit beyond what they had anticipated. Compounded by the fact that they really couldn't find that kid so there was some real panic there.

Still, it's a pretty fair indictment of our reality tv culture and obsession with fame. This guy was, and still is to a degree, obsessed with being famous on a reality tv show or the like.

But there is no there there . . . once you've been on a few reality TV episodes, or even a whole series, you're not rich, happy, fulfilled, or anything. It's a thing that's not even worth holding up as a goal in life, let alone your primary goal.
posted by flug at 10:52 PM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I feel so very old right now.
posted by captain afab at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2019


"But clearly the article isn’t high class either—WTF was that credulously-reported bumph about “charging the balloon to a million volts with a taser so they could control it?” I mean, that sounds like some real Gilligan’s island-level science reporting right there."

If you go down that rabbit-hole -- which, sadly, I did -- you'll eventually find that this most likely involved an attempt at an ion wind effect. The clues in the article are the mentions of his interest in electromagnetism and the supposedly respectable meteorology journal publication.

He's a UFO nutter, as you'll discover from several links, and apparently in the UFO community the crank idea that there is an "electrogravitic" effect not accounted for by ionic wind is very popular. Additionally and relatedly, Heene believes that meteorological phenomena can be explained by electromagnetism (as opposed to convection, et cetera).

He claimed he'd have lateral control of the balloon; I don't see design elements in it that would create an ionic wind, nor would a taser charge be sufficient to overcome any prevailing wind current, regardless.

When the article says he was once taken seriously by serious people, I'm pretty sure the author didn't fact-check the existence of the meteorology publication or (if it exists) its content and context.

He's tried to market a long series of inventions, all of which are either half-baked (a truck lift) or banal (back-scratcher). With regard to his helium balloon: not to discount the utility of duct tape, which is pretty useful, apparently no one bothered to tell Heene that helium molecules are especially small, which is why sealed helium toy balloons made of rubber nevertheless deflate relatively quickly.

We're all familiar with the Dunning–Kruger effect, but I don't feel it fully explains this common type of narcissistic enthusiastic incompetence you see with crank inventors. I'm willing to believe he's a skilled house renovator, though I strongly suspect he has a lot of trouble on the business side of it.

I think the ending of the article was intended to imply that Heene was lying and forcing his wife to lie, without actually saying so (and therefore being potentially libelous).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:13 PM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


tzikeh: "I remember being in that thread here, live, as it happened, like it was last month."

That thread title still makes me lol.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:06 AM on October 5, 2019


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