The family who cried “balloon”

By now we’ve all heard plenty about Falcon Henne and his staged balloon ride across Colorado. If not, put “balloon boy” in your web browser and soak up the drama of possibly the biggest hoax in recent history.

The latest development? According to a CNN report on Oct. 23, Mayumi Henne  admitted in a court report on Oct. 17 that she and husband, Richard, knew Falcon was hiding the entire time but still mislead police and military investigators who frantically searched for the boy.

Mayumi Henne said the giant homemade helium balloon, resembling a flying saucer, was created specifically as a hoax to draw media attention–not to study the weather like they first reported.

Nice move, Hennes. Real classy. The storm-chasing family has already played out their 15 minutes of fame after starring on the show “Wife Swap” on two separate occasions. But that just wasn’t enough for Richard. He had to convince his six-year-old son to hide in a box in the garage attic for about 7 hours while the nation watched a big balloon soar through the air.

Why? According to Falcon in an interview on “Larry King Live,” he decided to keep hiding, even though he heard people yelling his name, “for a show.” Apparently, his dad is pitching a new reality show.

As if all this is not enough, Falcon’s older brother decided (or maybe was encouraged by his loving father) to tell reporters that his brother fell out of the balloon. Good job, buddy. Way to cover up your family’s craziness.

Maybe it’s just me, but this whole thing makes me sick. How can anyone in his right mind even dream of doing something like this? Seriously, Richard Henne must not have that whole probably-not-a-good-idea function in his brain. But, then again, neither does Mayumi, who blindly followed her overdramatic husband without questioning his skewed reasoning.

Which brings me to the one concept I still can’t understand: What did the Hennes think this hoax would accomplish? Did they have some master plan that this little balloon prank played into? I’m pretty sure that, no matter how you spin it, this story will always end with Dad going to jail.

Maybe the Hennes thought that his family was clever enough to get away with it all. Here’s one suggestion for future fraud: Don’t rely on a six-year-old to carry your tall tale.

As disgusted as I am, maybe this mess is exactly what the Hennes wanted. Everyone knows who they are because they are constantly in the news. I’m sure that, when Falcon gets older, people will say, “Oh yeah, Falcon Henne. You’re that kid who was in the balloon, but then wasn’t.” What kid doesn’t want that legacy to follow forever?

Falcon is famous, period. YouTube is exploding with parodies of the event, including the extremely popular, “I’m in a Box,” inspired by the “Saturday Night Live” masterpiece “I’m on a Boat.”

That said, I’m also embarrassed at how easily the media was duped by the whole thing. I mean, did we really believe there was actually a little boy traveling in the flimsy flying saucer? Sadly, we did, even if only for a few seconds.

I hope to one day get a job in this industry and I can’t imagine how stupid the reporters who were covering this whole thing felt.

Better yet, what about all those first responders who thought a child’s life was at risk? Or that guy who left his vehicle to chase down the deflating balloon, only to fall flat on his face instead of saving the boy’s life?

All I can say at this point is that I hope I never hear about the Henne family again. Still, I can’t help but feel like Richard Henne has a whole timeline set up. I thought most of the drama was over the next morning when the family was on “The Today Show” with little Falcon puking every five seconds, but they got the breaking news banner again when Mayumi’s confession was released.

So, what can we learn from all of this? You can’t believe everything you’re told. If “the news” doesn’t make logical sense, you can be skeptical. Especially when it involves massive tin foil balloons and reality show has-beens.

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