How Believable Is Balloon Boy?

October 16 2009, 9:37 AM
For a moment during the confusion yesterday, a writer at Westword fantasized that perhaps 6-year-old Falcon Heene really was on the adventure of his lifetime, tucked safely inside a compartment of his father's experimental flying-saucer-shaped helium balloon, just like the '80s film "Flight of the Navigator." Most of the other takes on the big story about the silver balloon were more straight-forward across the globe---from Al-Jazerra to Australia's Sydney Morning Herald; from Britain's Sun to Argentina's La Gaceta Tucumán. As the 9News helicopter followed the balloon on its more than two-hour flight from Heene's Fort Collins home to a far-off dusty farm field not too far from Prospect Reservoir (video below), little Falcon was at home the entire time---hiding in the attic. That's what he and his family claimed after a few hours of must-see TV, with the National Guard deploying helicopters and Denver International Airport delaying flights (via The Christian Science Monitor). But skepticism abounds over whether the entire odyssey was a publicity stunt staged by Richard Heene, Falcon's storm-chasing father. On "Larry King Live" last night, Wolf Blitzer, filling in for King, interviewed the Heene family, which has appeared on the ABC reality TV show "Wife Swap."
"Did you hear us calling your name at any time?" Richard asked Falcon, who nodded yes. "Why didn't you come out?" Falcon replied: "Um...you guys said that, um...we did this for a show."
Richard Heene seemed to struggle explaining his son's answer, but continues to deny that any part of the fiasco was planned, releasing video of the balloon's launch to CNN. 9News reports that the Larimer County Sheriff's Office "is hoping to re-interview" the family in light of Falcon's comment on "Larry King Live." Still, debate swirls and the media circus continues, with oddities like the Heene boys' music video "Not Pussified" airing regularly and marketers trying to cash in (via Mashable). Meanwhile, Salon asks viewers to question why they were really watching the spectacle, and Slate's Explainer answers readers' questions about balloon travel.