Except, well, he didn't.
You see we live in a glorious age where news is no longer something you receive via a suit barking at you from a television set. Instead, thanks to the interwebz and social networking sites, news is delivered in a much more subtle and immersive way. For example I first found out that Michael Jackson had died while I was on the net looking up something else. Now I have no idea what that something else was, but I sure as Betsy remember the date, website, even the exact time when I read that the King of Pop had shuffled off this mortal coil. But the thing is the news broke so quickly nobody seemed quite sure just what the Hell was going on. Michael Jackson was reported as dead, Perez Hilton claimed it was a publicity stunt (Gee Note: Much in the same he claimed Miley Cyrus was "obviously wearing underwear" when it became clear he could get in to serious trouble for printing a picture of a minor's genitalia. Perez Hilton, needless to say, is a massive douchebag), the BBC claimed the singer was rushed to hospital and was in a "critical condition", and people basically hit the "refresh" button over and over again on they're keyboard to make sure they weren't missing anything.
The thing is an argument could be made that this obsession with reporting news stories without all the facts available just so you can claim to be first is actually cheapening the entire journalism trade. Take the tale of New York Radio Station Z100 who reported at the back end of last week that Academy Award nominated actor and all around PR disaster Russell Crowe (Gee Note: Rumour has it that Crowe actually lost out on winning an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind" by saying rude things to the press about award shows. Rumour also has it that I once wrestled five bears to the ground to save Angelina Jolie, and then took her back to my castle and did the sex with her. There's no smoke without fire is what I'm saying) had come a cropper filming for a new movie in Austria. And before you could say "Er… no he didn't" the news spread like crazy through Facebook and Twitter, with such statements as "OMG!!!1!!1! Rusel Crow iz ded!!" and "Just heard the dude from Gladiator snuffed it. WTF???".
It was, of course, bobbins. Russell Crowe is alive and well and ready to storm out of interviews and punch the paparazzi to his New Zealand born naturalised Australian heart's content. It's not the first time this has happened either. In fact every other couple of months another celebrity is rumoured to have snuffed it on the internet. The past few years we've had the premature mournings of George Clooney, Jeff Goldblum, and Johnny Depp to name but a few. Even Patrick Swayze was forced to leave his deathbed and pose for a photo op to prove that, dammit, he was still breathing albeit not for that much longer. Now the majority of these hoaxes are the work of a website named Fake-A-Wish, where you can type in any famous person's name and it will generate an authentic looking news report with which you can "fool your friends" (Gee Note : Only any friend of yours who does this is probably a dick. "Hey Suzanne. You know that actor you really like? You know the dude from that television show about the handsome vet who rescues Llama's from Korean prisoner of war camps? Yeah well he's dead. No I'm serious. Look it's on this website. See? Ahahahahahahaaa. Nah I'm just messin' with you. It's a fake. Although you should have seen your face! And when you started crying… priceless. That'll teach you to respect someone's body of work. You're such a loser Suzanne."). Sadly though it's often the genuine news organisations that get fooled as well as your chums, causing all sorts of hullaballoo the world over.
All this is a far cry from the days when stuff simply didn't get reported on until it was long since over, and all the facts were as clear as a sunny day. Case in point, the bizarre story of Trunko. Or as the Daily Mail's headline announced on December 27th 1924, the "Fish Like A Polar Bear" (Gee Note: Ah they don't make headlines like that anymore. I mean that couldn't be any clearer could it? The only way it could be more blunt is if they hit you in the head with a sledgehammer with a note stapled to it saying "Big fish. Looked like a polar bear. Crazy".). Now one would think that the story of a strange animal with some kind of woovy bezerk appearance would be big news the world over. But the truth is all this went down an entire two months prior, on October 24th 1924, an absolute age by modern day standards.
Here's the dealio. It's autumn in Margate, South Africa. The locals are busily doing what they do on a daily basis (Gee Note: Which being South Africa in the 20's probably means wearing fetching shorts and being mean to black people) when, woah daddy, something very strange was spotted in
Nay dear reader, what was truly unexpected was the animal the Orcas were kicking seven bells out of. For as eye witness Hugh Balance (Gee Note: Who with a name like that should have been a professional juggler but probably wasn’t) put it, the damn thing was like “a giant polar bear”. After a ferocious battle that lasted a good couple of hours, the Orcas gained the upper hand and the strange beastie tired, washing up on the shore dead later that evening. Exciting beach dwellers rushed to take a look at it’s carcass and were amazed discover several noteworthy physical features.
First things first, it’s entire body was covered in a white fur that measured 8 inches long in some places. Then there was the enormous size of the creature, measuring some 47 ft in length and a good 10 ft wide. Then you had it’s unusual lobster like tail, itself measuring somewhere in the 10 ft range. And finally you have the animal’s trunk.
Yes a trunk. Just like an elephant.
Better yet the trunk appeared to be attached directly to beast’s torso, with no visible head to be found.
Somehow this alone was not enough to bring any bona-fide boffins to the area to have a wee look at the thing, as all those measurement were given by as yet unnamed individuals. Indeed, despite the carcass allegedly resting on the sand for ten days nobody, not one single person, decided that it might be a good idea to take a photo of the animal’s lifeless carcass. Or, you know, give the national scientific society interest in bat-shit craziness (Gee Note: A genuine government department doncha know? Well alright. Not really) a call. But no. Not a sausage. After a while Trunko - as it was later dubbed - simply drifted back out to sea, almost in disgust I guess.
The question of course remains, what the hell was that? I mean naturally, a ton of people believe that Trunko is some sort of previously unknown creature that makes no bleeding sense what so ever. I mean let’s think about this for a second. If it’s a mammal then a trunk might be useful for breathing underwater. Ditto fur to keep the creature warm in cold waters. But a lobster like tail? That would mean it shared some characteristics with an arthropod, which is a bit like saying one could successfully mate a spider with a goat (Gee Note: And then teach it to fight crime. Never fear, Spider-Goat is here). And no head? How the f*** does it eat then? I mean it simply does not compute.
So it’s much more sensible in this case to look at more rational explanations (Gee Note: Booooooo). The most common of which is our old friend the decaying basking shark (Gee Note: I say “friend”. More of an acquaintance really. I’d stop and say hello to it in the street, but wouldn’t want to invite it round for dinner is what I’m saying. It’s the smell more than anything). After all sharks can appear to be furry in a decomposed state, and the trunk and the tail can be explained by the way body parts start to fall away from a deceased sea creature.
But what about that fight between the Killer Whales and our subject? Well one thing that Killer Whales apparently enjoy doing is “playing” with dead seals (Gee Note: Although personally speaking I prefer games in which all the participants are alive if I’m honest). It’s entirely possible that those Orcas would find a basking shark that was no more and, you know, do the same.
Still, with all that being said, there’s a tiny tiny chance that Trunko may instead be something exciting and wonderful. It’s improbable, but not completely impossible, that the creature that washed up in Margate that fateful October day could defy logic on seemingly every level and genuinely be an amazing discovery.
And however slim that hope is, it’s still a much better story than the fake death of a celebrity. No matter what their name is.