“Up, up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon!”
10 years ago, the world was duped into believing a 6-year-old boy had hopped into a homemade flying saucer balloon that then floated away untethered into the sky.
With live news media covering the story for hours, the balloon eventually came down, only for people to discover nobody inside. As it turned out, the “balloon boy” was hiding in his home attic in what police later called a hoax.
A decade later, the now 16-year-old Falcon Heene and his parents are opening up to ABC News about the incident, which they insist was not a hoax.
Richard Heene and his wife Mayumi still claim that they genuinely feared Falcon was in the balloon when it got loose.
“What would be nice is if the media, could actually go, ‘Yeah, Richard’s got a point,'” Richard said. “But it’s so biased – the media continues on with the same narrative.”
He pushed back on allegations that the incident was all just a publicity stunt, “I’ve lost a lot of opportunities. I’ve had people contact me about things I invented and the deal went south – because they find out who I am,” he explained. “The thing that gets me is the media never tells my side of the story.”
The family had previously appeared on a reality show called “Wife Swap”.
Richard and Mayumi later pleaded guilty on charges, with a small amount of jail time, as well as work release and eight years of probation.
But Mayumi claims she only took the plea out of fear.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to be deported,'” she said. “Then I won’t see my husband or, you know, kids – I won’t be able to see them.”
In the years since, Falcon has formed a rock band with his brothers Ryo and Bradford, and they even titled one of their songs “Balloon Boy, No Hoax”, though these days they’d just like to get past it.
“We don’t really wanna associate ourselves with that,” Bradford said. “We just want to rock out.”