Thursday, April 17, 2014

Balloon Boy: Was It a Publicity Stunt?

October 15, 2009, and the nation was captivated by the dreadful thought of a little boy hundreds of feet in the air, in a homemade travel balloon of sorts.  It was a hoax, as we quickly learned from the mother's initial statement as well as the father.  Desperate to get media attention, this family has resorted to some of the most bizarre family behavior imaginable, including a televised appearance where the boy was unable to perpetuate the parents' lie.

We covered this case when it happened, and it is interesting to note how the CNN announcers covered it, looking back, and how the general public seemed to be more in tune with the deception than those in media.

Its interesting to note that we had indicated the family for deception right away, but as the case unfolded, the networks seemed to want to hold on to the drama.

The family cost taxpayers quite a bit.

Here, Diane Sawyer asked Richard Hennee, the father, if it was a publicity stunt.  She brings forth the assertion that many people believe it was a hoax.  This is the father's reply:

"Well, you know, they weren't there. Um, I went through such a roller coaster of um, emotions yesterday, um, to have people say that I think is extremely pathetic. Um, we were holding on to every second, you know, every second just hoping that, uh, he was going to come out of it ok. And um, I mean, I'm not selling anything. This is what we do all of the time. We made out , uh, the Henne family schedule in advance, a year in advance, what were gunna do, where were gunna do it, and um, I'm not selling anything, you know, I don't have a can of beans I trying to promote. So uh, this is just another day in the life of what we do."

The question is simple:  Was it a publicity stunt?

Even though it is a "yes or no" question, we find that the subject avoided answering the question, meaning that the question, itself, is sensitive to him.  

Recall if he is unwilling or unable to deny it, we are not to deny it for him.  But his answer is useful for teaching. 

In a "yes or no" question, particularly when viewing a presupposed or expected denial, we like to look at every word that comes after the word "no" as additional wording. 

"Well, you know, they weren't there. 

When one begins with a pause, there is a need for a pause.  

The phrase, "you know" is a habit of speech.  Like all habits of speech, we note what topics cause it to arrive, and what topics do not.  "You know" shows an acute awareness of the presence of the interviewer (or audience).  I use it when nervous, in public speaking, particularly when I veer off my carefully prepared notes.  

Note his answer:  he does not deny it was a publicity stunt, but only asserts that those who think it was a publicity stunt (Sawyer said that many people think it was a publicity stunt), were not present.  This is the basis of his argument?

Um, I went through such a roller coaster of um, emotions yesterday, um, to have people say that I think is extremely pathetic. 

He uses the word "I", which is strong and unless the language suggests otherwise, we are to believe him.  He connects it with the past tense verb, "went."
 When he says that he went through a "roller coaster" of emotions, I believe him.  Even if it was a publicity stunt, the roller coaster of emotions were likely present.  

...yet, if it was not a publicity stunt, a "roller coaster" is known for its "ups and downs", which would leave me wondering:  if he thought his son was hundreds of feet in the air, what "ups" did he experience?

Um, we were holding on to every second, you know, every second just hoping that, uh, he was going to come out of it ok. 

While describing his emotion, he changes from "I" to "we" without contextual change.  The roller coaster now became "holding on", and "I" went to "we", another indication that deception may be present. 

And um, I mean, I'm not selling anything. 

That which is reported in the negative is always important.  Here, he, himself, introduces the topic of profit.  Simply listening to him, I would ask myself, "What is he selling?"  We now know that he was trying to sell himself into a 'reality' TV show.

This is what we do all of the time. 

I believe him.  I think that "we" (the family) tries, "all the time" to find ways to get themselves on television and noticed, using appearance, music, and even deception, in attempts to be noticed.  

We made out , uh, the Henne family schedule in advance, a year in advance, what were gunna do, where were gunna do it, and um, I'm not selling anything, you know, I don't have a can of beans I trying to promote. So uh, this is just another day in the life of what we do."

Going from "We" back to "I", we now have the negative and repetition of:

"I'm not selling anything", which, for most people, screams that he is, indeed, selling something. 

He is truthful in that he is not selling a can of beans.  He is selling an idea; the idea that his family should be on television and he should be paid.  

This did not work out for him, as the hoax came to light after the tv interview, though readers here knew immediately.  That this is just another day in the life is also true:  he went on to try to sell other ideas, including foul mouthed children's video.  

Follow the pronouns.  

Note the location of emotions. 

Believe the subject unless he gives you reason not to. 

Avoid reality TV shows.  


Anonymous said...

I believe they admitted it was a publicity stunt long ago.

Tania Cadogan said...

the father actually made a bit of money out of an invention , it was basically a heavy duty truck that transformed into a variety of tools for heavy duty work. The video however is extremely loud and intensley irritating so watch at your own risk and remove all throwable items from within reach

I wonder how good it is at neutering over excited heenes?

John Mc Gowan said...


Dispatch Magazine On-Line.

Tape Library

I'm doing some research into deception in 911/999 emergency calls.

There are times when a call is made to the emergency services by the Perpetrator of the crime. And when statement Analysis is applied to the transcript of the call, can at times detect deception, and or sensitivities within said call.

For those interested in this side of Statement Analysis. The link below is a great site to listen to first hand calls. With links to some of the cases.

elf said...

Can the phrase 'you know' signal a need to persuade?

Skeptical said...

I think it is interesting that he chose the phrase "a can of beans" considering the association of beans with money. Such as the term bean counter for bookkeepers and accountants and dollar bills are sometimes referred to as beans.

John Mc Gowan said...

OT Update.

Charge dropped against Myrtle Beach area man in Heather Elvis-related case

Tania Cadogan said...

Hi Elf, when the phrase "you know" is used, it is meant to convince and convey. It allows the subject to not say something deceptive which is stressful(deception by ommission)and relies on the listener to fill in the gaps, ie the listener hears what he wants to hear rather than what the subject is actually saying.

Attention must be paid in regard to where is appears and where it doesn't, especially if the subject uses it freely akin to punctuation (my niece ends every sentence with a yeah)
If it is part and parcel of their normal speech look for where it disappears perhaps indicating sensitivity.

In the mccann case, i notice kate says you know, a lot.

Rather then show deception by making a definite statement which can be pinned down, she instead says you know, leaving us the listener to insert what we would say or do.

Kate doesn't say what she did or how she felt in relation to being the mother of an abducted (allegedly) child since Maddie was never abducted and died at the hands of her parents or a member of the tapas 7 group.

Since she is not feeling how a innocent parent would feel, she feels how a guilty parent feels.
She then has to act out the role of innocent parent, she acts and talks how she think an innocent parent would act and talk.
She has seen pressers where innocent parents have pleaded for help to find their missing loved one and tries to act the same way, she and gerry fail miserably.

Thus, we see that with both the parents and the tapas 7, that educated, professional people who would normally be fluent speakers suddenly become inarticulate stutterers and stammerers unable to string a coherent sentence togeather when asked anything even remotely sensitive such as when did you last see Maddie, what was the weather like, tell me about the vacation/kate/gerry etc?

We then see lots of nonsense sounds and you knows etc as they need to convince and convey to us they are telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

LOL Hobnob, when the guy started humping that invention at the end of the video, i was like yeh i know how he feels.

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to contact Peter? A friend of mine is being lied about at work and I am hoping Peter can help. The friend's job is at stake and what the women are claiming is not true.

Could you please email me at

Also, Hobnob, Lemon and others that are very good at analysis, would you mind emailing if Peter can't? I know he is busy and this is small potatoes compared to a lot of current things out there, but it would mean a lot to me.


elf said...

Thanks hobnob :)

good luck said...

Good luck :)

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:18
Nice fake post, love the intentional misspellings!

Anonymous said...

you are so right, I'm a secretly good speller masquerading as a bad one.

Anonymous said...

if what I wrote is too yucky foryou to comprehend. than please believe its a lie/ fake, whatever you want. my post was only meant for somebody who could considerer that information with a open heart.

Anonymous said...

also -- I only "think" that's what her post mean. I could just not understand a "joke" but -- that's my best enterpretation.

Anonymous said...

Normally I (being an ex "troll") would "fire the flames"of the above.Nowadays I just read.

Anonymous said...

ok :) sounds good.

you can look at her facebook and form your own opinion if you want to tell me how you see her posts, relationship status and recent images as meaning something different. they may indeed.

just trying to solve the mystery, find Heather and bring justice to whomever deserves it.


Anonymous said...

OT, this is kind of weird. I'm curious for statements from the husband.

Eddy was following her husband home from the restaurant, and when her husband arrived home, she was nowhere to be found.

He didn't notice she wasn't behind him the whole way home?

Anonymous said...

Another OT, Jeremiah Oliver's remains possibly found. I wish authorities in other missing children cases would move forward, as they did in this case, before his remains were found.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 9:47, I just read what you wrote about the Jeremiah Oliver case. This is a case a couple towns over from me. I just checked my local paper online and it is heartbreaking. Especially on Good Friday. It says that they found what they believe are his remains in a suitcase off of I-90 in a town close by called Sterling. The paper is saying they got word that a tip was sent in from an individual incarcerated in the local minimum security prison. I don't know if that is where the boyfriend is also locked up. It's a men's prison (2 yr maximum stay). It is so disturbing and heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

And what had happened legally is that the mother and boyfriend were ordered to produce their son, show him to authorities, when it was discovered he was missing, and when they failed to do so, they were arrested and charged. The mother had told his daycare provider I believe I read it was a couple days before he was last seen that he was going to go live with his grandmother in a Southern state. So, the DA charged them in his dosappearance. My heart is heavy reading of how he was found discarded like trash, I had hoped the mother had sent him somewhere to live and was hiding him or something because her behavior is very strange in court appearances, she acts like she doesn't understand what is going on and her lawyer has said she can't follow him when he talks. What a terribly tragic discovery.

Anonymous said...

i wonder if it could have triggerd a bscklash from somebody who found it unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

i might be confused but i think we are allies on here. if so hiiii

John Mc Gowan said...


Rehoboth Police search for missing woman

REHOBOTH, Mass. (WPRI) – Police are searching for a Rehoboth woman who was first reported missing on Tuesday night.

Joyce Eddy, 57, was last seen at the Burger King located on Taunton Avenue in East Providence. According to police, she was following her husband home from the restaurant, but when he arrived home Joyce was no longer behind him.

She was driving a Honda Civic with Massachusetts registration 2BLL50.

Joyce is described as being 5’3’’ to 5’5’’ tall and weighs approximately 155 pounds. She has shoulder length blonde hair and hazel eyes. She may have been wearing a brown hooded jacket and blue jeans.

At this time she’s considered to be a missing and possibly endangered person.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective James M. Casey of the Rehoboth Police Department (508) 252-3722.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:11,

I'm sorry, I got confused too about who was posting what, and with what intention. We are allies!
I think your idea that someone could have been angered by that has a lot of merit, but I would think that her coming out as bisexual would not in and of itself anger someone to that degree unless they were already angry with her and then it could have been like "the straw that broke the camel's back". There certainly are people who would not take that kind of announcement as if it is no big deal, no problem.

Anonymous said...

even two brains inside one head can disagree or get out of sync now and then :-). you are rt abouts camels back "reqjuirement". she said she was in relationship with a woman and more os less backed it up with comic strip. the bisexual part just my extrapalation. even if true it could be erronious. but thougth it could possibly be a factor in motive.

Anonymous said...

"even two brains inside one head can disagree or get out of sync now and then :-)."
Lol I thought it was someone pretending to be you.
I apologize because I can usually tell when it is you writing.
It is very strange that she announced that about being in a relationship with a woman. I also had recently finally seen her Tumblr as someone posted a link. Series of very sad love poems. I got the sense she was very in love with someone and heartbroken they had left. her as that was the theme of all the poems. Maybe the bisexual thing was a kind of acting out in her sorrow because if she was deeply in love with a man who had recently broke her heart she may not have been able to consider another man romantically. It seemed like the poems suggested profound heartbreak and a lot of emotional pain.

Anonymous said...

Oh, also just to let you know I didn't write the comment about the troll and "nowadays I just read" @ 8:07. This is what I mean about people impersonating others. That comment appears to be written by the "bad language" troll who does not put spaces after periods.

Anonymous said...

oh! ok. ah.

Anonymous said...

ahhaha. it's a jungle in here :)

Anonymous said...

I was trying to sound as neutral as possible-- wanted to share new info I discovered without inciting immediate backlash,. funny how it tricked you - unintentionally. :) no need to apologize.

Tania Cadogan said...

off topic

WORCESTER, Mass. – All Massachusetts authorities could say for sure is that they found the lifeless body of a small boy, apparently cast off the side of a highway.

An autopsy should reveal if the child is Jeremiah Oliver, the Fitchburg 5-year-old missing for months before police learned of his disappearance and began looking for him. Jeremiah's case has led to criminal charges against his mother and her boyfriend and calls for changes within the state's child welfare agency. Three state workers have been fired.

"What we know right now is that a young child has died, and that his body has been disposed of in a heartless way," Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement Friday. "As we await news about the child's identity, as Governor and as a parent, I feel a deep sadness."

The body found off a highway in central Massachusetts matched Jeremiah's height and weight, authorities said. Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said authorities can't make a positive identification until the state medical examiner conducts an autopsy.

"It appears to be a homicide," the prosecutor said at a news conference.

Jeremiah was last seen by relatives in September but wasn't reported missing until December. Authorities have said they feared he was dead.

Early said the body was found at about 9 a.m. Friday by a police search team about 40 feet off Interstate 190 near Sterling, which is about 12 miles from Fitchburg. He said it was wrapped in blanket-like material, and packed in material that resembled a suitcase.

He would not say what led authorities to the location, or how long the body may have been there. He said the site is near an area that is regularly mowed on the side of the highway but would not have been visible to passing cars.

Jeremiah's mother, Elsa Oliver, 28, pleaded not guilty in March to charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and reckless endangerment. Her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 23, pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

The family was being monitored by state social workers since 2011. And after Jeremiah's disappearance, their case led to intense scrutiny of the state Department of Children and families.

Three employees of the agency -- a social worker, a supervisor and an area manager -- were fired after an internal investigation. Officials said the social worker had not made required monthly visits to the family.

The governor asked the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF but resisted calls from some lawmakers to fire Olga Roche, the agency's commissioner.

In an initial report filed by the league last month, it recommended that Massachusetts take a number of steps to shore up its child welfare system, including boosting staffing levels to reduce social worker caseload.

A separate report from the state's Child Advocate, Gail Garinger, suggested that state social workers missed nearly one in five home visits during a recent 12-month period, though state officials said the figure was likely overstated.

Roche assured state legislators in January that DCF had accounted for the safety of all other young children in its care.

Oliver and Sierra, who were indicted by a Worcester County grand jury, are both being held on bail -- $100,000 for Oliver and $250,000 for Sierra.

Three other people have been charged with interfering with a criminal investigation and misleading police in connection with the case.

Anonymous said...

what I think about the bi thing -- I hesitate to write because I don't want to out the other party if they clearly don't want to be outed, and by the chance that i've even misentrepreted. but I think she was in a relationship wi the girl she called that night,. and that's she was crying,. and that's why the "date" she went on was so "sweet" and non physical. i don't think it was a real romantic thing. but i really can't tell. I don't even know how it makes the legistics of her vanishing make more sense,

Anonymous said...

but I do think it gives more credence to the possability that it was her, calling Syndey back, to say leave me alone stop calling and not the other way around as the moorers claimed it

Anonymous said...

I find that believable she was in a relationship with her roommate. The "date" with the guy did not seem to become romantic and seemed to have been more light-hearted fun with a friend.
One thing I have never understood is why the phone call to her roommate in which she was crying and upset only lasted 2 minutes. It still stands out in my mind as one of the big "question marks" about this case. It would seem the conversation was cut short almost immediately after it began. Did one say to the other "sorry I gotta go" because someone showed up? Or did someone hang up the phone on Heather's end? Did Heather say "goodbye" to the friend under some kind of duress and so the friend may not have actually been hung up on? I have never in my life been able to get off of the phone with a friend who calls up crying in 2 min. I think the call was cut short and it may have been because someone else who had come to her apartment did not want her talking to the friend.
I lean more and more towards thinking someone showed up at Heather's unexpected and that that individual may have been making some of the calls from her phone and/or Heather, under duress may have been instructed or ordered to make some of the calls.

Anonymous said...

here's me best guess about the phone call: it was short because the two momen were more than friends -- and talking about an ex resurfancing is painful to go on and on about, -- I could Imagine Heather not calling immediately because she has to think if she even wants to tell the other girl, if she should spare her - or what -- but then she just needs to tell -- and so she calls and tells and the other girl doesn't really know what to say, "what are you gonna do about it" would certainly be a question spoken or unspoken -- but maybe it was too soon to answer that, and then about 45 mins later Heather found her conviction one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

you know -- you are absolutely rt. it makes SO much more sense if somebody showed up at her place and made those calls.

in fact -- though this is "against 'our' running theory"

Sidney could have done it perfectly -- he goes to her apartment right in that ~45 min time window. she lets him in -- subdues or worse - her - then uses heathers phone to call his own phone and talk to tammy -- tell her he's in it's going/gone down -- -- come pick me up at peach tree when i give you signal. then he drives rt to peach tree in Heather's car - leaves it there and get's pickedup by Tammy. (who had originally droped him off at Heather's apt)

it's like clockwork.

question is WHERE did he put victim? if he didn't transport in his own vehicle -- she'd have to be super close to her own apartment.

Anonymous said...

do moorers have big fires on their property? trash burning, etc. thought i'd read that somewhere,

Anonymous said...

the story reads like fiction, you'll get zero argument from me on that. "all the time I was calling frantically" you can't insert that after the fact realistically -- it happens as it happens. 1st call should be memorable -- 1st time there's no answer is an important event, second call in compounding., the natural way is to recount those calls as they happened. -- along with a lot of other things -- like mentioning how/when he alerted his wife and other daughter etc,

the whole thing sounds totally unnatural. and yet, the essense of it surely did happen cause the cops were there too. and a police report did get written.

I don't think he is writing anything from sense memory. i think he's recreating events in his mind each time. but the reason why he's not -- I don't know how to identify with certainty.

Anonymous said...

I think you are 100% right that it is odd,

why he's doing it tho -- ?.

have you ever seen old hitchcock movie the lady vanishes? like every suspect is lying throughout the film ,.but they all have these weird side reasons for lying. it's like there'stwo things to figure out -- a) that somebody is lying and b) why they are lying.

if the statement was made even before he went to the car -- i'd say he knows too much. but he's making the statement after the fact -- so he's writing himself as knowingtoomuch -- because he's not writing from sense memory. --- is only my guess.

given just any bit of evidence tho and i;'ll pop back over to the other opinion in a sec

Anonymous said...

Sorry I wrote those last 2 before seeing you had posted at 8:21. That is very interesting about the 1st FB post. His writing tells us the key and "unlocking" was important info to HIM. This is one thing I am convinced of. I very much respect what you are saying about the style of his writing and taking that into account when reading/analyzing.
It strikes me what is important to HIM in his writing. For example it was very important to him that his readers understand he has a stick shift truck like the one Heather's date taught her drive. He says something to the effect of "Now you must understand that..." nd then says how he has a stick shift truck he was trying to teach her to drive. So, using SA, I am just listening and knowing that for him it is very important that his readers understand that .

Anonymous said...

I think he's a guy who likes attention and control. to an extreme. and he's found story telling as a tool to extract that attention & control . and it's quite intollerable to him when people do not show him those things.

but it doesn't necessarily indicate guilt

I think there's a lot more people who have a compulsion to embellish, reimagine, seek to persuade so that they look like a guy who deserves respect and praise - than who are killers.

I think he's using "spin" but I think he's doing it because of his personality -- not because of criminal actions he took.

BUT i could be only seeking to think that because I literally can't fit the puzzle pieces together of legistics. opportinuty is necessary for guilt.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think he is writing anything from sense memory. i think he's recreating events in his mind each time. but the reason why he's not -- I don't know how to identify with certainty. "

Exactly. I don't understand it either.

Anonymous said...

I really think he wants to be a novelist. I think he feels like he's living in a story and wants to make it sound good. I think it's in incredibly poor taste given it's time for cold facts not embellishment. but I think it's like when somebody takes a selfie and puts a flattering filter on it, .ha - but seriously. I think he'strying to make himsekf look like the forlorn hero in a mystery novel. I think it's super weird. but I think that might be tre explanation.

Anonymous said...

to be fair -- if something is unbearable you might naturally want to find some way to abstract it.

Anonymous said...

clever anon poster

you r so right Iagree with u 100%

u have good convo with uself al day nd nite

I want 2 join u clevermeds

I b anon 2 4 u SO no 1 no its us

retihinkin this wh0le think

You are so obvious!!

Anonymous said...

Previous comment for the regulars here. I hope you get a laugh!

Anonymous said...

I know I'm feeding the schizophrenic, but could not resist any longer.

Anonymous said...

"I think he's a guy who likes attention and control. to an extreme. and he's found story telling as a tool to extract that attention & control"

Yes, I agree, and you make excellent points all around.
You wrote that he has abstracted it perhaps to make it all more bearable.
It's possible.
There is another reason why it may be easy for him to abstract things and that may be because he is speaking of things from an emotional distance. Which is suspect when he is also writing pieces that include so much purportedly heartfelt, prayer, emotional pain.
This is why I am suspicious. The abstraction indicates emotional distance. Yet he also writes things where he is praying publically, imploring, wearing his heart on his sleeve.
The two things are incompatible. Emotional distance and passionate emotional pleadings. Yet there are both coming from him.
This is why I regard his writings with a great deal of suspicion.
But I very much appreciate your insights and you have helped me see things much more clearly.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you too, I'd not be surprised if it turns out either way.

Sella35 said...
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Sella35 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm reformed.Please don't provok eme.I get along feels great :)