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Oct-20-2009 22:37printcomments

Balloon Boy: Conspiracy or PR Stunt?

Award-winning producer, director and writer Peter Hankoff has been thinking about the Balloon Boy “conspiracy”.
Richard Heene holds his six-year-old son Falcon as he talks to reporters outside their house in Fort Collins, Colorado, yesterday.

(LOS ANGELES) - Not too long ago, casting off a balloon and making the case for a boy gone lost might have carried a ‘Wizard of Oz’ spin. But this is now. Post 9/11 - when anything that goes wild in the air is fair game for F-16s.

First, a confession … when I initially heard about “Balloon Boy” I told a friend over lunch, “The kid was probably murdered by his parents. You’ll see.”

When the balloon landed, I was happy to hear that Balloon Boy was up in the attic and not filleted in a shallow grave or folded into the trunk of a submerged subcompact.

I admit I go to a dark place very quickly because I’ve been to so many real dark places – from Dealey Plaza to Hiroshima and from Auschwitz to Pearl Harbor.

And all of these places have two things in common: the horror of inhumanity and the notion of conspiracy. Did Oswald act alone? Did we really have to drop the A-bomb? Did the Allies allow the Holocaust? Did FDR know the Japanese were going to attack on December 7?

The more I’ve studied history, the more I’ve discovered that the obvious is often true…even when it looks so obvious.

At the time, I didn’t bother to ask the obvious: who keeps a giant helium balloon in their backyard? And, hey, didn’t it kind of look like a flying saucer? And maybe it didn’t just un-tether itself and was this a prank that just got…over-inflated?

Perhaps the real conspiracy is setting up the media to create the kind of story that only the media can create. If we ever lived in innocent times, I hope these aren’t them, because I can only shudder to think of the horrors ahead.


Peter Hankoff is an award-winning director/writer/producer whose work has taken him everywhere from Area 51 to Auschwitz and Iwo Jima and his programs have aired on the National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Military Channel and History Channel. Peter lives in Los Angeles.

Peter definitely knows a thing or two about conspiracy theories. He’s a documentary filmmaker whose work has taken him everywhere from Area 51 (Roswell) to Dealey Plaza (Site of the JFK assassination). In addition, his programs have appeared on the National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Military Channel and History Channel. And he was recently at Ground Zero in New York City to film 9/11 artifacts for an upcoming program on a major cable network.

Learn more about Peter and his work by visiting:

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Shackelford October 21, 2009 1:22 am (Pacific time)

My first thought was to believe what was reported as a first-hand account but as I read a little more about the family and as the balloon still floated I quickly became cynical and stated "I hope it's not a Timmy fell down the well story to get publicity." The response back from the other end of the conversation (one who was not up-to-date on the breaking story yet was "It's probably a weird uncle that claimed he floated off with the balloon." That said, the response was appropriate by authorities. If we all were doomed to a delayed response thanks to all the those who cry wolf out there it would be a sad state of affairs.

jagur October 21, 2009 12:46 am (Pacific time)

gimmie a break..why are you posting such wasted words? To echo Auschwitz with respect to this story. Check your head!

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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