Reginald VelJohnson is not dead, but people browsing social media this week may have been fooled into thinking that the beloved Family Matters actor had passed away.
Early this week, a false report circulated online claiming that the actor famous for playing Carl Winslow had died of a heart attack. The hoax came from a site well-known for spreading false rumors, but it still managed to fool many fans who may have not looked to closely at the source.
The report itself (which came from a site called HeadlinenNews, which appears to be meant to fool readers into thinking it was the legitimate Headline News) even had fake quotes from family members.
“He was loved by the world and he will be missed profoundly,” the report quoted someone named Jenkins. “Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”
The report appeared to conflate details from the real death of actress Carrie Fisher with the actor who played Carl Winslow.
“Rumors claim that Vel Johnson was flying from London to Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 12, when he went into cardiac arrest,” the report said, citing the exact circumstances of Fisher’s fatal heart attack. “According to the story, paramedics removed him from the flight and rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for a heart attack.”
The result was a flood of people going online to see if Reginald VelJohnson was really dead — and others who tried their best to dispel the rumors.
Today on Facebook several of my Friends shared an article stating the actor who plays Carl Winslow is dead. He's not dead though ????????????— Jodie Landon (@WinterTimeCold_) February 16, 2017
RIP Carl Winslow— Lord Juja (@juiceybasedgod) February 16, 2017
Reginald VelJohnson is far from the first celebrity to fall victim to a death hoax. In the past five years or so, it’s become something of a sport on the internet to spread rumors that celebrities and athletes have died. Sometimes the stories come from hoax news websites aimed at fooling readers into clicking onto the page, but in other instances they appear to arise from people who just want to see how far they can get a rumor to spread.
VelJohnson is not the first actor from Family Matters to face a death hoax. Actor Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on the show, was subject to rumors that he had taken his own life. The rumor circulated back in 2006, the early days of viral death hoaxes, and was written in the form of a fake story from the Associated Press claiming that White shot himself in the head (Snopes has a copy of the old story here).
Normally, the actors and other celebrities who fall victim to death hoaxes do their best to ignore the strange rumors, or sometimes the reports may not grow popular enough for them to even be recognized. But Reginald VelJohnson decided to address the death rumors and poke some fun at the reports he had died.
The actor posted an image to his Twitter page of a wall clock with the soul of Carl Winslow trapped inside.
“Even when I finally pass you can still contact me thru this clock,” he wrote.
Even when I finally pass you can still contact me thru this clock. Photo credit: some weirdo lol pic.twitter.com/ktLhkH83VF— Reginald VelJohnson (@rveljohnson) February 15, 2017
But anyone who sees the rumors and fears that Reginald VelJohnson might be dead can breathe a sigh of relief — Carl Winslow is alive and well, and not just in Family Matters re-runs.
[Featured Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]