Whatever Happened To Balloon Boy?

The "Balloon Boy" incident is one of the weirdest news stories in recent memory. In October 2009, a 6-year-old boy named Falcon Heene reportedly climbed into his father's homemade flying saucer-shaped, balloon-like contraption, and it came loose from its tether and flew away from the family's home in Fort Collins, Colo. 

Parents Richard and Mayumi Heene summoned emergency workers who, along with a large number of members of the media, frantically tracked the balloon as it soared through the sky. When it finally landed, guess what? The boy wasn't there! 

Turns out, he was hiding in a box in an attic in the family's garage. The Heenes, who had previously appeared on Wife Swap, made the news and talk show rounds to discuss the harrowing event and its happy ending, only for Falcon to blurt out on CNN that the whole thing had been staged. 

Mr. and Mrs. Heene went to jail for a little while, and that was that. So what has the never-boring Heene family been up to since? Fasten your seat belts.

The family moved out of Colorado

After bringing shame and embarrassment to their family and town, things got a little too hot in Fort Collins for the Heenes family, so the family packed up and hightailed it out of Colorado and wound up in Florida. 

They wound up in the town of Spring Hill, about 50 miles from Tampa. Why that particular area on the opposite side of the continent? Richard told CNN that Florida has a "great energy," man. He also said the cost of living is pretty good, and that there's lots of work in the area he wants to pursue, such as fixing up houses and flipping them.

The Heene kids formed a band

It seems papa Richard is always after the next hustle or media opportunity, and in 2012, his big idea was a family band. 

With dad as the manager and motivating force, the Heene Boyz formed in 2012. With Falcon on bass, brother Ryo on drums, and other brother Bradford on guitar, the Heene Boyz are, as their father markets them, "the world's youngest heaviest metal band." 

They're like the Partridge Family, but with more screaming, and with more songs about World of Warcraft, like the song "World of Warcraft." The Heene Boyz filmed a video for the song where they dressed up like warriors of yore. At the time of this writing, the band has self-recorded and self-released a few albums, including 2014's Finger it Out, which includes the very personal song "Balloon Boy No Hoax."

They made a video game

The Heene boys, or rather the Heene Boyz, in their guise as heavy metal musicians, are evidently young men of many talents. In addition to writing and making music, they developed and released an original video game in 2015. 

In American Chilly, the player controls a character driving through the desert between Las Vegas and Los Angeles who is so tired that they're not sure whether or not they're hallucinating the monsters they have to fight, which include "Cactus People, Aliens, Giant Ants, and other strange creatures." Each level of the free-to-download game includes original songs by the Heene Boyz, so it's kind of like a concept album as well as a video game.

The family got political

In these politically divisive times, most Americans have taken a side, and Balloon Boy and his family have come out in favor of their pick, too. 

In August 2016, Falcon, Rio, and Bradford publicly endorsed Donald Trump for president. That month, they attended a Trump rally in Daytona, Fla. and shortly thereafter, the Heene Boyz made a music video titled "The Youth of America for Trump." In addition to singing lyrics such as "she's dangerous, she's dangerous," referring to Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, lead singer Falcon intones "Donald Trump America, America the great" in the chorus. 

Not quite a viral sensation, the video had amassed about 47,000 hits by January 2018.

Dad still makes inventions

When Richard isn't busy thinking about flipping houses or pushing his kids into the spotlight, he's hard at work building fun gizmos and contraptions — like that ill-fated balloon that Falcon didn't actually float away in. 

Among Richard's more recent inventions is the Bear Scratch. It's an extra-long, extra-thick piece of what looks like tree bark that users can rub up against when they've got an itch they can't scratch. According to Heene's commercial, it's available for the low, low price of just $19.95. 

Heene also created YourShakedown, a $179 tool that shakes ketchup bottles to procure every last drop, saving the customer money that they would otherwise waste on buying a new bottle of ketchup prematurely.

The incident became the basis for a musical

Balloon Boy is just like Alexander Hamilton, real-life Founding Father and subject of the remarkable stage musical Hamilton. That's because Falcon and his family have been honored in a way very few people have been honored — somebody wrote and staged a musical about their lives, specifically the balloon incident. 

In 2014, Colorado teenager Billy Reece wrote the story, lyrics, and music for Balloon Boy: The Musical. Young Playwrights Inc. called it a "hilariously irreverent musical satire exploring modern day America's culture of reality TV," meaning it pretty much makes fun of the Heenes and the media circus they created. The musical played at Colorado's Monarch High School before moving on to professional theaters, high school theater festivals, and the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Richard insists the Balloon Boy incident wasn't a hoax

Perhaps the weirdest thing about the Balloon Boy hoax is that the man who looks to be the mastermind behind the whole thing still insists it's not a hoax, even though he pleaded guilty to "knowingly and falsely influencing" the Larimer County Sheriff.  

In 2015, the Heenes appeared on a "Where Are They Now?" segment on NBC's Today to discuss their claim to fame. Richard said he took the plea deal because he was worried his legal problems would lead to wife Mayumi's deportation to her native Japan. He also told Today that he wouldn't change anything about the experience because it directly led to the formation of the Heene Boyz heavy metal band.