Claim: In March 2005, investigators discovered the corpse of Michael Jackson buried at his Neverland Ranch, more than four years before he was reported dead.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, December 2013]
I saw this article for the first time today and had never heard anything like this before. Is this story true? "Neverland Ranch Investigators Discover Corpse of Real Michael Jackson."
Origins: Back in March 2005, when Michael Jackson was still alive and undergoing trial on sexual abuse charges, The Onion published an article positing that police investigators had found and identified the decomposed corpse of the immensely popular entertainer buried on the grounds of his Neverland Ranch, and that the person on trial in his name was an imposter:
During a search for evidence at the Neverland Valley Ranch, investigators discovered a corpse that has been identified as that of Michael Jackson, Santa Barbara police officials announced.
"Coroners have officially pronounced Michael Jackson dead. From what we can tell, he died between 18 and20 years ago," forensic
investigator Tim Holbrooke said. "We are not certain, at this time, who — orwhat — has been standing trial in that Santa Maria courthouse."
According to Holbrooke, Jackson's corpse was buried just inches below a stretch of the miniature-train tracks that run throughout Neverland. The largely desiccated corpse wore the remains of a red, zipper-covered leather jacket and a single glove.
"We positively identified the body as Jackson by his dental records and DNA," Holbrooke said. "But even before we conducted a single forensic test, we began to suspect that that we'd uncovered the real Michael, and that the disturbing figure claiming to be Jackson was a fake."
Holbrooke said that, although the corpse was in an advanced stage of decomposition, when investigators compared the body to early-career publicity photos of Jackson, they saw a striking resemblance in bone structure and facial features. But when they compared the body to photos taken after 1987, the resemblance was negligible.
Soon after its publication, links and excerpts referencing this article were being circulated via the Internet, with many of those who encountered the item mistaking it for a genuine news item. This piece also saw renewed circulation in June 2009 (after Jackson died for real) and again in December 2013. However, the article was nothing more than a bit of fictional humor spoofing Michael Jackson's then-current legal problems and his well known penchant for undergoing appearance-altering medical procedures, courtesy of the satirical Onion newspaper, whose FAQ notes that:
The Onion is a satirical weekly publication published 52 times a year on Thursdays.
The Onion uses invented names in all its stories, except in cases where public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.
Photographs of Michael Jackson's (real) corpse were leaked to the public during the 2011 trial of his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, on involuntary manslaughter charges.