Fact Check

Did a Woman Die Mistaking an Odd Roadside Scene for the Rapture?

The story originated from a publication invested in testing readers' ability to discern between factual and fictional accounts.

Published Aug. 16, 2001

 (Flickr Creative Commons/Timothy Ellis, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Image Via Flickr Creative Commons/Timothy Ellis, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
A woman dies leaping through her car’s sunroof when events convince her that Jesus has returned.

In this example collected on the Internet in 2001:

ARKANSAS CITY (AP) — A Little Rock woman was killed yesterday after leaping through her moving car's sunroof during an incident best described as "a mistaken rapture" by dozens of eyewitnesses. Thirteen other people were injured after a twenty-car pile-up resulted from people trying to avoid hitting the woman who was apparently convincedJesus

that the rapture was occurring when she saw twelve people floating up into the air, and then passed a man on the side of the road who she claimed was Jesus.

"She started screaming "He's back, He's back" and climbed right out of the sunroof and jumped off the roof of the car," said Everett Williams, husband of 28-year-old Georgann Williams who was pronounced dead at the scene. "I was slowing down but she wouldn't wait till I stopped," Williams said.

She thought the rapture was happening and was convinced that Jesus was gonna lift her up into the sky," he went on to say. "This is the strangest thing I've seen since I've been on the force," said Paul Madison, the first officer on the scene. Madison questioned the man who looked like Jesus and discovered that he was dressed up as Jesus and was on his way to a toga costume party when the tarp covering the bed of his pickup truck came loose and released twelve blow-up sex dolls filled with helium which floated up into the air.

Ernie Jenkins, 32, of Fort Smith, who's been told by several of his friends that he looks like Jesus, pulled over and lifted his arms into the air in frustration, and said, "Come back here," just as the Williams' car passed him, and Mrs. Williams was sure that it was Jesus lifting people up into the sky as they passed by him, according to her husband, who says his wife loved Jesus more than anything else.

When asked for comments about the twelve sex dolls, Jenkins replied "This is all just too weird for me. I never expected anything like this to happen."

Origins:   This inventive work of fiction was penned and released onto the Internet on 2 August 2001. It was written by Elroy Willis, proprietor of Religion in the News, a site that warns visitors what they're in for: "Some of these stories are really true. See if you can figure out which ones they are."

Apparently, some readers didn't manage to work out which were which, because this tale has washed up in our inbox numerous times since its debut.

In October 2001, the story was repeated in the pages of The Weekly World News, a tabloid whose stock in trade is sensationalistic fiction written up in the style of news accounts. In the WWN report, Little Rock, Arkansas, was changed to Atlanta, Georgia, and Georgann Williams, 28, became Geraldine Solstice, 58. The dead woman's husband shifted from being Everett Williams to Everett Solstice, and Jesus lookalike Ernie Jenkins, 32, was magically transmuted into Madison Grosnik, 28. Yeesh.

(Elroy Willis later penned a follow-up article describing his reactions to his original story's becoming mistaken for a genuine news report.)

"The Rapture" refers to a time when Jesus will return to claim the faithful. On that day, Christians dead and alive will be drawn up into the clouds to meet Him. A recurrent theme in descriptions of this event involves their floating up through the air, irresistibly drawn as if to a holy magnet. It's this image that fuels the "mistaken Rapture" piece, spurred by the twelve helium-inflated sex dolls heading skyward. The joke may be lost on those whose religions do not teach about The Rapture — for them, this story might seem an oddball bit of humor; not quite the belly laugh it is for those of us who have been taught to expect to see this flight to Jesus first-hand.

Sightings:   The 20 June 2004 episode of HBO's television series Six Feet Under ("In Case of Rapture") opened with a dramatization of this item. Elroy Willis has set down his thoughts about HBO's appropriating his creation.

Additional information:

    Definition of the Rapture   The Rapture Defined  


The Weekly World News. "Granny Mistakes Sex Dolls for Angels."     9 October 2001.