by Free Britney at . Comments

A six-year-old Colorado boy was believed to be trapped in a homemade balloon that was turned loose, sparking widespread hysteria earlier Thursday afternoon.

He was given an obligatory nickname - Balloon Boy - by the crazed media, which pounced on the breaking story faster than a Lindsay Lohan on an eight-ball. 

But in the end, it turns out Falcon Heene was never actually on it. Yes, the balloon Balloon Boy was on was completely empty. And yes, that's his real name.

The saga started when a giant silvery balloon floated away from the family's yard this morning, sparking a frantic rescue operation that involved military helicopters and briefly halted some departures from Denver International Airport.

But more than two hours after the balloon gently touched down in a field with no sign of the boy, Sheriff Jim Alderden turned to reporters during a news conference, gave a thumbs up and said 6-year-old Falcon Heene was "at the house."

"Apparently he's been there the whole time," he said.

NON-BALLOON BOY: Falcon Heene after he emerged from the attic.

The boy's father, Richard Heene, said the family was tinkering with the balloon and he scolded Falcon for getting inside a compartment on board the craft.

He said Falcon's brother saw him inside the compartment and that's why they thought he was aboard the balloon when it launched ... if you believe that.

Obviously, we are happy lil' Falcon is safe and sound, first and foremost.

But we can't help but wonder whether the country jumped the gun or if we got straight up punked by elaborate publicity stunt (Falcon’s family were one-time contestants on Wife Swap, which has raised more than a few sets of eyebrows).

Would it surprise you in the least in this Twitter-obsessed age? Just saying.

Anyway, here's a report about Balloon Boy (before he was found, of course):

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