Boy Dies in Santa’s Arms-Investigation Pending!

Summary of eRumor:

A terminally ill boy died in Santa’s arms after asking to see him one last time.

The Truth:

The Knoxville News-Sentinel first reported the story of a five-year-old boy dying in a column appearing under the headline “Santa’s Grant’s a Final Wish” on December 12th.

The story, which was written by a columnist named Sam Venable, tells the story of five-year-old boy dying in Santa’s arms. Eric Schmitt-Matzen, the Santa impersonator, said it all began when he got a call from a friend at a local hospital that a dying five-year-old boy’s last wish was to see Santa:

“When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep. I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!

“He looked up and said, ‘I am?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’

“I gave him the present. He was so weak he could barely open the wrapping paper. When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down.

‘“They say I’m gonna die,’ he told me. ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’

“I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?’

“He said, ‘Sure!’

“When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.

“He said, ‘They will?’

“I said, ‘Sure!’

“He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’

“I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.

“Everyone outside the room realized what happened. His mother ran in. She was screaming, ‘No, no, not yet!’ I handed her son back and left as fast as I could.

USA Today and Fox News picked up the story, and media outlets around the world quickly followed suite. But key details from the story of a boy dying in Santa’s arms haven’t been independently confirmed. The boy hasn’t been identified, and his family hasn’t come forward. The hospital that this supposedly happened in hasn’t been identified, either.

Sam Venable said he heard about Santa granting a dying boy’s last wish from an old high school friend — but he hasn’t explained how (or if) he vetted Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s story. Venable said he was surprised how big the story had gotten:

In some respects I’m surprised how big it ballooned, naturally. You got a Santa Claus story at Christmas you know you’re going to get some mileage out of it … I had absolutely no idea. I contacted (Eric) today after I realized what was going on, and I said ‘Eric you better be ready, they’re coming,’ and he said ‘they already are,’ and he had three interviews set up….”

Right now, the story is based entirely on Schmitt-Matzen’s account and it’s been re-reported without key elements being independently verified. We’re trying to confirm the boy’s name and the hospital where he died. Our investigation is ongoing, so check back for updates. .

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Collected on: 12/14/2016