We are living in a world of fake news accusations right now. So it’s more important than ever to check your sources, and double, triple, and quadruple-check any story that sounds too outlandish to be true. It just might
Media sites were astir after a reporting one such shocking story this week and you can see the story reported by various news outlets. Many have taken the article down or edited it accordingly by now, but there was a moment when everyone was convinced that this story was true.So what was the story? No doubt something bizarre enough to be attention-grabbing, yet realistic enough to dupe major websites.To summarise, the bogus tale is about a man from Zimbabwe who was eaten by crocodiles while walking across a river. Not just that – but the man did so while impersonating Jesus.A Zimbabwean man named Jonathan Mthethwa, a Pastor from the “Saint of the Last Days Church” made a fatal error while attempting to recreate a biblical scene. Maybe the fatal error was trying to recreate the scene in the first place. Or maybe it was to choose a place teeming with crocodiles.The supposed feat took place on “Crocodile River”, a place notorious for – you guessed it – crocodiles. There actually are two rivers with this name in the world: one in South Africa, and the other in the U.S. state of Minnesota. Neither are particularly well known for their reptile content. Since the latter is thousands of kilometres away, it’s safe to say it’s the South African one.This Zimbabwean pastor was living in South Africa, specifically in the small farming town of White River, Mpumalanga. The location is a popular holiday destination for those who want to visit the Crocodile River and its valley.It was said that he walked around 100 feet before he was attacked by three bloodthirsty crocodiles, seen by three church members. Mthethwa died on Saturday morning. The Daily Post quotes church member Deacon Nkosi, who said:“The pastor taught us about faith on Sunday last week. He promised he would demonstrate his faith to us today, but he unfortunately ended up drowning and getting eaten by 3 large crocodiles in front of us. We still don’t understand how this happened because he fasted and prayed the whole week“.
He was said to have walked into the water for about 30 meters, where he attempted to ascend above the water. Failing to walk on the surface, the crocodiles descended on him.Nkosi continued:“They finished him in a couple of minutes. All that was left of him when they finished eating him is a pair of sandals and his underwear floating above the water.”The country’s emergency agency ER24 (which is real) responded to the scene after 30 minutes. But upon arrival, the Pastor was found dead. Sound convincing?The Daily Post was sure to credit the Zimbabwe Herald for all these quotes, which is a real publication, but one with no such article. So where did the story come from?Funnily enough, there is a very similar story from June 2016, where a Pastor with a different name (but also from White River) managed one step onto the water, before a ringing phone in the crowd distracted him and he fell into the crocodiles’ den.Delving even deeper, it looks like the article The Daily Post’s quotes come from was originally published by National News Bulletin in February 2017. Heading to the website’s ‘About Us’ page, all is revealed:It turns out this comes down to satire doing its job a little too well. Here’s a tip, if you’re not sure, check out whether something is valid by using Real or Satire.If you’re looking for more fake news taken to be real, check out our list of photoshopped images which fooled us all in 2015.