Fact or Fiction – George Turklebaum Story

Here are two stories on the same tragic theme.  Can you spot which is true and which an urban myth?

George Turklebaum dead at desk for 5 days

Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for FIVE DAYS before anyone asked if he was feeling okay. George Turklebaum George Turklebaum, 51, who had been employed as a proof-reader at a New York firm for 30 years, had a heart attack in the open-plan office he shared with 23 other workers.  He quietly passed away on Monday, but nobody noticed until Saturday morning when an office cleaner asked why he was still working during the weekend. His boss Elliot Wachiaski said: 'George was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didn't say anything. He was always absorbed in his work and kept much to himself.' A post mortem examination revealed that he had been dead for five days after suffering a coronary. Ironically, George was proofreading manuscripts of medical textbooks when he died. As reported in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury (7th Jan 2001)

Finns miss death in tax office

A tax office official in Finland who died at his desk was not found by his colleagues for two days. The man in his 60s died last Tuesday while checking tax returns, but no-one realised he was dead until Thursday. The head of personnel at the office in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, said the man's closest colleagues had been out at meetings when he died. He said everyone at the tax office was feeling dreadful - and procedures would have to be reviewed. An anonymous government official told BBC News Online the man had been working in his own office with the door closed. 'People thought he wanted to work in peace and no-one disturbed him, 'the official said. He was found only when a friend called to have lunch with him. 'Coincidences' According to the Finnish tabloid newspaper Ilta-Sanomat on Monday, co-workers had assumed the dead man - a tax auditor - was silently poring over returns. ' The reason for this was caused by many coincidences, 'Anita Wickstroem, director at the Helsinki tax office, told AFP news agency. Footnote Apparently this Finnish story is true

George Turklebaum

There are clues that this is the fake.  I was struck by the tiny clue at the end: 'George was proof reading manuscripts on medical text'.  On firmer ground, medical experts and my own common sense say that a corpse would start to smell after 3 or 4 days. It is now accepted that this was a fake.  No record of a George Turklebaum can be found in New York directories.  Internet forensic experts traced the article back to supermarket publication called Weekly World News.  Apparently, this paper is notorious for printing outrageous articles. Footnote NetLingo.com have added the word 'turklebaum' to their online dictionary.  They define the verb to 'turklebaum' as meaning to send fake virus warnings, urban legends, and other forms of misinformation.