WASHINGTON: Even as the Heene family attended a press conference to say how happy they were that their son had not, after all, drifted off aboard a home-made helium balloon into the blue, but had been at home in a box the whole time, the question was being asked. Was Falcon’s disappearance a fake to gain notoriety?The incident riveted America – and many parts of of the world including Australia – for hours yesterday, Sydney time.The six-year-old had reportedly stowed away in a basket or cabin beneath the balloon which his amateur scientist father built as an elaborate experiment.The dirigible then floated away from the family’s Colorado home, heading south-east to Kentucky.As live video was beamed from local TV helicopters tracking the balloon, authorities from the sheriff’s office, rescue services, the military, the Federal Aviation Authority and Homeland Security raced to determine how and when the balloon might come down.Ambulances screamed through cornfields.But when the balloon landed, no boy was found beneath it and the drama ran out of puff when it emerged that Falcon had spent the entire afternoon in an attic above the garage, some of it asleep in a box. At first, questions about the incident centred on child discipline.Father Richard, who spends his spare time studying storms, clouds and weather patterns, was asked, clearly by a reporter who had not thought the question through, if he had plans to ground his son.”We don’t ground our children. But we are going to talk to him,” he said.Then came suggestions the family had planned the whole thing as a publicity stunt. Mr Heene bristled. ”That’s horrible. After the crap we just went through, no, no, no.”But the CNN exclusive interview arranged with the family soon after did not end speculation. The older son seemed to suggest the family was videoing at the time the experiment went wrong.Asked why he did not answer when people called out his name, young Falcon replied, ”We did it for the show.” A stunned interviewer asked the father what his son had meant. Mr Heene said that was not what he expected from CNN when he agreed to the exclusive deal.Rescuers insist they do not think the incident was a fake.But the family is not media-shy. Richard Heene is an enthusiastic iReporter for CNN, filing clips of storms and extreme weather. The Heenes had also been on the show Wife Swap.Was this a true story? Perhaps we will never know. But for the media it certainly paid off in short-term ratings.with agencies