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A Mystery Aloft, a Nation Riveted, and One Grounded Balloon Boy

The 6-year-old Colorado boy feared to have floated off in a helium balloon appeared with his family in front of their home soon after the boy was found safe in the attic. (Oct. 15)

Falcon is the youngest of three boys who seem to have the kind of escapades few boys do these days. They live in Fort Collins, Colo., with their parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, who both have made appearances in a YouTube music video in which the boys starred. Mom rocked it out on guitar.

On the video, these are just the sort of boys who might hop a boxcar, who would figure out how to make the toilet explode. The Heene household was an adventureland, a place where Maurice Sendak met "Wife Swap." The family appeared earlier this year on the ABC reality show in which two mothers switch households and come away aghast at how other people live. On the Heenes' episode, a risk-taking, storm-chasing amateur scientist swapped his wife with a safety-obsessed family.

Richard Heene's MySpace page says he "flew into Hurricane Wilma to take magnetic field measurements" in 2005, and it was just an ordinary family vacation from the looks of it in a Denver television station report uploaded to YouTube. "This year I rode a motorcycle into a mesocyclone." He also said he'd like to meet "real aliens from outer space and conduct a full interview with them."

On Thursday, the trio of rascal brothers had been playing out back with the balloon their father built. Richard hollered at Falcon for climbing into a plywood box on the craft. When the balloon came untethered and floated away, Falcon was nowhere to be found.

Neighbor Bob Licko heard a commotion and saw two boys on the roof with a camera, he told the Associated Press. "One of the boys yelled to me that his brother was way up in the air."

The mother was distraught, Licko said, and the father was running around the house.

Falcon slept through it all, sound in his cardboard box. When he emerged, he gave the explanation that naughty boys have used for centuries.

"He scared me because he yelled at me," Falcon said. "That's why I went in the attic."

His father said he was really sorry and hugged his balloon boy.

The Heene family had one more video to post on YouTube. And the nation had, if nothing else, a memorable Wild Rumpus.

Staff writer Hank Stuever contributed to this article.

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