Balloon Boy Falcon Heene Hides 5 Hours, Like Tom Sawyer

For five hours, Falcon Heene -- part Tom Sawyer, part Huck Finn -- tucked himself away in the rafters of his Colorado garage, in some ways watching his own funeral.

Today, no one knows why the rambunctious boy hid as police, firefighters and the National Guard chased after an experimental balloon gone wild, or even if Thursday's incident was a hoax.

VIDEO: Richard, Mayumi and their sons explain what happened with the helium balloon.

But hiding is not an unusual behavior for a 6-year-old, especially one who's been alternately described as "well-adjusted and fun-loving" and a "nationally known troublemaker."

Falcon's answer to authorities was that his father, Richard Heene, amateur scientist and storm-chaser, "scared me because he yelled at me."

But glimpses of the boy on a family YouTube video and on the reality TV series "Wife Swap" show a much more rebellious personality.

In the first season of the show, Falcon told his "new mom" and home-safety expert Karen Martel, "F**k this rule!" when she tried to rein the boy in.

"Hiding around doesn't always happen as a result of feeling guilty," said George Scarlett, a child development expert at Tufts University.

"I've known children around this age to hide as a way to exert control and feel powerful," said Scarlett. "Think of how powerful a small child momentarily feels knowing that others, mostly large adults who normally have control over him or her, are now searching for him or her. That's power."

Child specialists say most children hide because they are afraid of punishment. Before Falcon went missing, Heene told police he had yelled at his son for trying to get in to the experimental balloon.

Child Specialists Say Hiding Not Unusual

Heene's former business partner Barbara Slusser told that the father was known to have a temper.

"One of the main reasons is fear of getting in to trouble," said Danielle Kassow, a child development specialist from the Seattle nonprofit group Thrive by Five Washington. "But there can be other reasons. It could be a coping mechanism. Adults run away from their problems and this is like a young child version of this.

"It's not unusual behavior," she told "I remember one time I was babysitting, and the girl did something wrong and went hiding in her closet. When I was 5, I hid."

Falcon also had the competition of two equally daredevil older brothers, Bradford, 10, and Ryo, 7, and a father who admitted he had difficulty punishing the 6-year-old.

"If I scold him with a loud voice, he pouts and walks away on his own," Henne, 44, told Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. "We don't ground our children."

Sometimes children will use misbehavior to get attention from their parents, according to Dr. Gene Beresin, director of child and adolescent psychiatry residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital in Boston.

"If the parent is disconnected or is felt to be uninvolved for any number of reasons -- unemployment, family stress, a death or loss, an illness -- the child will find a way to get the parent reconnected," Beresin added. "Often, this will be accomplished by misbehavior. Sometimes kids will hide after doing something wrong as a way of 'being found.'"

Beresin said children need care, guidance, attention and involvement of their parents.

"While they may dislike punishment or reprimand, doing something wrong, making up, making reparations requires love and caring on the part of parents," he told

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...