Did an unnamed 34-year old man try to inflate his penis with helium for a prank and did he end up blowing up his penis? No, that's not true: the events described in the story did not happen in Crystal Lake, Illinois (and also not in Clarkston, Buffalo Grove, Warner Robins, Webster, Yonkers or anywhere else in the United States). The story was made up by a site that publishes fiction which is discreetly labeled "satire". The site often reposts the same stories but set in different places.
The story originated from an article published by SW on October 16, 2019 titled "Crystal Lake, IL: Man's penis explodes after he attempted to inflate it with helium in a prank gone wrong" (archived here) which opened:
A 34-year old Crystal Lake, Illinois man has suffered serious injuries to his genitals after a prank involving him pumping his genitals full of helium gas caused his penis to literally explode.
The victim, who has not been named, was attending a 21st party with friends and was severely intoxicated at the time of the incident.
"He saw a canister of helium in the garage that had been used to blow up balloons for the party, and he said that it'd be funny to try and inflate his balls," said one of the man's friends.
In their intoxicated state, none of the other party goers saw the risk with this stunt and encouraged him to follow through with the prank.
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Crystal Lake, IL: Man's penis explodes after he attempted to inflate it with helium in a prank gone wrong
A 34-year old Crystal Lake, Illinois man has suffered serious injuries to his genitals after a prank involving him pumping his genitals full of helium gas caused his penis to literally explode. The victim, who has not been named, was attending a 21st party with friends and was severely intoxicated at the time of the ...
The "ambulance" image used to illustrate the story seems to have been taken from a 2016 article about gun violence in Chicago:
Chicago Police Department deployed 5,000 officers to the city's streets Dozens of raids on known crime gangs were carried out before July 4 Despite the high profile police operation, some 62 people were shot So far in 2016, more than 320 people have been killed and 2,000 wounded The gun crime toll in Chicago has passed 2,000 after four people were murdered and a further 62 were wounded following a bloody Fourth of July weekend.
The website "SW" might look like an offbeat news website at first glance but the domain name (satireweekly.com) should give people pause: "Satire Weekly"? That doesn't sound like a real news source. There is also a very tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the page that reads "Disclaimer: this is satire."
The website posts fictional stories often involving bizarre sex acts, weird crimes or strange accidents involving genitalia. The same story is usually posted multiple times with the location changed to various different U.S. cities. These versions are then seeded online by posting them to various pages or groups related to those places. Most copies of the story fail to go very far but now and then one or more versions manage to go viral and sometimes they even get picked up by local media who believe they are real. The site is the latest in a string of similar sites that appear to have been created by the same person over the years.
As you can read in our own Satire Policy there are several definitions of satire but most of them include the need for some kind of criticism of vice or folly of a person or institution. We don't see that happening here, most articles arejust a made up "offbeat news" stories. But since the domain name includes the word "satire" we usually don't report these stories to Facebook as part of our membership in Facebook's Third Party Fact Checking Partnership: people can see the word "satire" in the summary of the article on Facebook so they should (in theory) be aware of the fictional nature before liking/sharing it.
We wrote about satireweekly.com before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site: