Willis Death Hoax
from Fancyclopedia 2 ca. 1959
On a visit to Terry Carr's home in mid-1952, Pete Graham (then aged 13) suggested a hoax that Willis had died. Carr tried to squelch the notion and thought he had, but Graham circulated a number of postalcards announcing Willis's death. He had done it, according to Carr, because he'd gotten a gift from his parents of a postcard mimeo and two stencils and "he had been dying to try them on something". Since the pcs were mailed from San Francisco few fans believed the news, but Lee Riddle called Lee Hoffman long distance to check — and she was able to confirm that WAW lived on. Practically everybody blasted Graham for the stunt. (Some blamed Terry Carr, who was not involved.) Many were disturbed because the hoax might affect the campaign adversely.

The postal said: "We regret to inform you that the well-known Irish fan, Walter A Willis, is dead. He passed away at his home in Northern Ireland at the hour of 9:50 A.M. on Thursday, May 15. The doctor said he died of diptheria [sic], a disease from which he had been suffering for some time. The Chicago Convention will honor his death by cancelling the banquet, and by limiting the auction to quiet bidding. Most fanzines will have a memorial issue, which will be for sale only to fans who contributed to the 'WAW with the Crew in '52' fund. Fen who contributed to the 'WAW with the Crew in '52' fund, send your name and address to Shelby Vick and he will return your money. All fanzine publishers are asked not to treat this announcement as a hoax, but to give it full consideration and to announce it in his own magazine so that fans may know of this throughout the nation and the world. Yours, An Interested Fan Who Is Willing To Pay Postage For These Cards."

Vick knew it was a hoax; he'd received a letter from WAW dated 20 May. The card was postmarked Frisco, May 28, and was poorly mimeoed. Walt, of course, turned up alive, but the rigors of convention and postcon visiting almost caused him to make an honest man of Graham.