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Boy in balloon captivates news-hungry Web

Twitter users and live-video site viewers are at the edge of their seats as reports unfold about a 6-year-old boy climbing into a hot-air balloon and taking off into the air.

Ustream

Twitter was bombarded on Thursday afternoon by the shocking news that a six-year-old boy had climbed into a homemade hot-air balloon and taken off over Colorado--the microblogging service's timeline temporarily slowed to a crawl and its trending topics were filled with tags like Colorado, Denver, and #balloonboy.

He was never actually in the balloon, apparently: CNN reported later on Thursday that he was found, safe, hiding in a box in the attic of his family home.

Live video streams from news outlets' helicopters showed the saucer-shaped balloon speeding through the air and then making a relatively soft landing. But then those same news outlets began to report that there was no one inside--sparking even more debate and speculation on Twitter.

My colleague Stephen Shankland ran a test and found that in a 30-second span, 836 tweets mentioned the word "balloon."

The boy reportedly lives in Fort Collins, Colo., and the balloon was built by his parents, who are avid storm-chasers.

It surfaced somehow amid the Twittering mess that the family had appeared on reality show "Wife Swap," and a video of its three sons singing a rap song has begun to rack up views on YouTube (mildly not-safe-for-work due to lyrics).

This post was updated at 3:17 p.m. PT.