What in the world happened to the boy in the hot air balloon?

The unfolding story of a boy who may have been accidentally launched in a homemade hot air balloon has the country in awe.

Thursday morning, an experimental helium balloon came untethered from the family's home in Colorado. A sibling reported that he saw 6-year-old Falcon Heene climb into the aircraft and untie the rope that anchored it.

The strange saucer-shaped balloon made of Mylar rose 7,000 feet, according to authorities. Emergency respondents warned airplanes in the area to try to avoid a collision with the balloon.

Startlingly, when the balloon did touch down on ground, the door on the balloon was unlocked and the boy was not inside the attached basket.

An investigation and search is underway with cooperation from Falcon Heene's family. However, it is not yet clear whether the boy fell out of the balloon's basket or was not in it all.

To add even more twists to this tragedy, the family did appear on two episodes of the television show "Wife Swap." Described by a neighbor as being "unusual", the Heenes follow weather patterns closely and are said to sleep in their clothes so that they can get up in the night and immediately rush out to chase storms. Falcon's father, Richard Heene, 45, is a former television meteorologist. The family is also said to conduct extra-terrestrial experiments.

Some response has already included dismay at the unsafe situations the Heenes have put their young children in. Two years ago, the family had a close call while chasing a tornado. Richard Heene responded to press about the incident, saying, ""I think I have odd kids. They start screaming with excitement."

Whatever happened to this missing child -- and hopefully, we will hear positive news soon -- this situation is clearly bizarre and sad.

While there is some talk of this being a hoax, it is certainly disconcerting that they were on
"Wife Swap", a forum for families on the fringe not once, but TWICE. This music video (linked due to content I would not want my kid to hear) with the Heene boys using words like "pussified" and an f-word I would not type is also very alarming.

The family's behavior is not the only thing that should be in question here. Almost as distasteful and disconcerting is how fast Internet consumerism has responded to this awful (and potentially deadly) situation.

CNN is now reporting that one theory under consideration is that Falcon released the balloon and then hid in fear of being caught by his father.

I am anxiously awaiting updates, just as many of you are, and I am hoping that a few of the authorities on the scene are investigating how safe this family and home are for the other two children.

There are many questions: What really happened here? And where is this child? Why was a balloon that was not made to withstand a crash or hold a person safely right outside the unlocked family home?

Is this all a hoax? And does the family's unorthodox behavior (I'm holding back here until more details are released) automatically make them suspicious?

UPDATE: Breaking news reports are saying that the missing boy has been found...in his own house, in the attic! We're sure more will be revealed, but our first impression is: This kid is so grounded.

Are you watching this story unfold? What do you think of this surreal event?

[photo via Yahoo! News]