A retired teacher from Chorley has spoken of his shock after 900 people signed up to a Facebook group claiming he was dead.
David Puddy, 61, taught chemistry at Lostock Hall Community High School for 32 years, and was well-known for his catchphrases and distinctive lab coat.
His fame was such that a group was set up on social networking site Facebook dedicated to him – which is where a rumour spread that he had died from a heart attack.
Mr Puddy, who is fighting fit and has had no serious health problems, lives in Euxton, and says he couldn’t believe it when his wife Joan got a phone call asking if he had passed away.
He said: “My wife was called by an ex-colleague of mine from school who at first didn’t know how to aproach the subject.
“He mentioned a rumour had started on Facebook that I had died. Luckily, I was sat in the living room so Joan knew it wasn’t true.]
“If I had been away at the time though, I’m sure it would have been quite upsetting for her.”
Messages left on the site from hundreds of devastated former pupils, called ‘Mr Puddy Appreciation Society’ includes those saying: “Heaven has gained an angel, my thoughts and prayers to your family. Goodnight, God bless Sir xx.
‘Shine brightly in the sky Sir’, and ‘Mr Puddy was probably my favourite teacher. I loved the way he pronounced ‘lab rules’. Thanks Sir x’
Several other groups have also been set up on Facebook, called ‘We miss Mr Puddy’, ‘RIP Mr Puddy’ and ‘Rest in peace Mr P’.
David says he doesn’t want to look at the messages and is most concerned for his family, including three children, who could have been misled by the lie.
He said: “I have had one or two phone calls asking if I was all right. I have never been on Facebook, so I didn’t know what people were saying but my family could have heard about it. My son lives in Cambridge, and I’m sure he would have been upset if he had come across it.
“My wife said she felt a bit odd about it too.”
Mr Puddy says he thinks social networking sites like Facebook should be regulated to stop things like this from happening again.
He said: “I can understand how rumours like that spread. You might overhear someone talking about something and it just goes on from there.
“Whether it was malicious or not I don’t know. I hope it wasn’t.
“I think these sites definitely need to be regulated. I have heard about people being bullied online and there doesn’t seem to be any come back.
“People can say whatever they like – and that is wrong.
“I heard about the appreciation group that was set up while I was still at school, but I didn’t want to look because you never know whether people will be saying nice things or not.
“Being a teacher for so many years I have heard a few things – but this was certainly a very odd one.”
A spokesman for Facebook said they were unable to comment on individual cases but had taken the group down since being contacted by the Guardian.