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Radio Hoaxes
The Filipino Monkey, 2008
In January 2008 five Iranian speedboats approached three U.S. Warships in the Persian Gulf. When the U.S. ships attempted to contact the Iranians by radio, they heard a voice reply, "I am coming to you... You will explode in... minutes." At first the warships assumed this message came from the Iranian speedboats, but it's since been determined that it probably came from a "Filipino Monkey", which is the name given to rogue radio operators who interject lewd jokes, threats, and obscenities into ship-to-ship radio communications conducted on VHF marine channels. Filipino Monkey radio pranksters have been active in the Persian Gulf since at least 1984. More…
I, Libertine, 1955
In the 1950s, bestseller lists were partially based on the number of requests for a title at bookstores. So nighttime deejay Jean Shepherd hatched a plan to throw a wrench in this system by having his listeners descend on bookstores en masse and ask for a non-existent book titled I, Libertine. Requests for this title, relayed by puzzled bookstore owners, eventually made their way to publisher Ian Ballantine who (once he figured out what was going on), decided it would be interesting to publish I, Libertine as an actual book. Author Theodore Sturgeon was commissioned to write it, and the book was released to stores (for real) on Sep 20, 1956. More…
Sea Monster Attacks Tokyo, 1947
On May 29, 1947, the armed forces radio station in Tokyo, WVTR, interrupted its evening broadcast of dance music with a series of disturbing news bulletin describing a 20-foot sea monster that had emerged from the waters of Tokyo Bay and was making its way inland. The broadcast was intended as a joke, but this was lost on many of the listeners who took it seriously. In fact, the broadcast caused widespread panic. More…
The War of the Worlds, 1938
On October 30, 1938, thousands of people fled in panic after hearing CBS Radio report that Martian invaders had landed in New Jersey and were marching across the country, using heat rays and poisonous gas to kill Earthlings. But as soon became clear, Martians hadn't really invaded New Jersey. What people had heard (and mistook for a real news broadcast) was a radio version of H.G. Wells's story The War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. More…
The BBC Radio Panic, 1926
On 16 January 1926, BBC Radio interrupted a broadcast of a speech from Edinburgh to give a special announcement: an angry mob of unemployed workers were running amok in London, looting and destroying everything in sight. Listeners were stunned. Anxiously they gathered around their radios to hear the frightening news. They heard that the National Gallery had been sacked and the Savoy Hotel blown up. The alarming reports continued with news that the Houses of Parliament were being attacked with trench mortars. More…
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  • All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.