The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
The Nobody For President Campaign, 1940 to Present
Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist, 1964
Mencken's fake history of the bathtub, 1917
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
The Berners Street Hoax, 1810
war of the worlds
The night Martians invaded New Jersey, 1938
The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, 1959
Jernegan's Gold Accumulator Scam, 1898
Did Paul McCartney die on Nov. 9, 1966?
Old-Time Photo Fakery, 1900 to 1919
The 1938 Panic Broadcast Revisited
orson welles The Toronto Star has an article about the 1938 War of the Worlds panic (the anniversary of which is today)... and they quote me in it! The article argues that the mass panic was much smaller than is popularly thought. I'm inclined to agree with this. My reasons are:

  1. being familiar with the way in which stories about hoaxes are told, I know that the impact hoaxes make is often exaggerated in order to tell a better story. So it sounds a lot more dramatic to say that one million people panicked in 1938, but the truth is that it was probably only a few thousand.

  2. I suspect that the media reported every incident of anomalous behavior that night as evidence of a panic (i.e. every speeding car, every suicide, all loud behavior), whether or not it actually had anything to do with the panic at all;

  3. there really was some chaos in Grover's mill, where the main panic was said to have occurred, but that's because a lot of young people drove into Grover's Mill after hearing the broadcast because they thought CBS might be hosting some kind of event there... in other words, they were searching for a party, not panicking.

  4. Most recollections of the panic turn out to have come from reading newspaper reports about it, not from direct first-hand experience.

Categories: Mass Delusion, Radio
Posted by The Curator on Thu Oct 30, 2003
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