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Old 30 October 2011, 07:50 PM
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Icon27 The Halloween myth of the War of the Worlds panic

Mass panic and hysteria swept the United States on the eve of Halloween in 1938, when an all-too-realistic radio dramatisation of The War of the Worlds sent untold thousands of people into the streets or heading for the hills.

The radio show was so terrifying in its accounts of invading Martians wielding deadly heat-rays that it is remembered like no other radio programme.

Or, more accurately, it is misremembered like no other radio programme.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15470903

This really does seem like the urban legend that will not go away. No matter how many times I see it debunked, I still read as many reports that it did occur. Is there any chance that people will now realise that there was no mass panic?
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Old 30 October 2011, 10:53 PM
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Dream on, Andrew.

My mom was 19 when the show aired. She and her family didn't listen to the show, but she has always said she didn't recall there being any panic among people who did listen.
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Old 31 October 2011, 05:18 PM
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There wasn't a mass panic? Interesting. Does anyone know how that rumor got started?
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Old 31 October 2011, 08:11 PM
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Welles did apologize afterwards for not leading with a disclaimer.
I seem to recall that somewhere else (Argentina?), the broadcast was redone. The legend there (since I cannot find a source) was that when people found out that it was not true--a riot ensued and the radio station was burned down.
Campbell's argument is that we were a fairly astute media population. How would those figures from the broadcast compared to estimates of the birther believers?

Ali
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Old 31 October 2011, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
There wasn't a mass panic? Interesting. Does anyone know how that rumor got started?
Like the linked article says, it was an after-the-fact creation of the newspapers of the time and it has gained traction over the years with each retelling. There was clearly confusion about it, but that stemmed from people who tuned in late and didn't realize that they were listening to a radio play. Imagine turning on your computer now and it's filled with stories about an alien invasion complete with major media figures giving on the scene accounts of it, but it turns out you happened to just wander late into an elaborate work of fiction. Most likely you would have believed it at first and might end up a bit embarassed and even angry that you were taken in. In Welles' case there was no intention to deceive but the backlash caused him to make a public apology in which he seemed genuinely mortified and confused that it could have been mistaken for anything real. It was clearly identified as a dramatization at the beginning of the broadcast but for many of those who tuned in late it appeared to be completely real.
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Old 01 November 2011, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hapax Legomena View Post
Like the linked article says, it was an after-the-fact creation of the newspapers of the time and it has gained traction over the years with each retelling.
I'd imagine that there are shades of "look how gullible people were 20/40/70 years ago" in the retellings.
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Old 01 November 2011, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hapax Legomena View Post
Like the linked article says, it was an after-the-fact creation of the newspapers of the time . . .
Which had a vested interest in making radio, their relatively new competition, look like an unreliable/manipulative source of information.
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Old 01 November 2011, 05:51 PM
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Fright

Some people in the Seattle area were sent into a panic on April 1, 1989.

Note: I was among those watching the show live, and was not fooled.
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Old 02 November 2011, 12:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hapax Legomena View Post
There was clearly confusion about it, but that stemmed from people who tuned in late and didn't realize that they were listening to a radio play.
It's possible some of the relatively few people who 'panicked' (or more likely expressed some amount of confusion) didn't actually catch the extra-terrestrial aspect and only heard what seemed to be the broadcast of an invasion. Following the war, it would be no wonder if some people's minds hurriedly went to 'Enemy action' before they actually listened further and caught the obvious signs of fiction.
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Old 02 November 2011, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hapax Legomena View Post
... but that stemmed from people who tuned in late and didn't realize that they were listening to a radio play.
I heard the programme and they claimed that most people who tuned in late had no problems realising it was a drama.
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Old 02 November 2011, 06:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ali Infree View Post
Welles did apologize afterwards for not leading with a disclaimer.
I seem to recall that somewhere else (Argentina?), the broadcast was redone. The legend there (since I cannot find a source) was that when people found out that it was not true--a riot ensued and the radio station was burned down.
This episode of Radio Lab describes the original WotW hoax and the much more serious copycat hoax in Ecuador:

http://www.radiolab.org/2008/mar/24/
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  #12  
Old 03 November 2011, 05:06 PM
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Ecuador !!! Thank you, sorry Argentina... Wasn't there violence in Santiago as well?

Ali
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Old 11 November 2011, 05:05 PM
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I remember hearing some similar claims associated with the 1983 TV Movie "Special Bulletin" about nuclear terrorism in Charleston (SC) Harbor, which was done in the style of a live news report. The wikipedia page just says that there were "news reports of isolated panic in Charleston". The filmmakers were very careful to clarify that it was a dramatization, especially in the Charleston area, but it's always possible that some people missed it.
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Old 17 November 2011, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Dream on, Andrew.

My mom was 19 when the show aired. She and her family didn't listen to the show, but she has always said she didn't recall there being any panic among people who did listen.
Same with my grandmother. My grandparents lived just a few miles from Princeton Junction,where the Martians landed.
My grandfather,a barber,heard about it in his shop the next day. Didn't sound like a mass panic at all. Although there was the country bumpkin(played by John Ritter in the TV film) who mistook the water tower for a space ship and shot at it. The bullet hole is still there and is considered a historical site.
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Old 22 November 2011, 06:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingDavid8 View Post
I remember hearing some similar claims associated with the 1983 TV Movie "Special Bulletin" about nuclear terrorism in Charleston (SC) Harbor, which was done in the style of a live news report. The wikipedia page just says that there were "news reports of isolated panic in Charleston". The filmmakers were very careful to clarify that it was a dramatization, especially in the Charleston area, but it's always possible that some people missed it.
I remember seeing that show on TV. Not only was there a screen crawl at the bottom, but there were also announcements at commercial time and publicity beforehand that the disclaimers would be run. It would have been very hard for a reasonable person to not realize it was a dramatization.
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Old 22 November 2011, 08:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tootsie Plunkette View Post
Some people in the Seattle area were sent into a panic on April 1, 1989.

Note: I was among those watching the show live, and was not fooled.
Bahaha, I remember that. I also remember thinking "that is the worst f'ing photo manipulation I've ever seen".
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  #17  
Old 23 November 2011, 07:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hapax Legomena View Post
Imagine turning on your computer now and it's filled with stories about an alien invasion complete with major media figures giving on the scene accounts of it, but it turns out you happened to just wander late into an elaborate work of fiction. Most likely you would have believed it at first and might end up a bit embarassed and even angry that you were taken in.
Oddly enough, this and the Space Needle thing remind me of switching my TV on in the middle of the afternoon on September 11th 2001 (pre-24 hour news, at least for me). There was a serious, apparently unscheduled, panel discussion of some people who seemed to be discussing a building falling down. On other channels there were some cartoons or something. I think there might have been some news somewhere, but it wasn't very clear. I switched back to the panel discussion wondering what was going on, assuming it was either a hypothetical or that it was about a badly-built tower block in China or something. It took a while to work out what they were talking about, and to realise it was real and to come and check the computer to find out what had actually happened...
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Old 25 November 2011, 01:56 PM
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Steve Allen claimed he was taken in by it. He said he (teenager at the time), his mother and his aunt were staying at a hotel when they heard part of the broadcast. They panicked and went down to the lobby where they heard dance music playing and realized that wouldn't be happening with an invasion going on, to their great embarrassment.
People love making up anecdotes or even adamantly misremember things (see the We've Got Mail's Lying Eyes thread), but I wonder how much individual, small scale panic the broadcast produced even though the mass panic is a myth.
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Old 25 November 2011, 06:56 PM
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I read a credible article once (sorry I can't remember where) that said police stations reported an increase in telephone calls from concerned listeners to the broadcast. The article said that the police rang the radio station which then broke into the programme to say that the show was fiction.
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Old 25 November 2011, 09:48 PM
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RichardW, I had a somewhat similar reaction to hearing about the September 11th attacks. I was a senior in high school, living in California (3 hours behind New York), and heard the breaking news on the Kevin & Bean show on KROQ. I didn't pay much attention, figuring in my groggy state that it was part of a setup to some joke about what it would take to bring down the host's tower ifyaknowwhatimean, because that would be just the sort of thing they would do.
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