April first Hoaxes. Space shuttle, War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast


April Fool's Day Stunt and a Classic Radio Hoax


1) Space Shuttle Discovery Lands at Montgomery Field, San Diego:Hoax - Space Shuttle

On April 1st 1993 Dave Rickards was broadcasting as usual on radio station KGB-FM in San Diego.  Dave grabbed the attention of his listeners by announcing that the space shuttle Discovery had been diverted from Edwards Air Force Base.  This was hot news as Dave reported that Discovery had been diverted to Montgomery Field, a small, but well known local airport.

Thousands of locals, who had listened to the broadcast, hastened towards the landing site. The result was traffic tailbacks of over 10 miles.

Police were notified and went to clear the traffic. People arrived at the airport carrying cameras, camcorders, and folding chairs. Journalists described how the crowd swelled to over 1,000 people.

Of course, the shuttle never landed. Montgomery Field airport would have been far too small for the shuttle to even consider landing there.  As it happened, there wasn't a shuttle in orbit at the time.

The police took a dim view of the extra work caused by the April Fool hoax and threatened to sending a bill to the radio station, they wanted compensation for the cost of officers required to deal with the traffic.  KGM-FM broadcast a fulsome apology and the police decided to leave it there, after all, it was April Fool's day.

2) A Famous Previous Radio Hoax

Does it happen to you?  Or is it just a lingering effect of my misspent youth telling jokes in boozers?  What still amazes me how one joke
triggers my memory to retrieve a similar story.

War of the Worlds Broadcast

In this instance, my memory is saying, remember the 'War of the Worlds' radio panic.  The event happened on October 30th 1938, so people weren't expecting an April Fool's style hoax.  What actually happened was that people mistook a science fiction program to be a real Martian attack.  This true account of the radio program and its effects may seem incredulous, but remember in 1938 there was no mass
television.  What made this event interesting is that it was not intended as a hoax.

Two things combined to create mass panic, firstly many listeners did not hear the start of the program, which introduced Orson Wells as reading from the H.G.Wells book, 'The War of the Worlds'.  Secondly, there was no chance of switching on CNN news for corroboration, just the mesmeric effect of the radio.

Here is a verbatim script of what listeners heard when they tuned in about 10 minutes after the program started.


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. From the Meridian Room in the Park Plaza Hotel in New York City, we bring you the music of Ramón Raquello and his orchestra. With a touch of the Spanish, Ramón Raquello leads off with ' La Cumparsita.'



Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.

At twenty minutes before eight, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars. The spectroscope indicates the gas to be hydrogen and moving towards the earth with enormous velocity.

Professor Pierson of the Observatory at Princeton confirms Farrell's observation, and describes the phenomenon as, quote, 'like a jet of blue
flame shot from a gun, 'unquote.

We now return you to the music of Ramón Raquello, playing for you in the Meridian Room of the Park Plaza Hotel, situated in downtown New York.



And now a tune that never loses favor, the ever-popular ' Stardust.' Ramón Raquello and his orchestra...

War of the Worlds - Radio program


Ladies and gentlemen, following on the news given in our bulletin a moment ago, the Government Meteorological Bureau has requested the large observatories of the country to keep an astronomical watch on any further disturbances occurring on the planet Mars.

Due to the unusual nature of this occurrence, we have arranged an interview with a noted astronomer, Professor Pierson, who will
give us his views on this event. In a few moments we will take you to the Princeton Observatory at Princeton, New Jersey.

We return you until then to the music of Ramón Raquello and his orchestra.



We are ready now to take you to the Princeton Observatory at Princeton where Carl Phillips, our commentator, will interview Professor Richard Pierson, famous astronomer. We take you now to Princeton, New Jersey.


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is Carl Phillips, speaking to you from the observatory of Princeton. I am standing in a large semi-circular room, pitch black except for an oblong split in the ceiling. Through this opening I can see a sprinkling of stars that cast a kind of frosty glow over the intricate mechanism of the huge telescope. The ticking sound you hear is the vibration of the clockwork.

Professor Pierson stands directly above me on a small platform, peering through the giant lens. I ask you to be patient, ladies and gentlemen, during any delay that may arise during our interview. Besides his ceaseless watch of the heavens, Professor Pierson may
be interrupted by telephone or other communications. During this period he is in constant touch with the astronomical centers of the world...

There followed disturbing details of dramatic events that were going on in space an in America.  Remember that radio is a great medium for using people's own imagination against them.

This is an excerpt of what the Professor said:

Of the creatures in the rocket cylinder at Grovers Mill, I can give you no authoritative information - either to their nature, their origin, or their purposes here on earth. Of their destructive instrument I might venture some conjectural explanation.

For want of a better term, I shall refer to the mysterious weapon as a heat ray. It's all too evident that these creatures have scientific knowledge far in advance of our own. It's my guess that in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute no conductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, much as the mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light. That is my conjecture of the origin of the heat ray...

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank:

Famous Hoaxes through Time by Rekab Mailliw. Pub. Jan. 2006

The Museum of Hoaxes: Alex Boase c. 2003

Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia

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