False Alarm Recalls ‘War Of The Worlds’ Duping Americans & Hoosiers
Earlier this month, a radio station in east central Indiana broadcast a most unusual emergency warning – beware of zombies!
Yes, following traditional alert tones like those at the beginning of emergency broadcasting tests, listeners to WZZY-FM (98.3) in Randolph County on March 1 were informed of a local a zombie attack and disease outbreak!
It was a false alarm, the result of the station’s computer firewall system being “hacked”.
The office of Randolph County Sheriff Ken Hendrickson reassured residents via social they were not in danger.
The sheriff’s Facebook post had been shared more than 850 times by the next morning.
Details of the incident were reported to Indiana Department of Homeland Security. The Randolph County Sheriff’s department is not investigating the incident, but it is being handled internally by the ratio stations’ owners.
While it seems far-fetched that a report of zombies could be believable, it’s not the first time Hoosiers have fallen for an alien-type radio report.
‘War Of The Worlds’
On the evening of October 30, 1938 – the very day 1070 AM signed on the air for the first time – nationwide panic ensued during a radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.
A Sunday evening in that era was prime-time for radio listening, but most Americans were initially tuned to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy “Charlie McCarthy” on the National Broadcasting Company’s affiliated stations. After the comedy sketch ended at 8:12pm and a little-known singer went on, many listeners switched over to a Columbia Broadcasting System affiliated stations hearing ‘War of the Worlds’ starring Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater On The Air already in progress.
The radio play was extremely realistic, with Welles employing sophisticated sound effects and his actors doing an excellent job portraying terrified announcers and other characters. The first two-thirds of the one-hour program was presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently happening. The illusion of realism was in part because there was no commercial interruption until almost 30 minutes into the broadcast.
Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. Civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. And here in Indianapolis, it was reported that one woman ran into a church where evening services were being held and yelled, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!”
When news of the real-life panic leaked into the CBS studio, Welles went on the air as himself to remind listeners that it was just fiction.
The Federal Communications Commission later investigated the program but found no law was broken. All networks did agree to be more cautious in their programming in the future.
Click below to hear the legendary broadcast of ‘War Of The Worlds’.