The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoaxes Throughout History
Middle AgesEarly Modern1700s1800-1840s1850-1890s
1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s21st Century2014
Hoaxes That Caused Mass Panic
The Central Park Zoo Escape (1874)
On November 9, 1874 the New York Herald published a front-page article claiming that the animals had escaped from their cages in the Central Park Zoo and were rampaging through the city. A lion had been seen inside a church. A rhinoceros had fallen into a sewer. The police and national guard were heroically battling the beasts, but already forty-nine people were dead and two hundred injured. It was "a bloody and fearful carnival," the article despaired. And the animals were still on the loose! Many readers panicked when they read the article. However, those who did so hadn't read to the end of the article, where it stated (in rather small... 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…
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…
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 Sibuxiang Beast (Sep 1994)
On the evening of September 19, 1994, a stark warning repeated for TV viewers in Taiyuan, in northern China. The Sibuxiang beast, the message said, was on the loose and heading towards the city. "Everyone close your windows and doors and be on alert," people were warned. Many residents panicked, barricading themselves inside their homes. Others called the local authorities to find out what was happening. As it turned out, the Sibuxiang Beast was not an animal, but a new brand of liquor. The message had been an advertisement. TV commercials were still something of a novelty in China, and thus the confusion. more…
Hoax Archive Categories
Hoaxes Throughout History
Middle AgesEarly Modern1700s1800-1840s1850-1890s
1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s21st Century2014

All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.