A Phony Yacht Explosion, and Other New Jersey Emergency Hoaxes

Last Monday, the Coast Guard received a distress call reporting that a yacht had exploded. Twenty-one people were said to be floating in rafts 17 miles off the New Jersey shore, and at least three were believed to be dead. A massive rescue operation was launched. But the Coast Guard soon realized that the call was a hoax.

It turns out that New Jersey has quite a long history of hoax calls to emergency service providers. The New Jersey Star-Ledger has compiled a list of the most memorable examples. It traces all the way back to what is probably the most famous hoax emergency call of all time, the 1938 War of the Worlds 'Panic' Broadcast.

Some might argue that the Panic Broadcast shouldn't be on the list because it wasn't a call to emergency services, and was even identified as fiction. But thousands of people nevertheless thought it was a report of an emergency, so I see their point in including it.

If one were willing to include New York City hoaxes, the 1874 Central Park Zoo Escape could also be included in the list.


Posted on Mon Jun 18, 2012


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