October 30, 2003

Terrible Shocking Mutilated Death

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Which reminds me of something that happened years before that.

In the 1870s, reportedly to satisfy his own ego, one newspaper man conceived of a hoax that kept the streets of New York City empty.

James Gordon Bennett, the publisher of the New York Herald, bragged to his friends that he could make the public do anything he wanted. He said he'd prove it by keeping New Yorkers at home the next day.

Sure enough, the next day found the streets of New York deserted...the morning paper carried headlines about escaped animals from the zoo. "Terrible Scenes of Mutilation" and a "Shocking Carnival of Death" were promised to greet the citizens who wandered outside.

After several hours, people realized it was a hoax and slowly the city came back to life.

(The source for the above is Reader's Digest, but I found this, which explains it a bit differently. Draw your own conclusions.)

Posted by Jennifer at October 30, 2003 07:55 AM


I followed your link and found out something quite funny: New York newspapers have had "Jayson Blair"s working for them for over a hundred years. The link to the Zoo Hoax, also had a link to the "Great Moon Hoax of 1835", in which it was reported that life had been discovered on the moon. Of interest to me was the following passage:

Yale College was alive with staunch supporters. The literati—students and professors, doctors in divinity and law—and all the rest of the reading community, looked daily for the arrival of the New York mail with unexampled avidity and implicit faith. Have you seen the accounts of Sir John Herschel's wonderful discoveries? Have you read the Sun? Have you heard the news of the man in the Moon? These were the questions that met you every where. It was the absorbing topic of the day. Nobody expressed or entertained a doubt as to the truth of the story.

Funny how big New York newspapers have always lied to people while college professors, college students, and all of the supposed smartest people of the day believe every word without question. The more things change, the more they stay the same.....

Posted by: Mike the Marine at October 30, 2003 08:21 AM

Excellent, thanks, Mike. :-)

Posted by: Jennifer at October 30, 2003 02:53 PM

You mean if it's in the Times it's not the truth? OH MY GOD

Posted by: Pete at October 30, 2003 03:43 PM