The Martians Have Landed!

A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes


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About the Book

History is replete with examples of media-created scares and panics. This book presents more than three dozen studies of media scares from the 17th century to the 21st century, including hoaxes perpetrated via newspapers, radio, television and cyberspace. From the 1835 batmen on the Moon hoax to more recent bird flu scares and Hurricane Katrina myths, this book explores hoaxes that highlight the impact of the media on our lives and its tendency to sensationalize. Most of the hoaxes covered occurred in the United States, though incidents from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia are featured as well. Several are global in scope, revealing the power global media wields.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Robert E. Bartholomew has taught sociology in Australia at The Flinders University of South Australia and James Cook University in Queensland. A former broadcast journalist and contributor to news organizations such as the Associated Press and United Press International, he currently teaches at Botany College in Auckland, New Zealand.

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of the science magazine The Skeptical Inquirer. The author of a dozen books and numerous articles on urban legends, the paranormal, critical thinking, films, and media literacy. He has appeared on CNN, the History Channel, and the National Geographic Channel. He lives in Corrales, New Mexico.

Bibliographic Details

Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 254
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6498-2
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8671-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Section One : It Came from the Airwaves—Radio

1. The London Riot Hoax      13

2. Radio Daze—The Martian Invasion Broadcast      16

3. The Martians Return      23

4. Infamous Disc Jockey Hoaxes      27

5. Playing with Fire: Nuclear Scares      30

Section Two : It Came from the Small Screen—Television

6. “This Just In…” NBC Frightens Viewers      37

7. “Look! Up in the Sky!” Asteroid Panic      40

8. Pokémon Panics and Creepy Crawley Scares      44

9. The “Documentary” That Fooled England      49

10. Hurricane Katrina Mythmaking      53

11. Chicken Little and the Bird Flu Panic      59

12. The Russians Are Coming!      64

13. The Video Nasties Scare (Peter Hassall)      67

Section Three : It Came from Ink—Newspapers

14. The Batmen on the Moon Hoax      79

15. The Central Park Zoo Panic      84

16. The Halley’s Comet Scare of 1910      87

17. How the Press Created an Imaginary Terrorist      92

18. The Hook Hoax      98

19. The Ghost Slasher of Taiwan      101

20. The Phantom Clown Panic      105

Section Four : It Came from Cyberspace—The Internet

21. Chemtrails and Conspiracies      113

22. Morgellons: The First Internet Disease?      117

23. Katrina Evacuee Myths      120

24. The E-mail Virus Panic (Bill Ellis)      123

Section Five : It Came from a Friend of a Friend—Media-Spread Urban Legends

25. Urban Legends and the Media      131

26. The Curse of the Crying Boy (David Clarke)      134

27. Photos of the Gods (David Clarke)      146

Section Six : It Came from Everywhere

28. The Satanic Cult Scare      157

29. Halloween Panics      162

30. Stranger Danger and the Predator Next Door      170

31. The School Safety Panic      176

32. “Out of the Water!” Media Shark Frenzy      179

33. The Great Puerto Rican Chupacabra Panic      182

34. YouTube, Popcorn and the Killer Cell Phones      187

35. Someone Stole My Kidney! Organ Theft Scares      192

36. Killer Vaccines (Felicity Goodyear-Smith and Helen Petousis-Harris)      197

Notes      213

Bibliography      229

Index      241

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Fascinating…ground breaking and unique…definitely a rare find and worthy of any conspiracy enthusiasts library or paranormal journeymen’s book shelf…recommend”—
  • “Bartholomew continues to reinvent the way in which these topics are presented and discussed. This makes a great reference for researchers and those following mass panics”—Fortean Times
  • “Highly recommend[ed]…an important resource for any skeptic’s library and an entertaining read for anyone”—Skeptical Inquirer
  • “In this work Bartholomew and Radford, investigate the truth behind scares fueled either intentionally or accidentally by the media”—Reference & Research Book News