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.

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 several books, he has also written numerous articles on a variety of topics including urban legends, the paranormal, critical thinking, films, and media literacy. He has appeared on CNN, the History Channel, and the National Geographic Channel.

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