Posts Tagged ‘America’

It’s a famous media broadcast now, it’s also a very gripping thing to listen to as well. The original book is a work by H G Wells that started life as a serialisation by the English author.

The Martians have been plotting an invasion to Earth that’s to their own diminishing resources. In the book the events of the invasion are set in motion in Woking, Surrey but Orson Welles transfers them to America. Wells no doubt picked his location as it was local and he knew how to describe things with familiarity and if you pop over to Woking at any point you can locate a 23 feet high sculpture of a tripod fighting machine, ‘The Martian’ near the local railway station.

I’m not going into the plot, the reviews or such like but it is worthy of note because of films and of course the above-mentioned broadcast. That’s the bit I am going to look at it here for now.

George Orson Welles, 6th May 1915 to 10th October 1985 was involved in the business of entertainment and is famous for the film Citizen Kane, 1941 amongst other things but this is a blog for weird and interesting things, and I’ve picked out the 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds which, supposedly, sent thousands of American people into a mass panic about the alien invasions in their home states…

CBS radio invited Orson Welles to create a summer show that would last 13 weeks, the series began 11th July 1938 and the adaptation for H G Wells book aired 30th October 1938. It brought Orson Welles instant fame, the broadcast itself really is worth a listen to and you can sit back and appreciate it yourself if you wish.

There was supposedly a mass panic from people convinced of its validity, that aliens truly landed and it’s this bit I am looking at, were people really panicking so much that they would run from their homes in masses?

1.7 million listened to the broadcast and polls calculated that 1.2 million ‘were excited’ and mostly the reports seem to have been anecdotal. Cantril interviewed 135 people who cited some colourful claims about grabbing guns or packing up in a panic. It would hardly have been unusual for a busy area to have fast moving traffic and other rambunctious behaviours at the time so this was not entirely unexpected. Grovers Mill, New Jersey was not blasted by alien lasers or any such thing but the media took the story of the panic and without looking at data it might even be assumed claims of heart attacks and suicides were another effect but again, there was not noticeable shows in the data to support this. Miller countered Cantril’s claims and just did not seem to match up to the 1 million plus listeners.

American Telephone Company figures suggested a 40% rise in calls, again however, they did not lead to anything specific and it was just a higher record in some parts of New Jersey.

He also mentions that there is a notable other broadcast with the results of frightening some listeners, 31st October 1974 at Rhode Island, and one in Northern Portugal 1988 but they were not reported to on the same level. The same sort of thing appears in a 2010 publication by W Joseph Campbell and, they in turn also look at media myths or fake news and include the press reports of the panic-stricken US citizens.

31st October, 1938 Daily News of New York’s front page encapsulates the news with the title “FAKE RADIO ‘WAR’ STIRS TERROR THROUGH U.S’. The New York Times gave us ‘Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact.’  The Detroit News went with ‘War Skit on Radio Terrifies Nation’ and The Boston Daily Globes ran with ‘RADIO PLAY TERRIFIES NATION’.

But was all of this remotely correct or fake news? Well in short, no, CE Hopper Company did the 2% response to people listening to it because most people were listening to NBC. The poll was conducted for 5000 people, so 100 people of 5000 were listening? Frank Stanton of CBS also said they were never censored for it because most people hadn’t even heard the show.

6 weeks after the broadcast it was admitted to, the figures were largely skewed and descriptions like disturbed or excited were inflated to ‘panic’. It did get enough hype that Adolf Hitler cited the panic as ‘evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy’.

So why?

Well in short radio was being seen as a threat to newspapers, they could use a few isolated cases as a way to make it sounds like these types of shows were an example of this terrible new media being irresponsible and untrustworthy. The Telegraph (UK paper) says that a woman tried to sue CBS for $50,000 thank to nervous shock but it was dismissed and a man tried to claim for shows as he’d spent that money on a train ticket, Welles was said to have paid for those.

There was indeed action taken that night, the police came to the station and one minute from the end of the show they were trying to shut it down. It played out and as a result Paul White, the head of CBS News, was summoned over. Welles found out later and was convinced it would end his career, but it didn’t.

Some listeners had turned in part way through and this seems to be where the reports started. Again, though it was very much a case of over-exaggeration and it does also seem that the repeated broadcasts about it being fictional could have fallen to few ears, a case of a small audience from the previous show affecting it too.

Let’s also put this into context, at the time a German Invasion was a possibility, rumblings of the inevitable war were a reality and was it so hard to imagine those who were affected and lured in part way through might have thought it was something to do with that?

Hadley Cantril calculated a 6 million strong audience, but it was then 1.7 million later on and yet this calculation seems flawed. He had doubled the usual audience and had tried to work on the idea not ever listener had a phone too. He summarised many reactions into panicked and yet quite a number had thought it was more of a prank than a reality.

No admissions for shock were made at Newark Hospital at that time, and there were no spikes in admission at New York either. Washington Post claimed a man died from a heart attack but the claim was not verified and Snopes also places this as mostly false.

So here is my summary – firstly its put Grovers Mill on the map for tourists like me who enjoy a bit of quirky history, radio hasn’t been stopped by the papers and vice-versa. I am quite sure we can safely say the average U.S citizen would have noticed laser space blasting Martians at the time and I, for one, love the broadcast. Thank you, H G Wells and Orson Welles, you gave me a great piece of history to look back on (and no I don’t rate the latest War of the Worlds film if you were wondering.)


Robert E Bartholomew, Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns and Head-Hunting Panics



Google Books

Project Gutenburg


The tiny village of Nyack in New York State was park of a court case that has become known as the ‘Ghostbuster’ ruling. It means that when selling a property there must be a declaration if it is haunted in the sale information.

The building was constructed around 1900, an imposing Victorian home which was purchased by the Ackley family in the 1960’s. She shared the house with her children and grandchildren and had reported to neighbours that the property was haunted. There were footsteps, doors slamming and beds shaking but she said they lived peacefully with the two spirits. Helen Ackley said they were Sir George and Lady Margaret both of which were a revolutionary war era couple and despite the neighbours scepticism she told the local media about it.

It most likely wasn’t anything too material, but again who knows, and yet the stories took hold either way. They rose in heat when a young and healthy guest at the home came for a dinner party only to collapse and die of a brain aneurysm.

In 1989 she decided to sell the home to Jeffrey Stambovsky, the sale fell through after he made the deposit only to find out that the property was on a local ghost tour. The court case was ruled in his favour as she had not mentioned this in the details. It’s worth noting that subsequent owners have not reported any strange goings on.

After the court case the disgusted Ackley left for Florida, she then declared she was taking the ghosts with her? Whatever the truth this seems like one hell of an odd statement to make…

You can read more about it here


For the original up-loaders file click here  it will open in another window.

WKCR Hijacking is one of those incidents described as a Broadcast Signal Intrusion, like the Max Headroom Incident (I covered this in my June 2014 blog) and it seems unconfirmed but the story interested me. So here goes:

It was originally posted on 4chan where the original poster says that they came across an old recording made in 1994/1995 and that they never thought about copying it, then they found it again and decided to upload it digitally. The uploader says that it was from WKCR 89.9, among the posts there is the usual insults and trolling but there are other comments.

From the post I found myself listening to the upload, it is discordant and overlapping with various sounds. All together when combined the effect is pretty creepy and well not entirely pleasant on the ears, if like me you find high pitched squealing noises hard work on the ears.

So off I went to the internet having listening a few times, and here’s a summary of what I think are the best points.

Reddit – WKCR FM Columbia, New York is a college radio station, generally the idea behind this is that many think it was an arts project. It seems a worthy consideration and given their listings on the website, sounds quite fair.

It was compared to some other experimental artists and many comment that it does not feel like it was an old tape and converted over, purely down to the high quality of it. Some think it would be a little about how clean it was that made it a spurious claim and others countered this saying that you can clean tapes up to very good quality these days.

A comment I saw mentioned that a date in the audio was 1998. I listened to it quite a lot and did not manage to pick that out. Can you tell me if you do and where?

Some people think it might be an attempt at replicating artists like Diamanda Galás, she centered on things like AIDS, mental illness and despair as examples. I compared them, I thought she was interesting but this does not sound like something copying her work.

This is what I could make out – add corrections if you can. I have placed them in date order…

February 1985 – Frank Oppenheimer, brother of Robert. Husband of Jackie, their father of Micheal, our friend.

August 22nd 1985 [incoherent] Tulio. Sister of Millie, Margaret, Dominic and joe. Wife of William. Mother of Mary, Lisa and Billy.

July 4th 1987 Peter Dunwell, Son of Robert, Husband of Lisa

March 17th 1988, Edward McEllis (McNellis?) [Incoherent] Edward’s brother. William, June, Peggy father of Julie, Heart Attack.

April 1988 Rupert [incoherent]

October 1988 Morgan (Tunic?) father of Barbara, Husband of Elsie. Barbara’s dad. Kidney failure.

November 1988 John Byrne (Burn?) Son of John, brother of Catherine and Chris.

December 21st 1988 Barry Valentino, son of Barry Senior, brother of Scott, Mark and Lisa. And his friend, my friend.

May 1987 Henrietta Graham, Mother of [incoherent] my friend.

So is there any relevance? Well 22nd August 1985 was the date of an airways disaster. British Airtours Flight 28m. In total 55 people died as a result but I couldn’t find anything that listed those names and I think I would need the name of the diseased, I could not make that out.

I would also like to clarify that Frank Oppenheimer was not part of the Manhattan project as some of the sources suggest. Robert is mentioned but they are reading out the details about Frank, Frank died 3rd February 1985 and died at home, not as a result of a plane accident, so there is no link there.

Barry Valentino is listed and appears to be a victim of the Pan AM Flight 103, Lockerbie. There is a plane involved in this one.

So is it a creepy art project and a false claim of broadcast intrusion? At the moment I have to say yes, there is nothing specific enough here and I don’t really recognise what message they are trying to portray within the recording.

I am standing ready to be corrected.


Animal Planet – The Haunted, Episode 1, Season 1 in 2009 had found a nameplate with “The Blakely Home” upon looking for information, the owners of a software company, find that from 1919 to 1950 it was an insane asylum. Going outside the owners of the company find empty animal cages, the cages seemed big enough for cats, dogs and other small animals. Some weeks after this the motion sensors went off the police could find no reason for it.

I tried to look into this, I really found it quite hard work as I am not local and the information online is scant. I found that there were references to Blackley, Blockley or Blakely Insane Asylum all in the area. What I could find in general was an old reference to Blakely Home as an historical building stating it is now used by Calvert Laboratories. The company deals in pharmaceuticals and my research online shows animal testing is mentioned.

Initially I was getting frustrated but genealogy sites can really be of great help. The Blakely Home is located in Lackawama County, PA, USA. Kriswfield has entered a message on about the place, he says that his father and his partner brought the property from the county in 1976. The business his dad owned ran up until 1982. He comments he could not say about the ethics of the lab that came in after that. He does however say that the labs were tightly regulated by the FDA and says in the main building, where they lived, that it was never considered to be haunted.

A nurse prior to that was able to say it was used as convalescent home and she worked there from 1971 to 1972, she states that it was a nice place to work.

Mentions I found in the area:

Built 1891 – Blakely Poor Farm.

Active Electronics building 2014, the shows a picture of the building.

Ease Diagnostics – Auto Inspection & Testing Services

What can I work out? There was more than one building and I’m sure there are blurred lines here as I am not local and actually you need to ignore Ease Diagnostics, I believe. So that leaves the electronic company and Calvert Laboratories Inc on the same site. In 1891 the poor farm expanded and on that area there has been an old poor house; insane asylum, nursing home and then animal testing lab. So perhaps the bit more referred too is the one used by the electronics company and its really more coincidence Calvert Laboratories Inc are nearby now.

Haunted Title Screen.jpg
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Barbara Ann (Hackman) Taylor, ‘Bobbie’ was initially an unknown American woman who was referred to as Tent Girl.

Wilbur Riddle was out in Georgetown, Kentucky, on 17th May 1968 searching for glass insulators at the side of U.S Route 25. He was there to work as a water well-driller and was handed a note to pass some time until his boss arrived, he spotted some telephone workers and they were discarding the glass insulators as part of an upgrade program. He knew they would be useful for a friend so went to collect them.

He was on his way back from his collecting when something caught his eye as he headed back up the dirt track. The smell alone gave away there was nothing good to be found, he nudged a wrapped up green canvas and the body rolled down the slope. It exposed the body of a decomposing woman wrapped up in a heavy green tarpaulin. The material was the type of thing used in the manufacturing of tents, hence the identification.

Riddle immediately drove two miles down the road to alert the Scott County Sheriff, Bob Vance. Vance and his team then came to see and looked into the matter further, her eyes had already rotted away and her flesh was mottled, the poor woman was too decomposed to get a full fingerprint and they had to take one and rehydrate it with chemicals to attempt to gain anything at all.

They were unable to fully establish a cause of death, the best theory to date is that Bobbie was somehow knocked unconscious and rolled up and confined, eventually dying of asphyxiation. There was a section of white towelling and the green canvas sent over to the FBI laboratories in Washington for further analysis but at that point there was not very much more they felt they could do.

A lead came up about her in June, 1968 when her description matched enough features to show up missing Pasadena girl, Debbie Krane, who was last seen getting into the car of her 17 year-old boyfriend, Carl Colby. The 15 year old had gone missing March 3rd, 1968 and with the period of her death being loose enough they decided to ask her parents to come to see if they were able to identify her.

Debbie Krane’s dental records loosely matched that of the girl and at that point the police must have felt they were on track to finding her identity, then an anonymous call came in that said she was alive and well in Bradford, Pennsylvania. A long drive out to Bradford found Krane was alive and well, living with her boyfriend and that she had absconded from her home but was not deceased. They were then stumped once more.

There was another lead for the identification, a somewhat similar case that was linked up, this time from Northampton, Pennsylvania. Candace Clothier was found 13th April, 1968 and had last been seen 9th March, 1968 until her body was found. Two fishermen discovered the young lady decomposed and floating in the creek, she was found in a black cloth bag. Similarities in the case led to a question about them being linked, there is no more on her case, her case has been closed as it was felt that due to no leads and the chances of her murderer already being dead there was nothing more they could do.

‘Tent Girl’ was then a feature in American magazine, Master Detective, in the hopes that it might bring even more to the case and perhaps lead to her identification. She was eventually buried in an unmarked grave, No 90. She was buried in Georgetown Cemetery with a donated headstone and along with the police sketch of her, based on reconstructions from her body, there was also an inscription.


FOUND MAY 17 1968


DIED AB OUT APRIL 26 – MAY 3, 1968






She was identified in 1998, it was a result of the efforts of Todd Matthews. He was the son-in-law of Wilbur Riddle and having found out about the story he invested in a PC and got a website up and running. He had combed through lists of missing people online. He has since founded The Doe Network, an online database to identify missing people and unidentified descendants.

He got an e-mail from her sister, Rosemary Westbrook, about a young woman who had gone missing from nearby Lexington. It transpires that the family were told by her husband, George Earl Taylor, that she had run off with another man. It seems that this never rested well with Rosemary and she extended her contact to Todd Matthews, Matthews and the family were convinced enough that it led to the exhumation of her body and DNA testing. Cells from Rosemary’s teeth were compared to that of the unidentified woman and they matched up, she was finally identified. Her body was re-interred at the cemetery with her full headstone placed under the original. There is no mention of her marital name on the headstone.

The prime suspect in her murder is Barbara’s husband, George Earl Taylor, and he died of cancer in 1987. This is mentioned on Wikipedia but I have to admit I found no other source about this, given this I am not going to surmise he was involved, there is no evidence she ran away with another man but then again there is no evidence to say she did not.

What we do know is that she was finally identified and given a proper burial based on who she was, her sister was able to learn her fate and mourn properly and Todd Matthews has founded something wonderful to help as many as he can who might be sadly facing that sort of tragedy.

Barbara Ann Hackmann Taylor.jpg
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