Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

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 Slate.com, 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.)

Refs:

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

Snopes

Wikipedia

Telegraph.co.uk

Google Books

Project Gutenburg

Slate.com

New Jersey was somewhere I didn’t visit too much, I pretty much saw the airport and a Walmart if I am honest but I wouldn’t be so sure that wasn’t a good thing given the tales of the roads “in them there parts”. Clinton Road is one of those, it is in West Milford, Passaic County and begins near Route 23 towards it’s end at Upper Greenwood Lake. It has many legends attached to it and some are quite easily explained away but that’s not the only reason I picked it of course.

So what do we have to enjoy for a leisurely drive? Well there aren’t a great many houses down it’s 10km stretch and the road itself reportedly receives little maintenance, unless necessary. It’s got a terrible traffic light system, which if you are caught at the wrong time can leave you with up to a five minute wait! I hate being caught 30 seconds let alone that long. It takes its name from a now vanished settlement, Clinton.

The Ghost Boy at the bridge is one of the many legends attached to the stretch of road, one of the bridges saw a young boy drowned and if you put your coin in the middle where the yellow lines are you can have it returned to you by his ghost. In other variations the story has the boy pushing you over the bridge. If you don’t fancy your chances with that you can try discussing the ghostly car that drives that way, if you are talking about a car crash in 1988 where a girl lost her life, you should see a Camaro or perhaps if you are unlucky you might find yourself being driven off the road by a ghost truck.

So I’ve given you some ghosts how about Hellhounds? Well alongside those there have been tales of monkeys being spotted, and hybrid creatures but some of them are also believed to be the survivors of an old attraction called Jungle Habitat, it closed in 1976 but there are rumours some animals escaped and have in turn managed to crossbreed.

Cross Castle no longer stands, but the foundations are still there. Richard Cross built the castle on high land near the Reservoir for his wife and their three children in 1905. Later in the century it fell to ruin after a fire and became a popular local attraction for hikers or teenagers wanting an out of the way place for a party.  It’s been rumoured to be a place of satanic worship and sacrifice, WeirdNJ reported that people had claimed to have suffered seizures whilst there, and other things such as writings on the walls. Either way the Newark water department had the place razed in 1988 and hiking trails to the foundations remain even if the walls do not.

Have I given you curious people enough yet? No? Okay well how about the Iceman?

May 1983 a bicyclist was heading down the road and spotted vultures having a feast in the nearby woods, when he checked it out he found a dead body. An autopsy on the body showed it was foul play but more puzzling they found ice crystals in his blood near his heart, his interior organs showed a slower rate of decay than the outside flesh. It was thought that someone had tried to freeze him after death to try and mislead investigators.

Investigations led the authorities to someone living near Rockland County, New York and ultimately led to the arrest of Richard Kulinski in 1986, he was a contract killer for the mob, he lays claim to over 100 kills in his time and treated their bodies in that manner, it led to him being given the nickname The Iceman. He pled guilty to five murders and died in March 2006.

WeirdNJ Article 

The Shades Of Death road is sometimes referred to locally as ‘Shades’ and is a two-lane rural road, it’s around 7 miles in length and in central Warren County, New Jersey.  The road runs between the Liberty and Independence townships, and the road is subject to various legends and folklore. The local residents have been annoyed enough by street sign theft to grease up the pole, and so should you head that way I’d urge for a little respect about it.

Some say that the focus could be placed on the southern half of the road where the forest gives shade even on the sunniest of days. Due to this it was said bandits would hide and lay in wait for the victims in the shadows, where they could cut their throats. The locals would take revenge on the bandits by lynching them and leaving their bodies hanging to warn off other criminals.

1920-1930’s there were three brutal murders that occurred, one a robbery where a man was hit over the head with a tire jack over gold coins, another where a woman had beheaded her husband and buried the head one side of the street and the body the other. The last one was a local resident, Bill Cummins, who was shot and then buried in a mud-pile but the murder was never solved.

A rumour about how it got its name was ab out the area near Bear Swamp was used for Sod Farming, in 1850 malaria-carrying insects were discovered nearby. They had annual outbreaks of the Bear Swamp and was most likely originally called Shades Road but then a sense of black humour took over and it was named Shades of Death.

On the paranormal level there is Ghost Lake, this is not named on the official maps but was created in the early 20th century, two wealthy local men damned a creek that ran through the narrow valley and the strange vapours given off in the early morning appear to have given it the name. There have been reporting  of ghost sightings and from a deserted old cabin nearby where a victim of the murders were once said to have occurred.

Lenape Lane is a one-lane dead-end street that is unpaved and ends at a farmhouse, half way down there is a wooden structure and Weird New Jersey says that visitors have reported strange local fogs and seeing apparitions when the weather is clear elsewhere. Another legend claims that nocturnal visitors have been followed by a white orb that seems to chase them back out to Shades of Death, anyone that turns around to see it will die.

Another one says that if you go to a bridge there, stop at midnight with high-beams on the car and honk your horn then the ghosts of two children will appear. It seems that his legend may actually be for a bridge nearby on Old Mine Road, and that whilst you cannot get near it by car you can access it by foot.

Shades_of_Death_Road_sign_south 6661455541_c300d76349_b IMG_1885

Roads, streets and highways are all subject to the lore of a phantom vehicle and other strange phenomena. I’ve already touched on phantom hitchhikers but what about other myths and legends?

America

Annie’s Road in New Jersery, USA is the the site of local haunted legends. A woman supposedly killed on the road continues to haunt it. The area is located in Totowa, NJ and on the first half of River View Drive. A quick internet search will show you that there are several local myths about this one, including a need to put on old music to draw her out as you drive down but you will also find just as many comments about how this is nothing more than another Urban Legend.

Boy Scout Lane, is located in Wisconsin and it a dead-end road with no outlet. This appears to be an urban legend or something taken from pure fiction and lifted into semi-myth fact. Basically they say that there was the death of a fictional troop of Boy Scouts. There are however no records of either fatalities or mystery disappearances but despite this is remains an area where people try to conduct paranormal investigations.

Clinton Road, United States is another one of those with a tale that I find a little more like an old myth or urban legend that includes alleged sightings of ghosts, strange creates, witches, Satanists and even the Ku Klux Klan? If you go to the bridge at the reservoir at midnight and throw a penny (or maybe a cent who knows) into the water it will then be thrown back by the ghost of a boy who drowned there. Not content with one ghost there is a possibility of running into a Camaro being driven by a girl who crashed it in 1988 (and if you mention that event she is more likely to appear). Of course if two ghosts isn’t enough how about two more? There are also supposedly two park rangers that haunt the Terrace Pond area.

England

A616 road or Stockbridge Bypass connects Newark-On-Trent to the M1. When it was being constructed staff reported encounters with a ghostly monk who may have been from the nearby Hunshelf Priory. However I could not find any recent records about it. Harry Unsworth was a lorry driver in 1958 who reported that he gave a lift to a Hitchhiker. He dropped the man off and then he re-appeared again without explanation some miles down the road… This was reported more than once in the 50’s.

Coulds Hill near Wareham in Dorset has worried some drivers, hearing the sound of a powerful engine (more exactly it suggests a 1920’s Brough Superior Motorcycle) that sped around followed by sounds of screeching tyres and then an eerie silence. Nobody has seen the rider but it’s been theorised it was World War One hero Lawrence of Arabia who was killed in a spot nearby in a similar accident.

The “Phantom Lorry of Cheshire” has been reported stalks the Hyde to Mottram  road. As far back as February 1930 the shadowy truck has been blamed for causing drivers to crash when they serve to avoid a suddenly appearing vehicle coming out of a side road that is not there upon inspection.

Between Blanford and Salisbury (Wiltshire) motorists are often shocked by a phantom wreckage by the side of the road with screams and groans of the crash victims. Other have said they have seen a ghostly-face of a man, felt the icy touch of a hand and even to have seen a severed bloody hand on the floor!

Elsewhere!

E8 Expressway, or the Karak Expressway in Kuala Lumpur suffers the report of being one of the most haunted roads in Malaysia. Many people report seeing strange creatures and Pontianak on the road.

“Uniondale Phantom Hitchhiker” is on the N9 Road in South Africa on the road between Uniondale and Willowmore, in the semi-desert of Karoo. A girl named Marie Charlotte Roux died in a road accident on that stretch of the N9, April 12th, 1968 (Good Friday)