Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

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

Évora, Portugal, offers up the Chapel of Bones, and is in the Church of St Francis. It is a small interior chapel near the entrance, the chapel walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones.

It was built by a Franciscan monk in the 16th Century, the counter-reformation spirit was what he had hoped to capture. He wanted to prod his brothers into further contemplation.

There is a warning at the entrance that reads “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” which means ‘We the bones that are here, await yours.’

About 5000 skeletons were used and came from cemeteries situated inside several churches around the area. A visit to the church may not be for the feint of heart, but sounds intriguing none the less.

 

Gay Baldwin wrote a book, I picked it up probably ten years ago or more, about the local ghosts on the Isle of Wight. The Island is small and you can travel around most of it pretty quickly but if you are looking at some of the out of the way areas this one is pretty good for some side visits.

Of course readers will now have guessed I do have a thing for the oceanic types of haunts and Chapter Thirteen of “More Ghosts of the Isle of Wight” has provided another good read.

Bouldnor, near Yarmouth is mentioned, a couple saw a vessel come close enough to the shore that they might well have been able to touch it. This was in 1978 and the book contains statements from both witnesses who have yet to change their claim on the matter.

The sighting came some years before the discovery of mystery vessel by divers. It has now been identified as the wreck of either a 16th Century Spanish or Portuguese carrack. She is now lying entombed in mud and sand off Solent.

Another one I found from a website, Mystery History suggests there is more than one sighting.

Two people out night fishing spotted an old ship with three masts sailing towards them. The vessel appeared to be illuminated by several lanterns across its masts and bow. As the ship neared the witnesses, it slowly faded away.

Another rather enjoyable anecdote for ghost ships:

The HMS Eurydice, a 26-gun frigate that capsized and sank in Sandown Bay during a blizzard in 1878, is a famous phantom vessel that has been sighted by sailors over the years. On October 17, 1998, Prince Edward of England (1964– ) and the film crew for the television series “Crown and Country” saw the three-masted ship off the Isle of Wight and managed to capture its image on film.

The HMS Eurydice is pretty famous and has said to have been spotted by more than just Prince Edward and the TV crew. She was a vessel caught out by bad weather, there were two other ships in the area and despite the bad weather she continued on with her gun ports open, a strange action in the given weather.

There was not enough time to get to the crew via lifeboats as the crew were pretty much on the decks below at the time. The Ventnor residents stood on the cliffs and were said to be dumbstruck by the incident as it was such a calm day beforehand. After the freak storm died down all that could be seen was the mast and upper sails/rigging around two miles off the island.

A schooner, Emma, went to find survivors, she picked up five people from the waters but only two survived. One of those two said they were ordered to bring the sails in but the snow in the blizzard was so thick they could not see.  One of the witnesses at the time was a young Winston Churchill living in Ventnor with his family at that time.

1898 saw a powerful poem about the affair by the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The poem is The Homecoming of the Eurydice.

The Home-Coming of the ‘Eurydice’

Up with the royals that top the white spread of her!
Press her and dress her, and drive through the foam;
The Island’s to port, and the mainland ahead of her,
Hey for the Warner and Hayling and Home!

Bo’sun, O Bo’sun, just look at the green of it!
Look at the red cattle down by the hedge!
Look at the farmsteading–all that is seen of it,
One little gable end over the edge!’

‘Lord! the tongues of them clattering, clattering,
All growing wild at a peep of the Wight;
Aye, sir, aye, it has set them all chattering,
Thinking of home and their mothers to-night.’

Spread the topgallants–oh, lay them out lustily!
What though it darken o’er Netherby Combe?
‘Tis but the valley wind, puffing so gustily –
On for the Warner and Hayling and Home!

‘Bo’sun, O Bo’sun, just see the long slope of it!
Culver is there, with the cliff and the light.
Tell us, oh tell us, now is there a hope of it?
Shall we have leave for our homes for to-night?’

‘Tut, the clack of them! Steadily! Steadily!
Aye, as you say, sir, they’re little ones still;
One long reach should open it readily,
Round by St. Helens and under the hill.

‘The Spit and the Nab are the gates of the promise,
Their mothers to them–and to us it’s our wives.
I’ve sailed forty years, and–By God it’s upon us!
Down royals, Down top’sles, down, down, for your lives!’

A grey swirl of snow with the squall at the back of it,
Heeling her, reeling her, beating her down!
A gleam of her bends in the thick of the wrack of it,
A flutter of white in the eddies of brown.

It broke in one moment of blizzard and blindness;
The next, like a foul bat, it flapped on its way.
But our ship and our boys! Gracious Lord, in your kindness,
Give help to the mothers who need it to-day!

Give help to the women who wait by the water,
Who stand on the Hard with their eyes past the Wight.
Ah! whisper it gently, you sister or daughter,
‘Our boys are all gathered at home for to-night.’

One of the things I find fascinating is the ossuary concept and San Bernardino alle Ossa is no exception. It is in Milan, Northern Italy and the church there has a small side chapel decorated with human skulls and bones.

The Ossuary came into play in 1210 when a cemetery adjacent ran out of space, the room was build to hold bones. A church was attached in 1269, it was renovated in 1679, then in 1712 it was destroyed, a new church for Saint Bernardino was then built.

The ossuary’s vault was frescoed in 1695, by Sebastiano Ricci, and many niches and doors are decorated with bones in what is known as the Roccoco style. Interestingly in 1738 King John V of Portugal was so struck by the chapel he had a similar one built in Évora, near Lisbon.