Posts Tagged ‘rhode island’

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

I’m a big fan of H P Lovecraft, and I am sure I don’t do that good a job of hiding it. It is because of the work he created and inspired, and more importantly, he continues to do so after his death.

Lovecraft is probably more famous for his ‘Cthulhu’ mythos than anything else. He was avid about sharing his creation, his world and the outer gods/strange beings that came with it. Thanks to Lovecraft we have role play games, computer games, shared horror stories, music, films and so many other inspirations.

His youth was marred by his mothers death, and at fourteen his grandfather died. His grandfather appeared to have the money in the family, he loved his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, and despite never furnishing high school is a literary classic.

He married an older woman named Sonia Green, and due to her success in work he moved to New York. From letters and reflections in his stories it was evident he did not like it. His stories often reflect a writer who felt quite xenophobic and was happy to remain in his home town. His racism seemed to quell in later ages but perhaps he was more a man who felt out of place and time. He would have liked to have been a European a few centuries before his time?

His stories do not portray happy endings, often the reader in given tales of warning about delving too far for knowledge. The author of the tale might end up a victim of Arkham Asylum; or killing themselves, if they themselves had not been killed by a bizarre creature or situation unknown. His stories depict insanity, sickness, lack of control, fear and other scenario’s close to man’s fears and mortality.

His mother was an affectionate woman and his father went insane before his death. It is possible his father was suffering from syphilis, was this and her inspiration to his work?

I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful town of Providence, we even ventured down streets he most likely walked himself. We also ventured into Swan Point Cemetery, this was a fascinating place. The whole problem we faced was it was so big! We were there an hour before dark and so didn’t locate his grave. A wonderful place it’s worth a drive if you can get there, or a detour on a visit if you are nearby.

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This is also know as the Crescent Park Carousel, and now I have to make a confession that I am always fascinated by these fantastical mechanical rides! So what could be more enticing than a haunted one? The hand-carved carousel was built in 1895 by Charles I D Looff at the amusement park, Riverside in Rhode Island. It has a fifty foot platform with sixty one horses, one camel and two single coaches, along with two double coaches. Fifty six of the sixty one horses are jumpers.

 Looff was originally from Denmark but his career was based in the USA, of nearly 50 of the magnificent rides the Crescent Park one is one of the few still in operation. In 1977 the park closed but was spared the auction block thanks to local protest, it is restored and operates each summer, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

 The ride starts when a brass fog bell is rung, the ride is measured by the help of a small hourglass affixed to a snare drum cabinet for the band organ. The riders can play the ring game by grabbing a brass ring as they pass in order to win a free ride. After catching the brass ring they must throw it through the cut-out mouth of a clown painted on canvas. It was originally operated by steam but has been modernised with an electric motor.

In the 1960’s a ballroom adjacent to this magnificent piece burned down resulting in several deaths. It’s said that those people who died still haunt the carousel and turn on the lights and music, along with other strange happenings such as a female apparition and the sounds of a phantom train.

 The carousel is over 100 years old and was once part of a larger amusement park and ballroom, now the only part left after the fire is the carousel itself. The stories of the woman report that she is seen in bell-hooped skirts walking around and that where there used to be train tracks on the bike path there have been reports of train noises and flashing lights.

 As if that wasn’t enough to entice you into Rhode Island (let alone the fantastic scenery) you can also head towards Crescent Park beach, a man murdered his wife in 1989 and buried her in the sand, now if you should sit near that area you will get a feeling of anger and feel you are freezing up because of the cold spot there.

I apologise the video organ’s bang out of tune but that’s how sad it is to think of it being left to rot. I think it would have sounded beautiful in it’s day.

Rhode Island, USA seems to be host to a strange tale originating between Mapleville and Burrilville and is based on a true story that has now received the supernatural ghost treatment.   Katherine Donahue was a woman in love, she was a tall dirty-blond haired lady from the 1810’s who was going to marry her lover, Jonathan Cuttle in the September. Katherine had a great life bar one problem, a man that lived alone nearby and was obsessed with her; David Jones was the obsessed next door neighbour.

 One day Katherine and her younger brother went to the nearby swamp, she went to get water for the family and Charles went off to hunt pheasant. It was a seemingly nice day until David suddenly snapped, in his own house he had come to the conclusion that he would not have her and she would never love him so he charged out of the door with a knife. He stopped at Jonathan’s farm first and spotted him out picking hay, he put it down and turned to be faced by David who jacked the pitchfork he’d been using and jabbed it into Jonathan’s back.

Katherine was by the water and David saw her, he threw the knife at her which went through her neck and she screamed in pain as she died on the ground. It is said that the rocking chairs of the property now rock themselves, along with other ghostly voices or noises around the halls. Unfortunately for this one I found relatively little on the case to help with its validity.

An early report of vampires comes from Istria in Croatia, 1672. The locals reported a local vampire Giure Grando, in the village of Khring near Tinjan. He was the cause of some panic as the peasant’s death left them with his undead irritations. He took blood from the locals and sexually harassed his window. The original attempt to remove the undead was a stake which failed, so they took a more permanent approach of beheading.

Peter Plogowitz and Arnold Poale are two names synonymous with vampires. Plogojowitz died at the age of 62, but then allegedly came back to his son for food; his son refused and was found dead the next day. He was supposedly found to then attack neighbours, found dead the following day. Poale was an ex-soldier turned vampire who was attacked
by one years before his death whilst haying. After his death there were reports of him taking out locals.

Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut have had some interesting brushes with the undead, there are cases in the area where the family had the heart removed to prevent any further risings, although vampires are never mentioned specifically. A famous case recorded in Exeter, Rhode Island is of Mercy Brown, 1892 who removed her from her tomb two months after her death. He was aided by the family physician and they cut out her heart, and then burned it to ashes.

Japanese Cinema has a great set of vampire films from the 1950’s upwards, however a lot of the folklore is derived form the Western types (see Escape from Vampire Island as one of my personal favourites). The Nukekubi is perhaps the original tale for them as it is a creature whose head and neck detach from the body and fly around seeking it’s human prey at night.

In South Asia, the Bhūta or Prét is the soul of a man with a life cut short, they wander around animating bodies and attacking the living similar to ghouls. The legends of detachable body parts is not solely given to Japan either, there are similar types in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonsia. The Tagalog and the Visayan Manananggal are other examples. Mandurugo are pretty girls by day and at night they get wings and thread-like tongues but the Manananggal is older and can sever it’s torso to fly and find sleeping pregnant women. They like to suck out the foetus or the entrails of sick people (yuk!)