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Radio Hoaxes
A Chronology of Some Classic Radio Hoaxes
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Part Three

April Fool's Day, 1980

“Big Ben Goes Digital”

The BBC, British Broadcasting Corp., announced to listeners that Big Ben, the famous landmark clock tower in London, was going to be renovated. Big Ben was to be converted so that it showed the time in a digital readout. Listeners went nuts.

October 12, 1969

WKNR's “Paul Is Dead” Hoax

Quite possibly the second most famous Radio hoax was perpetrated by Russ Gibb, a DJ at WKNR, Detroit. Gibb received a phone call from a college student at Eastern Michigan University who told him that Paul McCartney was dead. The caller then gave Gibb some “clues” buried in the previous albums of “The Beatles” and they turned out to be somewhat legitimate (as far as hoax clues are concerned). Gibb, along with John Small and a third WKNR Air Personality, began searching for clues and airing them. It mushroomed into a national phenomenon with Radio stations, DJs and listeners hunting for clues and wondering if the famous Beatle was dead.

October 31, 1938

Orson Well's “War of the World” Hoax

This is the most famous Radio hoax ever aired, although it was not intended to be a hoax. On October 30, 1938, Orson Wells and the Mercury Theatre performed a radio play based on an H.G. Wells story entitled "War of the Worlds". The national broadcast caused panic and mass hysteria as listeners began to believe Martians had landed in New Jersey and were taking over the world.

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