War of the Worlds, Alabama Style

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Publicity Stunts

Alabama radio station's hoax alien alert terrifies community, strains cops
by Michael Walsh
New York Daily News
September 2, 2013

Star 94.9's prank, inspired by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation of ‘War of the Worlds,' caused some Tuscumbia to fear a takeover. The hysteria saw the police flooded with phone calls, and now the cash-strapped department has to pay officers overtime.

aliens3n-1-web-200The radio promotion was inspired by Orson Welles' radio adaptation of ‘War of the Worlds' in 1938.

Station Star 94.9 thought a mock warning of an extraterrestrial invasion would generate publicity for a programming change, but it spiraled out of control when listeners in Tuscumbia took it seriously last week.

“It’s a very innocuous promotion that got blown out of proportion,” Brian Rickman, program director for the Shoals Radio Group, told local news site AL.com.

Worried parents reportedly flooded the police with phone calls Thursday about a supposed bomb threat. Frightened children stayed home from school, and police were dispatched to several schools to calm fears.

“It may have started as something innocent,” said Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan, “but it has gotten out of hand and turned into an issue concerning public safety.”

Logan said that the department needs to pay officers overtime wages for the extra time they put in even though there is not enough money in the budget, reported the Times Daily, a local newspaper.