The Riot That Never Was

From the BBC Radio 4:

In January 1926, 12 years before Orson Welles’s infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, the BBC sparked a national panic of its own…

On January 16, 1926, one Father Ronald Knox, a catholic priest, interrupted an apparently genuine BBC talk on 18th century literature with a report that Big Ben had been toppled by trench mortars, the Savoy Hotel torched, and a Government minister lynched.

The Russian revolution was then less than a decade old, the General Strike already in preparation.

In this febrile atmosphere, many took Knox’s satire seriously, besieging the BBC with worried phone calls. Bad weather delayed delivery of the next day’s papers, giving rural listeners prolonged reason to assume the capital was in flames.

The BBC made several announcements later that evening that the progamme had been ‘a burlesque’ but these assurances went largely unheard