The National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues

About twenty kilometers west of London, in the little village of Stoke Poges, Eleanor closed the gate at St. Giles cemetery and shuffled down a rutted path. She’d just placed a little wreath on the marker of her deceased husband. He’d died during the Great War. Not in the war, just coincidentally during it; a heart attack while reading a Times story about the overthrow of the Russian Tsar. Eleanor always blamed the communists for his death and considered him a “wartime casualty,” even though the War Office consistently refused her demands for benefits.

With this thought on her mind she returned home to start a kettle for a cup of tea. Waiting for the water to boil, she turned on her crystal radio and plugged in the earpiece. A discussion of Gray’s “Elegy” was just concluding, one of her favorite pieces. But after just a moment, a familiar voice broke in.

“We interrupt this program with breaking news... There’s been a demonstration by the unemployed in London... The crowd has now passed along Whitehall and, at the suggestion of Mr Popplebury, Secretary of the National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues, is preparing to demolish the Houses of Parliament with trench mortars...”

Eleanor gasped, “Bolshevists! I knew this day would come!”

“...and the clock tower has just fallen to the ground...”

Before tuning out and rushing over to break the news to her neighbors, she heard the announcer mention that since there was no more Big Ben, Greenwich Time would instead now be obtained from Edinburgh on Uncle Leslie’s repeating watch.

If Eleanor, and a million other British listeners, had listened a little more attentively and trusted the new media a little less, the January 16, 1926 national panic caused by Father Ronald Knox’s burlesque broadcast might not have happened.


Enbrethiliel said...


I knew about Orson Welles' radio dramatisation of The War of the Worlds causing a panic, but not this story.

To think that these sorts of "burlesques" happen on the Internet all the time without anyone really caring any longer. We still trust our new media; we're just more cynical.

cyurkanin said...

You give a great example that I just skipped over, ma'am. I was thinking of the numerous hoax radio broadcasts and didn't even stop to consider that the internet does the exact same thing, almost weeklt it seems. Thanks.