Wireless joke scares many listeners 

13 May 2022 tbs.pm/75956






Sheffield Independent masthead

From the Sheffield Independent for 18 January 1926

WIRELESS listeners in various parts of the country received a tremendous fright on Saturday night through hearing part of a sensational skit by Father Ronald Knox, the well-known author and wit, the son of an Anglican Bishop of Manchester, who became a Catholic priest.

The statements made in the course of a wireless talk from Edinburgh on “Broadcasting the Barricades” created the illusion in some of his hearers that a great “Red” riot was in progress in Trafalgar square, a march of the mob on Whitehall, and the blowing up of Big Ben.

Sound effects interspersed his remarks, and many listeners thought that a serious industrial upheaval was actually in progress.



Flights of imagination.

The explanation is, however, that Father Knox was broadcasting extracts from imaginary news bulletins, describing a future “Red” riot in London.

Like wildfire the extraordinary story spread. The great Red Revolution had begun! Everyone knew it was right – they had heard it on the wireless. Some had even heard the crash when the Savoy Hotel was bombed.

Hundreds of people rushed to the telephone to ring up newspaper offices for further details.



Listeners reassured.

And then shortly before nine o’clock the following explanation came from the British Broadcasting Company:–

We have had many inquiries about certain imaginative statements in Father Knox’s talk which was broadcast from Edinburgh at 7.40. Those statements were, of course, not intended to be taken seriously. We wish to assure our listeners that there is no cause for any anxiety. We are all safe and London is still happy, although cold and snowbound.

It transpires that before the skit was broadcast, an announcement was made that the statements of Father Knox were not to be taken seriously, but apparently many listeners did not get their apparatus to work until after this warning had been given.

Radio Times page for the day in question

Radio Times listings for 2EH, with the broadcast highlighted

Wild stories spread.

The reassuring statement of the B.B.C. did not overtake the first wild rumours in many parts of the country, however, and in the West of England the story was still going round yesterday morning in towns and villages, and anxious inquiries were being made of the police as to the truth of the report that the unemployed had partially destroyed London.

Bad weather delayed the arrival of Sunday newspapers, and this was taken as confirmation of the report that there had been serious happenings, and in the villages there are still people who believe that London has been raided.

B.B.C. criticised.

“I consider to-night’s broadcast a great abuse of the B.B.C.’s licence,” stated one listener to a reporter. “It was nothing short of scandalous.

“A few days ago I presented an old couple with a wireless set. Saturday night was their third encounter with the B.B.C. transmission.

“They sent for me after hearing of the riot, and it is in the lap of the gods whether their health is not permanently affected by the shock.

“They naturally believed what they heard to be true.”


AI image seeded "Big Ben on fire"


The illustrations in this article were generated by artificial intelligence using NightCafe Creator.


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