Boston’s Blue Hills April Fool’s Day Panic of 1980
It was intended as an April Fool's Day joke, but many in the Boston area didn't find it very funny. In fact, the prank sent some folks into the streets in a panic, while others flooded area police departments with phone calls.
Boston's WNAC-TV Channel 7 (now WHDH) broke into its 6 p.m. newscast on April 1, 1980, to report that the Blue Hills in Milton were erupting – as in volcanic eruption. The report was just five days after Mount St. Helens in Washington State blew its top, so many viewers fell for the prank.
"WNAC-TV ended its 6 p.m. news broadcast with a bulletin reporting that Great Blue Hill in Milton had erupted and was spraying lava and ash onto nearby homes," the Wikipedia entry states. "The report showed footage of lava flowing down a hillside (taken from the March 27 eruption of Mount St. Helens) and edited remarks from President Jimmy Carter (who expressed concern) and Governor Edward J. King (who called the situation 'serious')."
Reporter Jim Harrison held up a sign that read "April Fools!" at the end of the prank, but apparently, not everyone watched the entire report.
Some residents of Milton, taking the report seriously, fled their homes. Others flooded Milton Police and the Massachusetts Civil Defense with phone calls. Hundreds of angry viewers called the television station to complain.
Homer Cilley, the executive producer of the 6 p.m. news, was fired the next day for "his failure to exercise good news judgment" and for "violating the Federal Communications Commission's rules about showing stock footage without identifying it as such."
I remember hearing about the prank at the time and thinking it was pretty funny. However, I was stunned to learn so many people took it seriously.
Do you remember the Blue Hills prank of 1980? Have you ever been the victim of a wild April Fool's Day prank? Tell us about it.