End of the World Radio

There are a number of factors pointing toward the End of Time occurring on Dec 21, 2012. The most prominent is the Mayan Long Calendar. The ancient Mayans developed one of the most sophisticated cultures in pre-Columbian America. The Mayans were also the most accurate time-keepers and astronomers of the pre-technological era. One of their greatest achievements was the Long Calendar.

The Mayans recognized several different cycles in the Heavens, including the 365.25 day solar year used in the Gregorian calendar and a 260 day Tzolk'in cycle. Another important cycle is the 584 day cycle of the planet Venus. Times when more than one cycle ended at the same time were understandably auspicious. The Solar calendar and the Tzolk'in cycle align every 52 years or 18980 days, for example.

The longest of these cycle alignments is the so-called Long Count Calendar, is based on a cycle that began on August 11, 3114 BC. This cycle will end on Dec 21, 2012. In fact, as far as the Mayans are concerned, the cycle will simply start over again, but several Apocalypse theorists feel the end of the Long Count will mean the End of the World, or at least the World As We Know It.

The End of the World has always made for terrific story telling, especially when it seems a far-off fantasy. The more realistic and plausible the story is, the more entertaining it is. At the same time, when the story gets too realistic, the nightmares can be enough to keep an entire generation on edge.

One of the most infamous “pranks” of Old Time Radio revolves around Invaders bringing the end of the world, Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of The War Of The Worlds. Although the classic radio science fiction tale is just that, a tale, Welles choose to present the story in the form of a news report, causing some listeners to believe that Martian invaders were indeed taking over the Earth.

The threat to the world originates much closer to home in Arch Oboler's Oxychloride X, first heard in Feb, 1943, on Lights Out! Oboler was somewhat fanatical in his condemnation of Fascism, but Oxychloride appears to closer to a frightening story around the camp fire. That is, until you compare the story to the Atomic Arms Race which would begin in just a few short years.

The Oxychloride is a chemical created in a University science lab, using means that the man on the street could never begin to understand. Atomic bombs were the product of hugely intelligent scientists laboring in secret. Oxychloride became an unstoppable force that would eventually engulf the world, just as the proliferation of Atomic Weaponry in the hands of rival world powers threatened the destruction of mankind for most of the last half of the 20th century.

As the radio Atomic Age dawned, radio was the dominant broadcast medium. Television was poised to become a universal technology, but during the early years of the Cold War, TV simply could not compete with radio as a means to communicate with and influence people. Both sides of the Atomic Debate turned to the Radio to spread their message.

Both the morality and the sheer terror of Atomic War made great material for the various Science Fiction anthologies. The Fifth Horseman was a short series which explored the morality of Atomic Weaponry before the Cold War began to heat up. The show, however, is more than an exploration of the implications of The Bomb, it is a fine example of Hollywood Star Power and the height of Radio Art as practiced in the 1940's.

The reality of Atomic Conflict is brought home by our numerous Civil Defense broadcasts, as well as the news reports of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As sure as Death and Taxes, someday the World will come to an end, but when and how that will happen is difficult, if not impossible, to predict. If the Ancient Mayans were around today, it is more likely that they would respond to the approaching End of the Long Calendar by printing new calendars than worrying about the End of the World.

But while they are waiting for the ink on the calendars to dry, we would like to think that the Ancient Mayans would enjoy a cup of hot chocolate as they listened to Apocalypse/End of the World Collection.