How "Rumor Clinics" Fought Fake News 80 Years Ago


Strange tales circulated during World War II. There was one about a lady whose head exploded at a beauty salon after her perm ignited residue from her job at the munitions factory. Others claimed Japan was planning to spike America's water supply with arsenic, and a Massachusetts couple reported picking up a hitchhiker who claimed Hitler was on the verge of defeat, before vanishing like a ghost from the back seat of their car. Of course, all of those stories were lies, but that didn't stop people from spreading them. To combat the “fake news” of that day, a war rumor column was created in the Boston Herald and a network of volunteers hunted down rumors and their origins. The Chamber of Commerce then vetted all of the information that was put into the rumor clinic column. About three months after the first column ran, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Office of War Information that took over squashing war rumors that weren’t true.