SBS’s new mystery series Limetown sees Jessica Biel as Lia Haddock, a public radio journalist who starts to investigate the mass disappearance of the entire population of the titular town. Could the inexplicable event be related to the fact that Limetown was a bedroom community for a super-secret government research facility? What does Lia’s beloved uncle Emile (Stanley Tucci) have to do with it? Is it all a government cover-up, or something even more sinister?
Based on the 2015 podcast of the same name, Limetown is engrossing television with a decidedly X-Files-adjacent flavour. But back when it was just a podcast, a good chunk of its listening audience thought that it was real, or at the very least based on a real event. Released hot on the heels of the hit true-crime podcast Serial, Limetown mimicked the form of an audio documentary, but invented its content out of whole cloth. But people will let their imaginations wander, and Limetown joined the roster of fictional works mistaken for fact.
Without getting theological, the most famous example is The War of the Worlds. Not the 1897 novel by H.G. Wells, or the current TV series (series 1 is available at SBS On Demand, in point of fact), but Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre radio adaptation of 1938. Even though the program began with the usual opening credits, many listeners tuned in later and were convinced that Martians were invading New Jersey, leading to widespread panic. Or possibly reasonably contained panic – modern opinions vary on the topic, but contemporary newspapers well and truly dragged Welles at the time.