Weekly World News
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August 15, 2005 cover of Weekly World News
|Editor-in-chief||Neil McGinness (2009–present)|
|Categories||Supernatural, paranormal, tabloid, satire, humour|
|Total circulation||1.2 million (in its peak)|
|Founder||Generoso Pope, Jr.|
|Final issue||August 27, 2007|
|Company||American Media (1979–2007)|
Bat Boy L.L.C. (2009–present)
|Based in||Lantana, Florida|
The Weekly World News was a largely fictional news tabloid published in the United States from 1979 to 2007, renowned for its outlandish cover stories often based on supernatural or paranormal themes and an approach to news that verged on the satirical. Its characteristic black-and-white covers have become pop-culture images widely used in the arts. It ceased publication in August 2007.
In 2009, Weekly World News was relaunched as an online only publication. Its current editor-in-chief is Neil McGinness.
- 1 History
- 2 General approach to stories
- 3 Columns and features
- 4 Recurring subjects
- 5 Stories taken as legitimate
- 6 Demise and relaunch
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The WWN was launched in 1979 by publisher Generoso Pope, Jr. as a means to continue using the black-and-white press that the higher-profile tabloid The National Enquirer had been printed on when the sister publication switched to color printing. Like many supermarket weeklies in the U.S., the Weekly World News was published in Lantana, Florida, until it moved to Boca Raton in the late 1990s. It was unique as a tabloid because it was printed entirely in black and white.
Its longtime editor, Eddie Clontz, a 10th-grade dropout from North Carolina and former copy editor at small newspapers, joined the paper in 1981. In the 1980s, the circulation of WWN peaked at 1.2 million per issue.
General approach to stories
The WWN traditionally claimed that it always printed the truth (typical slogan: "Nothing but the truth: The Weekly World News!"). Many stories, however, appeared to have comedic intent. In Batboy Lives!, a book about the WWN, a semi-serious introduction admitted that while Reader A reads the tabloid for real news, Reader B will read it for laughs. While the tabloid's main rival, Sun, carried a fine print disclaimer, the WWN never publicly contradicted the accuracy of its own stories until 2004, when the paper began stating that "the reader should suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment." In the 2000s, Sun moved more toward articles on health and miracle cures, mostly leaving WWN alone in its unique niche of basing a weekly publication on supernatural news stories, such as sightings of Elvis Presley and the Loch Ness monster.
On occasion, it ran strange-but-true stories, such as "DEVOUT CHRISTIAN ATTACKED - AND HE'S THE ONE FINED!" referring to British street evangelist Harry Hammond. Other verifiable stories included, but were not limited to, those of a giant mutant hog monster attacking Georgia, and the arrest of a Tallahassee, Florida, man whose pants were on fire at the time. It reported on the discovery of an infant dragon preserved in formaldehyde proving the existence of dragons, although this was later proven to be a hoax. It also quoted Vatican exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth on Pope John Paul II's battles with Satan, and ran a story on the copyright dispute between O, The Oprah Magazine and a German erotic periodical also named O.
In February 1989 WWN published real, graphic photos on its front page of the post autopsied body of executed serial killer Ted Bundy. Eddie Clontz, then the managing editor, defended his decision to run the photos claiming that he hoped such images would deter other murderers. Angry and surprised officials in Florida vowed to catch the person responsible. Eventually, a low-level employee of the Alachua County, Florida, Medical Examiner's office was arrested and charged with taking and selling the photographs.
However, such stories were exceptions. When most of the supermarket tabloids were acquired by Fleet Street publishers, they switched to celebrity gossip, but the Weekly World News remained devoted to weirdness. In the introduction to Batboy Lives! former managing editor Sal Ivone said, "If someone calls me up and says their toaster is talking to them, I don't refer them to professional help, I say, 'Put the toaster on the phone.'" Derrik Lang, a former stringer for the paper, said, "That fat guy with the sunburned belly and that kid abused by his own shadow were living, breathing people with wilder-than-wild stories to tell—in my head. I can't attest to the entire publication, but everything in my stories was fake—you know, depending on how you define fake."
Common WWN stories involved alien abductions, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, time travel, an oncoming depression/apocalypse and newly found lost prophecies. There were also characters who became stock fixtures in WWN news stories, most famously Bat Boy, a half-bat half-boy superhero, as well as P'lod, an extraterrestrial who became involved in Earth politics and had an affair with Hillary Clinton.
Columns and features
Regular columns included Ed Anger (opinion), Hi Dolly (relationship advice), first Dear Babs and later Dear Dotti (outspoken advice columnists), Horse Sense (medical advice), Monkey Business (financial and business-related advice and information) and Madame Malisa (psychic). The most famous of these was Ed Anger, a character created in 1979 by staffer Rafe Klinger; Anger was a perpetually angry conservative (a typical column began "I'm pig-biting mad!"), who railed against illegal immigrants, women, speed limits and rainforests, among many other perceived ills.
Beginning on May 9, 2005, the Weekly World News went "All New" along with other tabloid papers such as the National Enquirer, which had become "Bigger • Bolder • Better." In the new Weekly World News, Serena and Sonya Sabak's psychic column was replaced by the horoscopes of Madame Malisa, and Dotti Primrose's "Dear Dotti" was supplanted by an advice column called "Hi Dolly" written by a middle-aged Southern blonde woman. The new WWN included a weekly "Weird Picture Search" by Mad cartoonist Sergio Aragones. Other features included Trivia, Test Yourself, Jokes, and "Miss Adventure", "The Gayest American Hero", who has penetrated the mob, gone to Hollywood, and fought DRAG-U-LA traveling from the depths of the Earth's center to outer space.
Two pages of comic strips became a popular feature, many spun off from feature stories. For two years, in 2004 and 2005, Peter Bagge created a Bat Boy comic "using celebrities and current events and creating totally absurd and implausible stories and situations for them." In 2011, IDW Publishing released a hardcover collection of Bagge's strips. "SpyCat", created by Dick Siegel, was drawn by Ernie Colón. SpyCat spoke nine different languages ranging from Persian to "dog" and was armed with "Adamwestium" claws and deadly cat-of-nine-tails. He wrote free-form poetry when not waging war on America's enemies—at home and abroad. "Matthew Daemon", also created by Dick Siegel, was written and illustrated by Mike Collins and was a spinoff from the "SOS Matthew Daemon (Seeker of Obscure Supernaturals)" feature. Daemon's lair was located beneath Grant's Tomb. Daemon specialized in B-List Monster hunting. "Alien Baby" by Craig Boldman chronicles the adventures of Moogera the deadbeat alien dad, alien baby Ethan, and Stacy, his Earth-born mother.
Bat Boy was first featured in a 1992 issue after being found in a cave in West Virginia (Lost World Caverns). He has since led police on a high-speed chase, fought in the war on terror, led the troops to capture Saddam Hussein, bitten Santa Claus, and traveled into outer space. In 2000, he gave his endorsement to Al Gore. It was foretold that Bat Boy would become president in 2028.
The story of Bat Boy was the basis for an acclaimed off-Broadway musical, Bat Boy: The Musical, in which Bat Boy meets a tragic end. In addition to articles, Bat Boy has been featured in a comic strip since 2004, though it is said that only the articles are the "true" story of Bat Boy.
"A Scientist" is typically shown and quoted. He was known as "A Scientist" to distinguish him from A Baffled Scientist.
Page 5 Honey
Each week a different model was featured on page 5 and on the back page. She was usually wearing a bikini and a description of her was printed. This feature ended after the Halloween issue of 2006.
"ALIVE!", starring (often) Elvis Presley
One of the other many recurring subjects was the occasional "ALIVE!" cover story. Most often the story pertained to some sort of creature such as a mummy, prehistoric creature, or, occasionally, a human who had been frozen in a block of ice (e.g. Santa Claus).
Another subject often tackled by WWN is the reemergence of many prominent figures believed to be deceased, including Hank Williams, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Adolf Hitler, and Michael Jackson. Survivors of the Titanic and Hindenburg were also occasionally featured. Among the most frequently printed reports were those asserting that "Elvis is alive."
The WWN frequently reported Elvis sightings with a series of articles claiming that Elvis Presley had faked his death and had recently emerged from years of seclusion to prepare for a comeback. Obviously altered photos purported to show a gray-haired, balding Elvis sneaking into a movie theater and coming out of a Burger King restaurant. When the U.S. Postal Service conducted a poll to determine the design of the Elvis commemorative postage stamp, the WWN conducted its own poll pitting the USPS's 1950s Elvis and 1970s Elvis versus its own, 1990s Elvis; the elderly Elvis won.
In 1994, the newspaper ran a front cover with the headline "Elvis Presley Dead!", stating that Elvis was now "really dead" from heart failure after slipping into a diabetic coma. In a 2004 Washington Post article on Clontz's death, humorist Gene Weingarten claimed that he and Dave Barry were the sources of the story. According to Weingarten, the WWN later reported that claims of Elvis's death had been a hoax. In an earlier telling of his story, Weingarten varied some details.
The World's Fattest...
Numerous stories regarding shockingly obese people and animals made the pages of WWN, the most popular of which was Tonya, the world's fattest cat. After Tonya was first discovered, WWN encouraged readers to send in their guesses as to exactly how much they believed Tonya weighed. Weighing in at over 80 lbs., Tonya has been featured being adopted, and possibly sat on, by the world's fattest woman. Later stories involved Tonya's attempts to lose weight through the "Catkins" diet, her struggle with anorexia, and claims that she had been eaten by the world's thinnest woman. Other stories have featured the exploits of the world's fattest couple at the gym, the world's fattest baby, and even a similar weight-guessing contest featuring the world's fattest dog. One continuing story featured a morbidly obese man named Buster Simcus who had lost so much weight that it left 80 pounds of loose skin hanging off his body that he was planning to have surgically removed. By the next story, he had regained the weight, severely damaging his scars.
Upcoming economic depressions
WWN covered stories that featured analysis of a coming Great Depression in the immediate future in which many prominent celebrities, politicians, and icons of business would become penniless. The cover story of the June 6, 2005, issue warned that the second Great Depression was "just weeks away." Because of this, Texas oil tycoons were planning to flee to Luxembourg, the only country to survive this economic crash. Consequences of this depression would include mass starvation, a disease epidemic, mobs of looters and a return to pagan religions and Satanism.
Religion and Biblical relics
Another typical Weekly World News topic was new Bible-related findings, including relics from Noah's Ark, the Garden of Eden (claimed by the tabloid to be in Colorado), the discovery of additional commandments from God, and sandals worn by Jesus. The magazine also reported on when Jesus will return to Earth, and held an interview with Sisyphus when he finished his eternal boulder-hauling "workout." Other stories stated that natural disasters such as earthquakes have opened up gates and portals to Hell from which demons have escaped to wreak havoc upon the earth. A story shortly after September 11, 2001 showed the face of Satan appearing in a cloud of dust caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center. Similar stories, wherein Satan's face had appeared in a thunderstorm, had appeared before.
Following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, WWN featured articles about plans for future terrorist attacks on the United States of America. A 2004 cover story described plans by Kim Jong-il to eventually invade and conquer the United States. Other stories featured profiles on the location and nature of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, including the news that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of giant slingshots, the missing link, and dinosaurs. In 2003, a series of articles profiled the ongoing relationship between and eventual marriage of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Other stories have made claims that Bin Laden is actually a dwarf, that he recruited a cloned Adolf Hitler to join Al Qaeda, and that he is in fact dead and that the CIA is keeping it a secret. Since being captured by Bat Boy, Saddam has been humiliated by female prison guards, won the United States lottery, and even demanded that the government pay for his sex change operation.
WWN is often the home to political satire regarding current and past presidential administrations. The magazine reported that the founding fathers were all gay and that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were actually women. According to the paper, President Lincoln was insane, and his ghost has also been spotted in the White House giving President George W. Bush advice on the war in Iraq. Stories about President George W. Bush capitalized on the public's perception that he lacked intelligence. The paper chronicled his plans to run for pope, his love affair with Janet Reno, and his intention to nominate Yoda as secretary of defense. The June 21, 2004, issue stated that Vice President Dick Cheney was actually a robot and that his frequent trips to the hospital allowed him to rewire his circuits.
Aliens are another subject frequently tackled by WWN. Weekly World News blamed these creatures for holes in the ozone. A Roswell crash survivor, "Altair Bob," made contact with WWN via telepathic e-mail. Several factions of extraterrestrials have been using the moon to dump garbage. Martians have been monitoring the Mideast crisis. Warrior aliens have been resurrecting the dead, fighting Bigfoot, and training in a mock U.S. town hidden in Antarctica. San Franciscans have opened their hearts to immigrants from Mercury.
One such alien, named P'Lod, who made several appearances in WWN, has been known to fraternize with known women of politics. It was reported that he and Hillary Clinton once had a close relationship that ended up in a brawl between him and President Bill Clinton, who went on a jealous rage. After P'Lod left Hillary Clinton, he expressed a lot of interest in Condoleezza Rice. A June 15, 1993 cover announced Hillary Clinton's adoption of an alien baby.
In the June 7, 1994, edition, WWN reported that 12 U.S. senators were aliens from other planets. The piece quoted several senators or their spokespersons humorously "confirming" the story. The Associated Press ran a follow-up piece that confirmed the tongue-in-cheek participation of Senate offices in the story. WWN quoted Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) as saying he was "amazed it took you this long to find out." Charles Pelkey, the then-spokesman for Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), told the AP: "We've got only one thing to say: Klaatu barada nikto."
In the August 11, 1998, edition, WWN reported that autograph dealer Steve Koschal offered to pay $1 million for anything signed by an extraterrestrial. Koschal said he would pay the million dollars to anyone who had a signed letter or signed photograph or anything signed by a visitor from outer space. "Hundreds of people claim to have been abducted and taken aboard UFOs and yet there's not a single verifiable signature of an extraterrestrial being anywhere on Earth," said Koschal in an exclusive interview. "Someone out there must have asked one of these creatures for an autograph," continued Koschal. "If not, someone will in the future. When they do, I want to be the first collector to acquire it." 
The subject of space aliens endorsing U.S. presidential candidates in various elections was also a recurring topic. During the 2000 U.S. presidential election, then-candidate George W. Bush posed for photographers with a Weekly World News issue opened to the article reading, "Space Alien Backs Bush for President!".
Cryptids and half-animal half-human hybrids are another frequent topic of Weekly World News. Creatures such as Bigfoot, merpeople, real-life catwomen, half-alligator half-humans, frog babies, kangaroo women, and many other creatures have taken the world by storm on various covers (e.g. Abominable Beachman strikes terror in Hawaii! and Bigfoot Steals Race Car!!!!) including the aforementioned 'Bat Boy'.
The existence of mermen and mermaids is also frequently reported in the pages of the Weekly World News. One detailed article recounted a mermaid being caught in a fishing net off the coast of Florida on April 17, 2004. According to the article, she was at least half human, very sociable, and extremely intelligent; and was able to talk in a sophisticated "three dimensional language" that depends heavily on noises that could possibly be connected to the "click languages" prevalent in parts of Africa and on hand movements that look like sign language.
Similar to their female counterparts, mermen are found within the pages of the Weekly World News. On June 17, 2003, a merman was reported to have been caught in the South Pacific, this one measuring only 28 inches.
Stories taken as legitimate
Since the Weekly World News began to publish online, its stories have occasionally been treated as legitimate news stories by readers unaware of the nature of the publication.
- In late 2010 the WWN ran a satirical story, written by Frank Lake, indicating that the Los Angeles Police Department intended to purchase 10,000 jet packs at a total cost of one billion dollars. The story was reported as fact by the Fox & Friends morning news show.
- The WWN reported twice, once in 2011 and once in 2012, that the social media website Facebook would shut down. Both times, the claim was interpreted by some as genuine. The second time, Facebook issued an official reply to the technology blog Mashable, stating, "The answer is no, so please help us put an end to this silliness. We didn't get the memo about shutting down and there's lots to do, so we'll just keep cranking away like always."
Demise and relaunch
In 1999, David Pecker bought American Media Inc., which owned the Weekly World News. Within the next two years, many of WWN's longtime writers and editors, including Clontz, Sal Ivone, Derek Clontz, Susan Jimison, Joe Berger, Bob Lind, Dick Kulpa, and Leskie Pinson, were gone. Clontz left the paper in 2001, having been there 20 years, and died in 2004.
In a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2007, American Media said that sales of WWN in 2006 were only 83,000 per issue. WWN ceased its print publication in August 2007. It was then published as an insert within The Sun magazine, with new material being printed alongside articles and columns from older issues, until Sun itself ceased publication in 2012.
In October 2008, Bat Boy L.L.C., a company started by Neil McGinness, bought WWN. It was relaunched as an online-only publication in 2009. In January 2011, the Weekly World News was made available via an online paid subscription. The online edition is emailed to subscribers biweekly. The online edition closely resembles the printed Weekly World News in both appearance (it uses the Weekly World News logo used from 1979 to 2001) and subject matter (the first issue's headline was "Werewolf Sues Airline Over Flight Delay"). In January 2013, Weekly World News announced that it would go behind a paywall. An initial limit was set at three free article views, though select content remained unmetered.
In popular culture
In January 1996, a satirical comedy series inspired by Weekly World News premiered on the USA Network, and was hosted by longtime journalist Edwin Newman. The series was canceled after one season.
In 1999, the Weekly World News was declared the "Official Newspaper of the Windows 2000 Team" at Microsoft, and its Senior Vice President, Brian Valentine, would read excerpts from it at what was called Windows Information Meetings, or WIMs, while attempting to entertain and encourage the developers, testers, program managers, and writers involved.
Weekly World News was featured in the 1997 film Men in Black as a government project used to disguise the truth about aliens as wild fabrications.
Disney Channel's paranormal/supernatural themed animated show Gravity Falls features a reference to Bat Boy in the show's intro. Tabloid Dreams (1996) by Robert Olen Butler is a short-story collection that used headlines from the Weekly World News and other supermarket tabloids as writing prompts. Two examples: “Jealous Husband Returns in the Form of a Parrot” and “Boy Born with Tattoo of Elvis.”
- Fake news
- List of satirical magazines
- List of satirical news websites
- List of satirical television news programs
- The Sun
- Toronto Special
- Sunday Sport
- The Onion
- Heller, Steven (October 16, 2014). "Bat Boy, Hillary Clinton's Alien Baby, and a Tabloid's Glorious Legacy". theatlantic.com. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
- Carlson, Peter (August 7, 2007). "All the News That Seemed Unfit to Print". washingtonpost.com. p. 1. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
- Lori Becker, "Weekly World News tabloid to close up shop", Palm Beach Post, July 24, 2007 Archived August 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- DEVOUT CHRISTIAN ATTACKED — AND HE'S THE ONE FINED!
- HOG-ZILLA! MUTANT 12-FT. PIG KILLED IN GEORGIA
- Weekly World News, April 2, 2005, p. 25
- BABY DRAGON IN JAR ROCKS SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY!
- POPE BEATS THE DEVIL—THREE TIMES!
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- "Senators Jokingly Confirm Tabloid Claim They Are Space Aliens", Associated Press, May 25, 1994
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- (13 August 1995). The Alien's Endorsement, The New York Times
- 'Fox and Friends' falls for ruse alleging purchase of $1 billion of jetpacks for LAPD, Fire Department, October 5, 2010
- What! Facebook to go out of business?
- It's official: Facebook not shutting down
- "Former Weekly World News editor Eddie Clontz dead at 56", Associated Press, January 29, 2004
- Mark Miller, "Weekly World News meets God!", Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2007
- Richard Corliss, "The Late Great Weekly World News", TIME, 30 Aug 2007.
- Clifford, Stephanie (October 22, 2008). "New Adventures for Bat Boy, and His Tabloid Creator". The New York Times.
- Beaujon, Andrew. "Weekly World News erects paywall, ending debate forever". Poynter. Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
- Horgan, Richard. "Wacky Tabloid Weekly World News Turns to LA Paywall Firm". FishbowlLA/MediaBistro. Archived from the original on 2013-02-23.
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- Leonard, John (January 8, 1996). "Look Who's Acting". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. 29 (1): 59. ISSN 0028-7369.