Update: November 13, 2014. According to The Arizona Republic, the authors of this Reddit hoax have come forward to explain their actions and apologize for the trouble caused by their fictional story set in Mammoth, Arizona.
"We sincerely apologize to anyone who was called or contacted or worried by the readers of our pieces. We never saw anything like this coming of it," said M.N. Malone, the organizer of the author collective that wrote the stories.
Malone claims the authors had no idea they were creating concern similar to "War of the Worlds." But instead, Malone said they were simply collaborating on a fictional story.
"We honestly expected almost nothing to come of the unfinished project but, through discussion and hard work by incredibly talented writers, we pulled off something that was nigh-revolutionary on /r/nosleep and, apparently, somewhat influential in the real world," Malone said.
Original story published on November 12, 2014:
I like a good performance as much as the next radio host, but I think this latest thing has gotten out of hand.
Orson Welles made history in October 1938 with his (in)famous radio performance of "War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells. It sparked panic and chaos, mostly because of the realism of the performance, set up as a series of news bulletins, and because some listeners took it so seriously.
And now something similar has happened, but instead of radio it's the Internet that's causing mass panic. Specifically in a little town right here in my home state, Arizona.
Apparently, a story popped up on Reddit, the "front page of the Internet," about a mysterious outbreak of Ebola-like symptoms in Mammoth, Arizona. The writer claimed that everything in the story was true, and that they had now contracted the mysterious illness and were at death's door at the time of the posting.
The story was so incredible that it made it all the way to the top of Reddit's own front page on Monday, and it quickly went viral online. Then, emergency responders in Mammoth began receiving calls later on Monday and all through Tuesday demanding to know about the mysterious illness.
Callers tied up emergency phone lines for hours, and have also been calling local Mammoth businesses from as far away as New York and Chicago. But there's a key component to this story that many people missed, like with Welles' performance of "War of the Worlds."
The story about a mysterious illness in Mammoth is completely fake. The story was uploaded to a subreddit called "/r/nosleep," which is a place for people to submit their horror stories for peer review.
The page even has a disclaimer: "NoSleep is a place for authors to share their original horror stories. Both nonfiction and realistic fiction are allowed. Suspension of disbelief is key here. Act as though everything is true while you're here, even if it's not. We want our users to submit original content regardless of its validity. We're here for the scare, not for the plausibility."
There are no gruesome deaths of men, women and children occurring in Mammoth. There is not a new strain of Ebola on the loose, and there is certainly no reason to call emergency services over a hoax.
So remember folks, always check out a source when you're concerned. In this case, a little looking around could have saved a lot of people time and worry.