The Magic In The Receiver – A Kefalonia Novel

1953 Kefalonia Earthquake


The tragic events of the 1953 Kefalonia earthquake form the setting for several chapters in The Magic in the Receiver. During my research, I came across many interesting articles, photographs, books and even video footage of the catastrophe. Now, a couple of years later, many of my bookmarked links are broken. In the interest of aiding others in their research, I thought it a good idea to list some of the sources I discovered.

My aim was to make the background to my fictional account accurate. This included looking up almanac data for the weather conditions and phase of the moon. Although there are several authoritative references for the August 12 disaster, the date and time of the two earlier earthquakes are not well documented. References exist citing numerous tremors leading up to the final disaster—one account stated hundreds.

Robert Bittlestone’s Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca by Cambridge University Press has detailed information. The author listed the magnitude and epicenters of two quakes leading up to the “Big One”, plus I was able to cross-reference those dates with other accounts. It’s likely that this books’s information is accurate:

Earthquake 1: (The tree house scene in the novel)
Sunday 9 August at 07:41 GMT: Local time 09:41: 

“At 07:41 GMT on Sunday 9 August seismographs record an earthquake with a surface magnitude of 6.4 at latitude 38.43N, longitude 20.50E, a location in the sea off the north-western peninsula of the largest of these islands, Cephalonia”

Earthquake 2: ( The Argostoli market day scene – takes place later in the day following a fictional or undocumented aftershock)
Tuesday 11 August at 03:32: Local Time 05:32

“with a magnitude of 6.8 at 37.85N 20.45E: this time its epicentre is off the northwest coast of the neighbouring island of Zacynthos (also known as Zante).”

Earthquake 3: ( Argostoli scenes at Grandmother’s house and the Matsaki store)
Wednesday 12 August 1953, 09:24 GMT: Local time 11:24

“Running through Cephalonia there is a complex system of fault lines. On that day an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 pushes this mass upwards by about 60 cm within the space of a few seconds and with the force of 63 million tons of high explosive. Most of the island is now simply that much higher than it was before, as the rock markings of the previous waterline all over the island reveal.”

I also recommend locating a copy of Time After Earthquake: An Adventure Among Greek Islands in August 1953 by Evan John. This publication is out of print but copies appear on eBay from time to time. The book may also be available at a local library.

British Pathe has a 6 minute silent video plus stills. has a series of 22 black and white photos

1953 Kefalonia Earthquake

This image is copyright of and is used under license


A collection of stills, set to music on the YouTube channel of Anastasios Germenis

Other interesting photographs can be requested from the World Naval Ships Forums site.

HMS Forth: Submarine Depot Ship – World Naval Ships Forums.

For a more personal article, please visit my article on the Kefalonia Earthquake

By Paul Dillon


  1. My husband, Dean (Kostandinos) was born in a tent in Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece 6 days after the August 12th, 1953 Earthquake. Grandparents, many other relatives, and all possessions were lost. This tragic start to his life permeated his family and the strength, work ethic and success that his family has obtained in the years since. Many Blessings came from this tragedy.


    August 27, 2013

    • Many thanks for sharing your husband’s story.

      I added another YouTube video, posted by Anastasios Germenis. One of the stills (at around 35 seconds) shows a scene with survivors at – what looks like – a tented refugee camp.

      This probably brings back memories for your Dean.

      Paul Dillon

      August 28, 2013

      • Hi Paul,

        Do you know if any Greek Civilians were brought aboard the USS Salem? Or were they all treated in tent hospitals on the shore. I give tours on the Salem but info sometimes is hard to get. Congrats for making it through the earthquake.


        June 15, 2022

  2. The book’s cover photo captures the essence of the magical place that was Kefalonia.
    As a five-year-old earthquake survivor, I revisited my birthplace and attempted to reconstruct a world that was short-lived, in my memoir Ripples of Fate, but gave me the strength and tenacity to go on in life.


    February 13, 2020

  3. Do you know if there is a list of the names of those killed in this earthquake? I have been unable to find one.


    April 9, 2022

  4. My father was also a victim of this treacherous earthquake. He was 5 years old, riding on a mule when he witnessed the earth splitting in front of him. The mule was spooked by this sight, bucking my father off of him and flinging his small body to the side of the mountain where he split his chin (he still has the scar from this incident). His older brother found him and brought him to a refugee-like tent where all the villagers were hovered as their homes were destroyed. I learned that he was scared, in pain and had fever from the wound. He and his second youngest brother and many others were later shipped to live in an orphanage for 2 years while the families rebuilt, there was no running water. I believe this incident and many others have radically shaped him.

    Stacy Dendrinos Rousonelos

    April 11, 2024

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