War of the Worlds – October 20, 1938
To celebrate Halloween seventy-one years ago, the “Mercury Theater of the Air” broadcast a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds, the tale of a Martian invasion of the nation. Orson Welles narrated and directed the drama. Because the show ran without commercial breaks and the first part of the broadcast consisted of realistic radio news bulletins, some in the audience believed the invasion was real. The town of Grover’s Park, N.J., where the Martians supposedly landed, even erected a monument in 1998 to celebrate the fictional event.
On air radio announcers, such as Jack Parr at Cleveland’s WGAR, had trouble calming panicked listeners. To this day there are some conspiracy theorists who believe the broadcast was a psychological warfare experiment or broadcast to cover up UFO activity. Welles, who was catapulted to fame because of the broadcast, debunked those ideas.
If you want to learn more about the famous broadcast, Orson Welles, or H.G. Wells, try these books:
The Complete War of the Worlds: Mars Invasion of Earth From H.G. Wells to Orson Welles by Brian Holmsten
This Is Orson Welles by Orson Welles
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
H.G. : The History of Mr. Wells by Michael Foot