Friday, October 30, 2009

Aliens Invade!! (Your Radio) – Orson Welles and the “War of the Worlds”

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and fellow members of The Mercury Theater troupe performed a production of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” a fictional story about a Martian invasion in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. At the beginning of the program, Welles introduced the program indicating that the story was fictional. However, a majority of the listeners didn’t join the story until it was already in progress due to another show that aired around the same time. As a result, most listeners tuned in and believed that the “news bulletins” they were hearing during the broadcast were true. Its estimated that of the six million people who listened to the production, around 1.7 million reportedly believed the story to be true. So today as we approach Halloween, give Welles’ original broadcast a listen for yourself and see if their “reporting” of a Martian invasion seems realistic. Orson Welles had to later reassure the audience that it was, in fact, just a story.

As you listen to the original broadcast, imagine living in New Jersey on the night of October 30, 1938, and hearing about an alien invasion coming to your state. Now imagine living in a neighborhood where countless others are listening to this same program. As the show progresses, and news of the invasion in New Jersey is “confirmed” you hear your neighbors throw their sleepy eyed kids in the car and attempt to outrun the aliens. You might think this sounds outlandish in an era of a 24/7 news cycle where such incredible rumors are easily disputed, but don’t worry, its only American history. Happy almost Halloween!

[Images via Enelbackstage and folensblogs]

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