Today at Crayons we note it is 76 years since the infamous War Of The Worlds broadcast at Hallowe’en by the actor Orson Welles. This fictional radio drama was so convincing in its presentation as a series of news broadcasts that millions of listeners who tuned in after the program had commenced actually believed a Martian invasion had begun that night.
Based on the novel by H.G.Wells, the narrative had been rewritten as a contemporary storyline and the European locations described in the book were renamed for American cities. After the broadcast confusion reigned supreme at first as crowds gathered in the streets throughout America. In the following weeks the subsequent outrage was expressed in the 12,500 plus newspaper articles that appeared.
Whilst it may seem preposterous now, back then radio was the only media access for many, there was less common knowledge of science and, combined with the emotion of what was being dramatically performed, the radio play was accepted by many as actual events - including the fall of New York to the Martian Invaders.
The intention of the performance was as a timely, scary tale for the Mercury Radio Theatre’s listeners and the subsequent unintended public panic unforeseen. Orson Welles apologised and H.G.Wells, the author of the novel, noted that it was clearly intended as a Hallowe’en trick akin to putting on a sheet and saying “boo!”
The play and the live broadcast are both available and are occasionally re-performed or replayed to mark the anniversary with some cities in the U.S hosting planetarium nights and science fairs. There is even a monument to where the Martians "landed" in North Jersey that night.