‘War of the Worlds’ aired on this day in 1938
On October 30th, 1938, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds was broadcast on CBS radio. It was part of the anthology of the Mercury Theatre which often presented dramatizations of literary works.
The drama involved Martians landing in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey (part of West Windsor) and while it had been clearly been stated in the prologue (and three other times during the airing) that it was a dramatization of the H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds, apparently some people tuned in during the middle of the program and thought it was real. The format was of a normal music show with interruptions by a "newsman" with bulletins from the site.
The situation escalated with more “reports” detailing the emergence of the Martians from their spacecraft and other landings throughout the world. The amount of panic that the general population felt is in dispute; for years it was reported that people became hysterical because of the broadcast, but Snopes.com says that is, for the most part, not true. Sensational news reports of the time exaggerated the reaction. Time.com says the newspapers overhyped the reaction to prove how irresponsible radio was (and, therefore, undeserving of advertising). Meanwile, ratings services that existed at the time indicate that only about 2% of the population was even listening to the broadcast. Most were listening to Edgar Bergen’s show.
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