War of the Worlds (1938 Radio Broadcast)

Monday, September 21, 2009



War of the Worlds. A Halloween Eve (October 30/1938) CBS live broadcast radio drama, played out for a prank. Produced and directed by Orson Welles of the Mercury Theatre Players and based upon the 1898 H.G. Wells novel. The radio airing terrified many of its listeners, especially the ones who tuned into the broadcast late, and thought it was a live news broadcast of a real alien invasion from outer space.

A Princeton psychologist of the day, found in his study of the mass hysteria, that 2 million people were alarmed into thinking the alien attack was legitimate.

The short audio portion in this video is of the specific section of the 60 minute radio play that prompted most of the listening audience to believe it an actual attack.

The day after the radio airing, Orson Welles apologized to the public for the panic he had 'created'.

Welles later said:
"Radio in those days, before the tube and the transistor, wasn't just a noise in somebody's pocket - it was the voice of authority. Too much so. At least, I thought so. It was time for someone to take the starch out of some of that authority: hence my broadcast."

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