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Monday, October 23, 2017

The Scariest, Most Convincing Radio Broadcast In History!
A Supposed “War of the Worlds” In The American Psyche

By Dorraine Fisher

Back in 1938, it wasn’t publicly realized that the idea of aliens from other worlds was still simmering in the collective American psyche. From H.G. Wells’s 19th century novel, The War of the Worlds, a story of Martians invading earth, the public was apparently still hungry for something “otherworldly” to ponder. And ponder they did. It seemed the idea of Martians or any aliens from other worlds was something people were still eager to think about.  And this story is living proof.

Maybe they shouldn’t have been surprised when a young radio broadcaster named Orson Welles scared the nation literally to death on a cool, autumn night of that year.  And of all times it could have happened, it was on Halloween Eve night.

1938 was the golden age of radio. TV hadn’t been invented yet. And entire families would gather around their radios in the evening to listen to their favorite shows. But it was also a time when US citizens were worried about the wars in Europe with the Nazis. And they were worried about war in general and whether or not our country would have to become involved in a second world war.

And to be fair, Columbia Broadcasting did publicly announce that Welles would be broadcasting his adaptation H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds that evening. But this announcement must have been overwhelmingly misunderstood or not heard at all because of the events that soon unfolded that evening.

Wells introduced his radio production which was followed by another announcer giving a quick rundown of the local weather. Then Welles returned on the air and seemed to go completely off the track of his intended story. The audience was seemingly switched to listening to lackluster dance music at The Meridian Room at the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York City when another announcer broke in. He said that Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory had just reported detecting explosions on the planet Mars.

And it all went crazy from there.

The dance music suddenly came back on, only to be interrupted again by another broadcaster that announced a supposed “meteor” had crash landed into a field in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.

The next thing everyone heard was an announcer at the crash site describing a horrific scene of a shadowy, glowing-eyed, tentacled figure he referred to as a  “Martian” emerging from a huge, metallic cylinder pod.

“Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

It was an obviously convincing performance. But to an audience with an already collective fear of war and strange creatures invading from another planet, it was a little too convincing. Nearly everyone listening believed it to be a real broadcast of a Martian invasion.  And many responded in sheer terror as Welles weaved a realistic tale of Martians firing their “heat ray” weapons at a helpless human population. And the invasion was soon reported in Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri also. They dramatically reported that 7,000 National Guard troops had been annihilated as the Martians had released some kind of poisonous gas into the air. 

Welles and his small group of convincing broadcasters along with some great sound effects and state-of-the-art acting skills were, unbeknownst to themselves, implementing a surge of terror around the country with perhaps a million of their convinced listeners nationwide.

Panic ensued. Especially in New Jersey. Terrified drivers packed the local highways trying to flee the invasion. Citizens screamed in panic in the streets and scrambled for gas masks to avoid the deadly poison gas attack.

When CBS finally got word of what was really happening, Welles was forced to announce on the air that it was all just fiction. And he feared for the future of his career over the controversy. But as a result of this convincing performance, Wells landed a role in the famous classic movie, Citizen Kane. Turns out it was just the beginning of a long movie career for a very brilliant actor.

But here’s the entire broadcast so you can listen for yourself. See what you think.


This Post By TCC Team Member Dorraine Fisher. Dorraine is a Professional Writer, photographer, a nature, wildlife and Bigfoot enthusiast who has written for many magazines. Dorraine conducts research, special interviews and more for The Crypto Crew. Get Dorraine's book The Book Of Blackthorne!


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