American Experience: War of the Worlds. The night began as any other peaceful Sunday evening, with millions of listeners tuned to their radios. Yet the outward calm hid a nation tense with apprehension: the Great Depression refused to let up, and the threat of war in Europe loomed larger every day. Then, at 8:15 p.m., there was a report on the radio that Martians had landed in New Jersey. Almost instantly, people listening in responded to the shocking news. Newspapers were flooded with calls from worried listeners; many feared that New Jersey had been laid to waste and that the Martians were heading west. In cities and towns throughout the country, people stopped a moment to pray— then grabbed their loved ones and fled into the night. What began as a broadcast performance of H.G. Wells’s fantasy, The War of the Worlds, turned into one of the biggest mass hysteria events in U.S. history. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE examines the elements that together created this frenzy, including our longtime fascination with life on Mars; the emergence of radio as a powerful new medium; and the creative wunderkind Orson Welles, the twenty-three-year-old director of the drama and mischief-maker supreme.
The War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast 75th Anniversary
The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1898. The War of the Worlds has been both popular (having never gone out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a television series, and sequels or parallel stories by other authors. Among the most famous, or infamous, adaptations is the 1938 radio broadcast that was narrated and directed by Orson Welles. The first two-thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a news bulletin and led to widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who had believed the events described in the program were real.
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