75 Years Ago Today “War of the Worlds” Created a Public Panic…or did it?

War of the Worlds

It was Halloween Eve 75 years ago today that Orson Welles went on the airwaves of CBS radio to broadcast his adaptation of H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds.”  Actors from the anthology series The Mercury Theater on The Air presented a 60 minute broadcast depicting the H.G. Wells novel as a simulated news bulletin.  It’s the story of how people in a small town discover a recent meteorite that struck ground.  This meteorite is eventually revealed to actually house an alien rocket with a passenger inside:  a creature that exposes itself to be quite nefarious when it uses heat rays to obliterate the crowd.  Soon this monster from outer space is joined by an armada of other alien visitors with similar capabilities.  What follows is an alien invasion as more cylindrical devices fall to Earth.  The result of this broadcast was a mass panic as many of the estimated 6 million listeners actually believed the broadcast to be real.  But did the 1938 portrayal of “The War of the Worlds” actually create the huge mass hysteria we’ve all come to know as the Panic Broadcast?

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