30 October 2015

On This Day: "War of the Worlds" causes widespread panic

The American family used to gather around the family radio for news and entertainment. A young Orson Welles gave voice to “The Shadow,” which was a popular mystery program on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) on the radio. The show aired Sundays at 8 p.m.

On This Day in 1939, an announcer welcomed the audience to a reading of “War of the Worlds” by Welles. Welles began with an introduction, followed by a weather report. Then Welles jumped into it, taking his listeners to a hotel in New York before reporting that explosions had been detected on Mars. 

Those who had joined in on time or even early knew this reading of “War of the Worlds” was a play. However, many Americans had been listening to a comedy show on the NBC station and were just tuning in at this point. This latter group of Americans assumed they were listening to a news announcement rather than a show.  

Welles and his actors were very realistic. Soon, just like on the radio, Americans panicked from coast to coast. The CBS station finally received word of the panic sweeping the nation and Welles interrupted the program to remind Americans that this was in fact a play, a work of science fiction. 

The book was actually written by H.G. Wells in 1898. 

Welles scares nation. 30 October 1939. History.com.  


On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.                

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.