Friday, October 31, 2008

The Panic Of War of the Worlds - 70 Years Later

Photo Source: Wikipedia

This is a monument to a battle that never happened, except in the minds of some very scared radio listeners over seventy years ago. It is located in Grover's Mill, New Jersey, where the first battle of the War of the Worlds took place.

Seventy years ago last night, fear gripped the United States as Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater on the Air broadcast War Of The Worlds as a radio drama on CBS. The October 30, 1938 broadcast was the Halloween episode.

The drama was too realistic for some listeners who were mesmerized by the sound effects and dramatic script. The broadcast led many to believe that martians were actually stomping their way across New Jersey and towards world domination. According to some studies, 1.7 million thought the story was real.

The aftermath of War of the Worlds was an angry public and a new appreciation for the power of broadcasting.

Here is film of Orson Welles speaking to reporters after the broadcast.

We can chuckle today at how 1938 was a simpler time and how easy it was to fool a radio audience with  spooky noises and passionate acting.

Disinformation is alive and well in the 21st century and powered by the Internet. The term truthiness is a recent invention. When was the last time you had a silly rumor forwarded to you by email?

Here are some more links about the War of the Worlds broadcast.
My favorite part is the last words of the broadcast...

So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian, it's Halloween.

On that note,my doorbell just rang.  It is the local Trick Or Treaters...I hope.

Happy Halloween.

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