On this day: War of the Worlds broadcast
Sixty-nine years ago tonight, the radio program Mercury Theater on the Air presented Orson Welles’ production of H.G. Wells’ "War of the Worlds", a fictional drama about a Martian invasion in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. The program sparked a panic among listeners who believed the play was an actual news broadcast. Of the six million listeners who heard the show, more than 1.7 million reportedly believed the story was true.
Those who were lucky enough to tune in from the start of the show were alerted to its fictional nature and were spared the fate of the others who went into nationwide panic over alien invasion. Most creative artists in the fantasy field only hope to convey the emotional reality of fictional circumstances. Welles was able to make those circumstances real, if only for an ephemeral hour and if only for a gullible few.
We salute you, Mr. Welles and Mr. Wells, for setting the standards of illusory paranoia, and giving the rest of us something to aspire towards.
If you’ve never heard it before, have a listen.
This was pioneering performance art.I find it interesting how far spaced the interruptions in the normal radio broadcast seemed the first time I heard this, as opposed to every other time.