Join host David Mayne tonight on the Old AmigoLand Radio as he revisits the timeless radio classic, The War of The Worlds, LIVE@7pm (PST).
Back on a chilly October night in 1938, then would-be filmmaker, Orson Welles, was about to shake a nation to its core with nothing more than a sound stage and a handful of voice actors. Airing over the Columbia Broadcasting System network, Welles’ radio drama started off as a series of simulated news bulletins telling of a strange object that had crashed into a field near Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Most folks listening at home had missed the intro where it plainly said “The Mercury Science Theater on The Air presents: The War of The Worlds, By H.G. Welles,” so the fact that this was all a planned theatrical “skit” was a complete mystery to many. As the program progressed, it is soon announced over the airwaves that Earth was under direct attack by aliens from the planet Mars. Without the usual commercial breaks, eerie musical interludes, and realistic “news bulletins”, The War of The Worlds caused a huge panic.
According to Wikipedia:
Some listeners heard only a portion of the broadcast and, in the atmosphere of tension and anxiety prior to World War II, took it to be an actual news broadcast. Newspapers reported that panic ensued, with people across the Northeastern United States and Canada fleeing their homes. Some people called CBS, newspapers or the police in confusion over the realism of the news bulletins.
Future Tonight Show host Jack Paar had announcing duties that night for Cleveland CBS affiliate WGAR. As panicked listeners called the studio, Paar attempted to calm them on the phone and on air by saying, “The world is not coming to an end. Trust me. When have I ever lied to you?” When the listeners started charging Paar with “covering up the truth”, he called WGAR’s station manager for help. Oblivious to the situation, the manager advised Paar to calm down, saying it was “all a tempest in a teapot.”
In Concrete, Washington, phone lines and electricity went out due to a short-circuit at the Superior Portland Cement Company’s substation. Residents were unable to call neighbors, family or friends to calm their fears. Reporters who heard of the coincidental blackout sent the story over the news-wire, and soon Concrete was known worldwide.
Within one month, newspapers had published 12,500 articles about the broadcast and its impact, although the story dropped off the front pages after a few days. Adolf Hitler cited the panic, as Richard J. Hand writes, as “evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy.”
Whatever happened that night, over 80 years ago, one thing is certain: Orson Welles captured both the fears and imaginations of an entire generation, and many more to come.
So without further adieu, join us tonight on what should be a memorable night of AmigoRadio, as we present The War of The Worlds in its entirety.
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