1938 – Orson Welles broadcasts his radio play of ‘The War of the Worlds’
“The War of the Worlds” is an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles as an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds (1898).
It was performed and broadcast live as a Halloween episode at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 30th, 1938, over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network.
The episode became famous for allegedly causing panic among its listening audience, though the scale of that panic is disputed, as the program had relatively few listeners.
The first twenty minutes, the broadcast was presented as a typical evening of radio programming being interrupted by a series of news bulletins. The first few news flashes occur during a presentation of “live” music and describe a series of odd explosions observed on Mars, followed by a seemingly unrelated report of an unusual object falling on a farm in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.
The second half of the show shifts to a conventional radio drama format and follows a survivor (played by Welles) dealing with the aftermath of the invasion and the ongoing Martian occupation of Earth.
Extra Note: The story ends with the discovery that the Martians have been defeated by microbes rather than by humans.
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