30th October
It was on this day...
1938 Orson Welles' War Of The World's Radio Panic

The 23 year old Orson Welles, leading his Mercury Theatre company, reworked the War of the Worlds into a realistic sounding radio drama.

This was not a hoax, but it caused a real scare with many listeners believing they were under attack by aliens.

What seems to have happened was that listeners joined the show just over 10 minutes in, so they didn't hear the introduction to the show.

The show had begun at 8pm on CBS with a normal introduction to listeners that they were about to hear a fictional play.

That Sunday evening however, many were tuned to NBC at 8pm to hear Edgar Bergen and his dummy "Charlie McCarthy" perform. On changing channels at 8:12 (when a little known singer went on) the War of the World's was well into it's alien invasion storyline.

The War of the Worlds took the form of what today would be a standard rolling news show. The fictional story was reported as a real occurrence using reporters apparently at the scene.

Such as:

"Good heavens something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here's another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me ... I can see the thing's body now. It's large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it ...it ... ladies and gentlemen, it's indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it's so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate."

It is believed that about one million listeners actually believed they were under attack.

Panic broke out across the USA. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church, where evening services were being held, and yelled,

"New York has been destroyed! It's the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!"

Welles went on the air to tell listeners that this was fiction when news came in that there was panic across the country.

In the resulting FCC inquiry it was decided that no laws were broken.

Welles would go on to a highly successful, if only slightly less controversial, career in film.

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Birthdays
1945
Henry Winkler
1893
Charles Atlas
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Other News
1811 Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility is published anonymously on this day.

1991 George W Bush opens an historic Middle East peace conference in which Israel takes a seat, the first time since the country's inception.

1995 Quebec separatists are narrowly defeated 50.6% to 49.4 % on the motion to begin proceedings to remove themselves from the Federation of Canada.

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