23 year old Orson Welles, leading his Mercury Theatre company, reworked the War
of the Worlds into a realistic sounding radio drama.
was not a hoax, but it caused a real scare with many listeners believing they
were under attack by aliens.
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.
show had begun at 8pm on CBS with a normal introduction to listeners that they
were about to hear a fictional play.
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
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.
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."
is believed that about one million listeners actually believed they were under
broke out across the USA. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church, where evening
services were being held, and yelled,
York has been destroyed! It's the end of the world! Go home and prepare
went on the air to tell listeners that this was fiction when news came in that
there was panic across the country.
the resulting FCC inquiry it was decided that no laws were broken.
would go on to a highly successful, if only slightly less controversial, career