"To avoid a reoccurrence of a very grave and serious situation that developed…due to the public’s misinterpretation of the broadcast…dramatizing H.G. Wells’ "War of the Worlds", which completely crippled communications facilities of our Police Department…I am requesting that you immediately make an investigation and do everything possible to prevent a reoccurrence.
…Tremendous excitement existed among certain areas of this community and we were receiving constantly long distance phone calls from many states making inquiries of relatives and families thought to have been killed by the catastrophe that was included in the play.”
— letter dated October 31, 1938, from Paul Morton, City Manager of Trenton, New Jersey, to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the “War of the Worlds” broadcast by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater on the evening of October 30, 1938,
On October 30, 1938, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) broadcast an adaptation of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The hour-long radio program began with an announcer introducing a musical performance and moments later interrupting with a special news bulletin describing the landing of Martians in New Jersey and their subsequent attacks with death rays. Although CBS made four announcements during the broadcast identifying it as a dramatic performance, millions of Americans who heard it were scared into some sort of action, many wrote letters. The newly created Federal Communications Commission received more than 600 letters about the broadcast, including the one featured here. Other writers felt that many had overreacted to what was merely some good radio drama.