"A Fine Play" or a Public Nuisance? Conflicting views on The War of the Worlds
On October 30, 1938, the popular Mercury Theater broadcast a radio play directed by Orson Welles, entitled “Invasion from Mars.” This adaptation of H.G.Wells’ novel “War of the Worlds” dramatized a surprise attack on a town in New Jersey. Many took the radio play to be real — causing widespread panic. Not everyone took to the streets however, and many, like the writer of the first letter, felt that others were overreacting.
What would you have done upon hearing Welles’ broadcast? Take to the streets, pick up the phone, or sit back and enjoy some good radio drama?
Cranks, Crack-pots, and Martians
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.