Happy Halloween! On this date, ‘October 30, 1938’ Orson Welles aired his no ‘famous’ or ‘infamous’ Radio Theater version of H.G. Wells “The War of the Worlds”.
Orson Welles was 23 years old when Mercury Theater company decided to air H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel War of the Worlds for national radio. At 23, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably as the voice of “The Shadow” on the program of the same name.
“War of the Worlds” was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of the havoc it would cause. According to popular myth, thousands of New Yorkers fled their homes in panic, with terrified citizens crowding the streets to catch a glimpse of a “real space battle”.
Welles introduced play, followed by an announcer reading a weather report. Then the announcer took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Music played for awhile, and then the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey.