Glenn Anders, a long time member of Wellesnet is also quite possibly the only member who actually heard that famed Martian broadcast all those years ago. I asked Glenn to write something about his memories of that fateful night in 1938, when he was just a seven-year old lad, living a peaceful, uneventful life in the mid-west. Here is his report:
NEWS ANNOUNCER: Enemy now in sight above the Palisades. Five -- five great machines. First one is crossing river. I can see it from here, wading the Hudson like a man wading through a brook... A bulletin's handed me... Martian cylinders are falling all over the country. One outside Buffalo, one in Chicago, St. Louis... seem to be timed and spaced... Now the first machine reaches the shore. He stands watching, looking over the city. His steel, cowlish head is even with the skyscrapers. He waits for the others. They rise like a line of new towers on the city's west side... Now they're lifting their metal hands. This is the end now. Smoke comes out... black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now. They're running towards the East River... thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke's spreading faster. It's reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but it's no use. They're falling like flies. Now the smoke's crossing Sixth Avenue... Fifth Avenue... one hundred yards away... it's fifty feet...
ANNOUNCER'S BODY FALLS TO THE GROUND
—From The War of the Worlds, October 30, 1938.
It would have been a Sunday evening, after dinner, in Northeastern Ohio, far from Grovers Mills, New Jersey. The air was growing chilly, and the last leaves of the Maple trees on Swan Street were fluttering on their branches. The Yankees had beaten the Cubs four straight in the World Series earlier in the month, and in mid-November, Kate Smith would be introducing "God Bless America" to the public, for Armistice Day. Overseas, the Nazis had carried out Krystalnacht against their Jewish population, and Winston Churchill was speaking of the possible necessity of war with a ruthless nation a few hours away by air.
For most of the citizens of Geneva, Ohio, such events were distant. Not so in my home, where my father, "Scotty" Fraser, a five-year veteran Cameron Highlander machine gunner of the First World War, when not climbing sixty foot poles for the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, listened to the ballgame, the football game, the opera, Charlie McCarthy, Fred Allen, or most of all, the news from the BBC, on our brand new Philco console radio, standing in its place of honor near his chair. My father, a gentle man, sat by the hearth, reading his beloved True Detective Stories, a cigarette burning in his giant blue ashtray, a glass of California Muscatel and soda at hand.
The last tomato had been harvested, the lily bulbs taken from the ground, and listening to Churchill (not yet Prime Minister) on the shortwave transmission of the BBC, my father began to have arguments with my mother about rejoining his regiment.
But that would be far from Geneva, and only vaguely disturbing to my life on that Sunday.
Tomorrow night was Halloween, and the kids on the block were looking forward to "trick or treating." We were still in the final ebb of the Great Depression, and children did not have money for fancy costumes and elaborate makeup. One flour sack with a few holes for over the head, and another to hold the boodle, mostly homemade cookies and candies, had to make do.
I would have been lying half on our precious Persian carpet, half on the hardwood, near my father's chair, "reading" my latest Action Comic Book, featuring the new hero Superman, glancing occasionally at a clipper ship making way under full sail toward me, emblazoned on a card table artfully arranged to easily mask the unused opening of our red brick fire place. I would have been drawing part of the time, for I did not really read for years after a fall down the cellar steps when I was five.
There would have been no doubt that we would eschew Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, the radio craze at that hour. The sustaining CBS program, the Mercury Theater on the Air, had promised early in mid-summer a dramatization of Treasure Island, a favorite novel of my father's youth. And though that promise was postponed, and others disappeared entirely, we had become habituated to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 in B-flat minor, which came to symbolize the approaching presence, accentuated by our radios's huge base speaker, of the mysterious but comforting Orson Welles.
As one who actually heard "The War of the Worlds" on that late Fall day of 1938, so long ago, in Ohio, I can tell you that there was nothing on the radio in the late thirties which compared with the Mercury Theater on the Air. The only other program of its kind, on a regular basis, was The Columbia Radio Workshop broadcasts. And Welles was involved with those programs, too, as were the directors who may have been an influence on him, Irving Reiz and particularly, William N. Robson.
And so, a seven year-old boy was lying on the floor, feeling the vibrations of our mighty Philco pulsing through him, its somehow Egyptian green eye dilating slowly down upon him, observing all of us, as we heard: