The N. Y. Daily News on Orson Welles’s “Fake Radio War”
The N. Y. Daily News has posted their complete original coverage from 1938 on the panic caused by the broadcast of The War of the Worlds. There is also a wonderful gallery of pictures featuring Welles in the studio, along with a Martian's eye viewpoint of Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Here are some excerpts and a link:
FAKE RADIO "WAR" STIRS TERROR THROUGH U. S.
By GEORGE DIXON
This article originally ran in the October 31, 1938 edition of the New York Daily News.
A radio dramatization of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" - which thousands of people misunderstood as a news broadcast of a current catastrophe in New Jersey - created almost unbelievable scenes of terror in New York, New Jersey, the South and as far west as San Francisco between 8 and 9 o'clock last night.
At 10 P.M., WABC sent out the following explanation of its "War of the Worlds" broadcast:
"For those listeners who tuned in to Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast from 8 to 9 P,M tonight, and did not realize that the program was merely a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' famous novel, 'War of the Worlds,' we are repeating the fact, which was made clear four times on the program, that the entire content of the play was entirely fictitious."
The radio's "end of the world" as some listeners understood it, produced repercussions through-out the United States. Samples, as reported by the Associated Press, follow:
· Woman Tries Suicide: Pittsburgh - A man returned home in the midst of the broadcast and found his wife a bottle of poison in her hand screaming: "I'd rather die this way than like that."
· Man Wants to Fight Mars: San Francisco - An offer to volunteer in stopping an invasion from Mars came among hundreds of telephone inquiries to police and newspapers during the radio dramatization of H.G. Wells' story. One excited man called Oakland police and shouted: "My God! Where can I volunteer my services? We've got to stop this awful thing!"
· Church Lets Out: Indianapolis - A woman ran into a church screaming: "New York destroyed; it's just the end of the world. You might as well go home to die. I just heard it on the radio." Services were dismissed immediately.
· College Boys Faint: Brevard, N.C. - Five Brevard College students fainted and panic gripped the campus for a half hour with many students fighting for telephones to inform their parents to come and get them.
· It's a Massacre: Providence, R. I. - Weeping and hysterical women swamped the switchboard of the Providence Journal for details of the "massacre." The electric company received scores of calls urging it to turn off all lights so that the city would be safe from the "enemy."
· She Sees "the Fire": Boston - One woman declared she could "see the fire and told the Boston Globe she and many others in her neighborhood were "getting out of here"
· "Where is it Safe?": Kansas City - One telephone informant said he had loaded all his children into his car, had filled it with gasoline, and was goings somewhere. "Where is it safe?" he wanted to know. The Associated Press bureau received queries on the "meteors" from Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Beaumont, Texas, and St. Joseph, Mo.
· Prayers in Richmond: Richmond, Va - The Times-Dispatch reported some of its telephone calls came from persons who said they were praying.