Lead: On Halloween Eve 1938 invaders from Mars landed on a truck farm east of Princeton, New Jersey.
Tag: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: The invasion was harmless, one of the CBS Sunday night broadcasts of the Mercury Theater on the Air, a dramatic retelling of Herbert George Wells' novel, War of the Worlds. Wells completed his story in 1897 and immediately it was a huge success. Orson Welles, the young director of the Mercury Theater had for some time been interested in adapting the story as a radio drama and settled on a broadcast within a broadcast as the plot. News reports and live, on-the-scene accounts breaking into what seemed to be an ordinary evening of musical entertainment, created a vivid realism that convinced many listeners they were witnessing an actual extraterrestrial invasion by hostile visitors from Mars.
Welles began with an eerie monologue, the Earth for years had been watched, "Across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the breasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. In the thirty-eighth year of the twentieth century came the great disillusionment. It was near the end of October, business was better. The war scare was over. More men were back at work. Sales were picking up. On this particular evening October 30, the Crossley service estimated that thirty-two million people were listening in on radios..." (fade) (45 sec).
By 8:15 the audience of the Mercury Theater, which numbered at about six million nationwide had been hooked by Welles and his cast, and many began to take this broadcast very seriously. Next time: The night of panic.
At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.
Copyright 1996 by Educational Broadcast, Inc. Resources
Cantril, Hadley. The Invasion from Mars. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940.
Huges, David Y. and Harold Geduld. A Critical Edition of the War of the Worlds. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1993.
Koch, Howard. The Panic Broadcast. New York: Avon Books, 1970.