Friday, October 30, 2015


JFK+50:  Volume 5, No. 1759


New York City (JFK+50) Seventy-seven years ago tonight, October 30, 1938, thousands of listeners tuned in to the CBS Radio Mercury Theater, but instead of entertainment they thought that they were listening to an actual news broadcast of the landing of an invading army from the planet Mars.

The title of the radio play directed by Orson Welles*"War of the Worlds", was based on the novel by H.G. Welles.  Adding to their confusion, apparently many of the listeners tuned in after the program had begun.

During the drama, a Martian "machine" landed near Grover's Mill, New Jersey (no such place in the real world), where the "on the scene" reporter gave this graphic description:

"Something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake.  I can see the thing's body now.  It's large as a bear.  It glistens like wet leather.  I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it...."

Some listeners were so terrified, they jumped in their cars and fled in panic.

*George Orson Welles (1915-1985) was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  He graduated from Todd Seminary for Boys in 1931 & made his stage debut in Dublin that same year.  By 1935, he was working on Broadway in New York City & supplementing his income in radio.  In addition to War of the Worlds, he is best known for his performances in the Broadway play Caesar (1937) & the movie Citizen Kane (1941).


Orson Welles
Photo by Carl Van Vechten
Library of Congress Photo (1937)