American History Review: War of the Worlds-American Experience | HistoryNet MENU

American History Review: War of the Worlds-American Experience

By Gene Santoro
5/10/2017 • American History Magazine

War of the Worlds

 American Experience, PBS, 60 minutes, airs in October (2013)

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and his heralded Mercury Theater unwittingly unloosed one of the best-known Halloween tricks of all time. Millions of Americans tuned into the Theater’s radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ famed science-fiction novel—after the initial announcement explaining it was dramatic fiction—and froze with fear or grabbed their loved ones to fee, believing what they heard about Martians invading New Jersey was a news broadcast. Why were so many so willing to think this? Was it a hangover from the Depression, or the ever-growing threat of war in Europe? What was going on behind the scenes as panicky calls jammed phone lines and unnerved media executives? What was the 23-year-old Welles thinking? This engaging look at a fabled moment unveils some surprising facts.

 

Originally published in the December 2013 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here.

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