Most of us have heard of “The War of the Worlds” prior to its debut as a live performance at the Fine and Performing Arts Center. However, most people do not even know that “The War of the Worlds” goes beyond Tom Cruise’s performance in 2005 or beyond Orson Welles’ radio performance back in 1938. It actually all started with H. G. Wells’ book that was published in 1898. The book eventually became the famous radio play when Orson Welles contacted screenwriter Howard Koch on creating a radio adaptation of the book. Despite the fact the play was based on a book, Koch and Welles wrote “The War of the Worlds” as a series of news bulletins for “Mercury Theater on Air” as a Halloween treat for listeners to enjoy.
So, imagine you are living in 1938 and decide to tune into your favorite Sunday night radio program on October 30, except you do not make it in time to hear the opening. Instead, you hear a news bulletin saying that Professor Richard Pearson has witnessed small explosions on Mars. Then you hear that a cylindrical meteorite lands in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Suddenly, the meteorites rise out of the ground and begin to fry humans with their heat rays. Their dying screams echo across the radio and into the living room of your home.
Needless to say, this caused widespread panic. Most people did not hear the beginning announcement made by Welles saying that “Worlds” was just a play and definitely did not listen long enough to hear the end. In fact, five students attending Brevard College in North Carolina heard only a portion of the broadcast and fainted on the spot. Many of you may say, “How could they believe it?” but you have to understand, many of these people had no form of communication beyond their radio and visiting town once a week (this would frighten many texting-addicts). It became the biggest radio hoax in history.
Today, the story of Martians invading continues to inspire movies, books, and re-creations of the radio play including Western’s performance on October 30.