October 30 - 1938 - Orson Welles' "The War of the Worlds"

In 1938, Orson Welles was a hot shot theater actor and director, whose innovative and modern theatrical productions had been successful enough to get him his own radio anthology series, The Mercury Theatre on the Air. For his Halloween episode, Welles decided to do something different, beginning with adapting the H.G. Wells horror novel The War of the Worlds. The radio play was not presented as a radio drama, but rather as regular programming with a dance band that was being interrupted by breaking news reports. These news reports recounted a Martian invasion in New Jersey and New York. Finally, Welles came on as a professor recounting the aftermath of the invasion at the end. Welles' radio drama did have warnings that this was merely fiction. Nonetheless, a sense of panic swept the nation. Listeners called their local radio stations and newspapers for confirmation of the invasion. The next day, headlines blasted that a general hysteria was caused by Orson Welles' radio play. Such concerns were overblown to a large extent, but "The War of the Worlds" made Orson Welles a national celebrity and helping him launch a film career.

William Floyd