B&R Halloween After Hours

The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins”, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a ‘sustaining show’ (it ran without commercial breaks), thus adding to the program’s quality of realism.

Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated. In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage. The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast, but the episode secured Orson Welles’ fame.

4 Responses

  1. Mommy RN

    When I was10, my dad bought us a big box full of tape cassettes of radio programs that he and my mom used to listen to when they were kids. Best family gift EVER. Everything from Abbott and Costello to Burns and Allen to the Inner Sanctum to Fibber McGee and Molly to the Lone Ranger…. hundreds of hours worth of listening. My parents didn’t approve of much on the TV and we never had cable…. but I listened to those tapes until some of them began wearing out!

  2. GarlandAngel

    Absolutely loved listening to this when I was young. Still have my cassette tape of the show and just listened to it yesterday! Still gives me the shivers!

  3. Igor

    When I listened to radio programs as a kid, the imagination was FAR more vivid than the pap we see on the Boob Tube nowadays.  I sure miss the Jack Benny show, for sure.  (I was listening to reruns, okay?!?!)

  4. Tallyman

    I remember listening to radio programs before TV broadcasts began in 1947 with Howdy Doody being the first program, when the TV station began broadcasting at 5 PM in the evening.    We still listened to radio programs for the mystery and adventure programs, while TV programs were all Westerns.   People’s ears were glued  to radio programs in evenings.   You trusted the media in those days..


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