“War of the Welles”

At Mezzanotte, the Gutter’s own Keith writes about Orson Welles, the Mercury Theater of the Air’s 1938 broadcast of their radio drama, “War of the Worlds,” and the truth about the “panic” that ensued.

“In 1938, when the broadcast returned to the air after the brief station identification, the format switched from a fake newscast to a monologue (with one brief dialogue scene) executed by Orson Welles as one of the few remaining survivors of the invasion, evading Martian tripods as he wanders the desolate, abandoned streets of New York City. Anyone who was fooled by the first 2/3 of the broadcast must have been clued in by now, but then, most of the people fooled by the first portion of the play were already in a panic, fleeing what they thought to be a true invasion by Martian war machines (or possibly German bombers) and pestering local police, radio stations, and fire brigades with hysterical reports of Martians, heat rays, poisonous black smoke, and other fantastical instruments of destruction.

Only, it didn’t happen. Not just the Martian invasion, of course. But the entire state of national panic. Well, not exactly the way it’s been told, anyway.”

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