Orson Welles And The War of the Worlds

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OCTOBER 30, 1938

On the night of October 30, 1938, CBS Radio was broadcasting "La Cumparsita", a Spanish tango. The orchestra was conducted by Ramon Raquello, and had been playing live from the Meridian Room at the Park Plaza in New York City. Within minutes, a reporter interrupted the radio transmission with a very urgent, fearful message: Earth was under attack. The end of the world was upon them, and the play-by-play descriptions of it were coming to them live, in the presumed safety of their own living rooms.

"It is reported that at 8:50 p.m., a huge, flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grover's Mill, New Jersey, twenty-two miles from Trenton. The flash in the sky was visible within a radius of several hundred miles and the noise of the impact was heard as far north as Elizabeth."

At the time, an estimated 38 million families owned radios.

Nearly twelve million people were tuned into the live broadcast, and of them, over one million reacted in a panicked frenzy. People loaded their cars with blankets, supplies, and their children, in preparation for fleeing from an alien attack. Some people hid in cellars. A farmer ran out into a field fully armed, ready for battle, and shot at his neighbor's water tower when he mistook it for an alien spacecraft. The scene quickly became a nightmare, resulting in several actual deaths by suicide. Tragically, some people had ingested poison rather than endure the toxic black smoke emitted from the supposed aliens.

By the end of the night, almost all of these people found out the truth. The news report was fictitious...and Orson Welles had been responsible.


George Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6th, 1915.