On October 30, 1938, my mother and her family gathered around the radio in the living room of their farmhouse in Virginia. Their favorite program, Mercury Theater, had scheduled a radio play based upon H. G. Wells' book, War of the Worlds. After the program ended, they decided that it had been very enjoyable and went to bed. The next day they woke to find that many of their neighbors had listened to the same program, but had a very different memory. They had not listened as carefully and thought New Jersey had actually been invaded by men from Mars. Several of their neighbors, including the man who rented part of my grandfather's land, had taken their shotguns and gone out into the night to protect their homes and families in case the aliens came to Victoria. My mother still remembered and talked about that night 50 years later. It was an example of what can happen if you do - Lynn Evans

When I was younger I had a teddy bear that I absolutely loved. It had a small radio attached to its paw and I would turn the radio on and listen every night after I was tucked in by my mother. One night instead of playing my favorite New Kids on the Block song there was an announcer on the radio station warning that aliens had landed on Earth. At such a young age, I had no idea that Rhode Island's hit radio station was replaying the "War of the World's" broadcast from 1938. I was too petrified to move and lay crying in my bed. As the broadcast continued I screamed and tossed my bear across the room. Luckily, my mother rushed in and explained what I was hearing wasn't real I felt better that night but I never touched the teddy bear again. - Danika Severino

Remember the 1938 broadcast… or a family member talking about it?

Remember another War of the Worlds radio broadcast? Speak up! Your comments will be posted here! Send me an email.

 

THE BELIEVERS:

I immediately called up the Maplewood police and asked if there was anything wrong. They answered, "We know as much as you do. Keep your radio tuned in and follow the announcer's advice. There is no immediate danger in Maplewood." Naturally after that I was more scared than ever.

That Halloween Boo sure had our family on its knees before the program was half over. God knows but we prayed to Him last Sunday. It was a lesson in more than one thing to us. My mother went out and looked for Mars. Dad was hard to convince or skeptical or sumpin', but he even got to believing it….. Aunt Grace, a good Catholic, began to pray with Uncle Henry. Lily got sick to her stomach. I don't know what I did exactly, but I know I prayed harder and more earnestly than ever before. Just as soon as were convinced that this thing was real, how pretty all things on Earth seemed; how soon we put our trust in God.

Where are we gong to go? What can we do? What difference does it make whether we get killed now or later? My two girl friends and I were crying and holding each other and everything seemed so unimportant in face of death. We felt it was terrible we should die so young.

Monday after it was all over, and I started to think of that ride, I was more jittery than when it was happening. The speed was never under 70. The gas was supposed to be spreading up north. I didn't have any idea what I was fleeing from, and that made me all the more afraid.

My wife and I were driving through the redwood forest when the broadcast came over our car radio. At first it was just New Jersey, but soon the things were landing all over, eve in California. There was no escape. All we could think of was to try to get back to L.A to see our children once more and be with them when it happened. We went right by gas stations, but I forgot we were low in gas. In the middle of the forest, our gas ran out. There was nothing to do. We just sat there holding hands expecting any minute to see those Martian monsters appear over the tops of the trees. When Orson said it was a Halloween prank, it was like being reprieved on the way to the gas chamber.

The girls in the sorority houses and dormitories huddled around their radios trembling and weeping in each other's arms. They separated themselves from their friends only to take their turn at the telephones to make long distance calls to their parents, saying good-bye for what they thought might be the last time. This horror was shared by older and more experienced people–instructors and supervisors in the university. Terror stricken girls, hoping to escape from the mars invaders rushed to the basement of the dormitory. A fraternity boy, frantic with fear, threw off dormitory regulations when he sought out this girlfriend and started for home. Another boy rushed into the street to warn other town of the invasion.

The bible says that the first time the end of the world was by flood and the next time I t will be by fire, and that went through my mind.

We tuned in to another station and heard some church music,. I was sure a lot of people were worshiping God while waiting for their death.

I believed the broadcast as soon as I heard the professor from Princeton and the officials in Washington. I knew it was an awfully dangerous situation when all those military men were there and the secretary of state spoke.

If so many of those astronomers saw the explosions, they must have been real. They ought to know. I was most inclined to believe the broadcast when they mentioned places like South Street and the Pulaski Highway.

I looked out of the window and everything looked the same as usual, so I thought it hadn't reached our section yet.

They should have announced that it was a play. We listened to the whole thing and they never did. I was very much afraid. When it was over, we ran to the doctor's to see if he could help us get away. Everybody was out in the street, and somebody told my husband it was just a play. We always listen to Orson Welles, but we didn't imagine this was it. If we hadn't found out it was a play almost as soon as it was over, I don't know what we'd have done. (The radio station announced it was a play several times)

My only thought involving myself as a person in connection was it was a delight that if it spread to Selton I would not have to pay the butcher's bill.

The broadcast had us all worried, but I knew it would at least scare ten years' life out of my mother-in-law.

My girlfriend pointed out to me that I had passed a couple of red lights, and I answered, "What's the difference? If I get a ticket, it will only be burned anyway."

It was a thrill of a lifetime…to hear something like that and think it's real. I knew it was the Germans trying to gas all of us. When the announcer kept calling them people from Mars, I just thought he was ignorant and didn't know yet that Hitler had sent them all.

I looked out of my window and saw a greenish––eerie light which I was sure came from a monster. Later on it proved to be the lights in the maid's car.

The announcer said a meteor had fallen from Mars, and I was sure he thought that, but in the back of my head I had the idea that the meteor was just a camouflage. It was really an airplane like a Zeppelin that looked like a meteor, and the Germans were attacking us with gas bombs. The airplane was built to look like a meteor just to fool people.

The Jews are being treated so terrible in some parts of the world, I was sure something had come to destroy them in this country.

I knew it was something terrible and I was frightened. But I didn't know just what it was. I couldn't make myself believe it was the end of the world. I've always heard that when the world would come to an end, it would come soe fast nobody would know––so wy should God get in touch with this announcer? When they told us what road to take and get up over the hills and the children began to cry, the family decided to go out. We took our blankets and my granddaughter wanted to take the cat and the canary. We were outside the garage when the neighbor's boy came back and told us it was just a play. (This whole scene can be seen recreated in The Night That America Panicked a 1975 made for TV movie. The film is available on VHS if you look hard enough!).

I felt it might be the Japanese––they are so crafty.

Howard Koch the playwright:

Catching ominous snatches of conversation with words like "invasion" and "panic," I jumped to the conclusion that Hitler had invaded some new territory and that the war wee all dreaded had finally broken out. When I anxiously questioned the barber, he broke into a broad grin, "Haven't you heard?" and he held up the front page of a morning newspaper with the headline Nation in Panic from Martian Broadcast."

Letter to Orson Welles:

When those things landed, I thought the best thing to do was go away, so I took 3.25 out of my savings and bought a ticket. After I had gone sixty miles I heard it was a play. Now I don't have any money left for the shoes I was saving up for. Would you please have someone send me a pair of black shoes, size 9-B. (Orson sent the man a pair of shoes despite his lawyer's advice not to)

THE NON BELIEVERS

From Welles's friend and drama critic for the NYT:

This only goes to prove my beamish boy, the intelligent people were listening to the dummy and that all the dummies were listening to you. ("The dummy" was a talking puppet named Charlie McCarthy, which was on the popular competing radio show.)

At first I was very interested in the fall of the meteor. It isn't often that they find a big one just when it falls. But when it started to unscrew and monsters came out, I said to myself, 'They've taken one of those Amazing Stories and are acting it out.'

It all sounded perfectly real until people began hopping around too fast…when people moved 20 miles in a couple of minutes I put my tongue in my cheek and figured it was just about the smartest play I'd ever heard

I wanted to take the car and get out to be safe. Just then a friend of mine came in, she knew the voice of Welles.

I heard the announcer say he was broadcasting from New York and he saw a Martian standing in the middle of Times Square and he was tall and as a skyscraper. That's all I had to hear––just the word Martian was enough…I knew it had to be a play.

I kept translating the unbelievable pats into something I could believe until finally I reached the breathtaking point-–I mean my mind just couldn't twist things anymore…

I tuned in and heard that a meteor had fallen. Then when they talked about monsters, I thought something was the matter. So I looked in the newspaper to see what program was supposed to be on and discovered it was only a play.