Orson Wells War of the Worlds

My Dad used to laugh when people talk about the panic caused by Orson Wells’s dramatization of the War of the Worlds. He would listen to Mercury Theater with his Father, brother and sister. When the dramatized news flashes about the Martians landing in New Jersey, not far from where he lived, were broadcast no one thought for a moment that it was real. He told me that the poor individuals who panicked were idiots.

There is a “Cold Case” episode on TV right now that claims that there was widespread panic. According to my father, the show was not even that believable. Wells had a tendency to be overly dramatic and the broadcast was so over the top that nobody would have believed it. Only a handful of people actually panicked and they were very embarrassed when they realized the truth.

“We really thought it was the end of the world”, says a character in the TV show. That’s because you are an idiot, my father would have said.


  1. envaneo wrote:

    To be fair to those that have been around at the time, keep in mind that the world was just coming out of a depresion, Hitler was about to make his debut and the fact that the show was broadcast on Halloween, people panicing about such an incident sparked a clear and present danger for many listening to the program that night. Considering the backdrop of it’s time “War of the Worlds” as far as those people were concerend felt this was really happening.I’m sure they felt a great sigh of releif and a chuckle the following morning. As for the “mass panic”
    and all, I don’t think there was that ammount of mass panic.

    As for media fear and alarmism I think imo people need to take a step back from the noise and think a bit. Alarmism suspends peoples behavior and takes ordinary rational people and makes idiots out of them.

    Jim Shannon

    Monday, May 26, 2008 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Keith wrote:

    There was no panic or alarm at the time. The legend of the panic reaction to the radio show is based on nothing. No one was upset. There were a few calls to local police department and I think one or two people reacted badly, but 99.9% of the people listening knew it was just a show. Wells’s voice is the dead giveaway. Anyone who came late recognized Wells and knew it was just a dramatic reading in a strange new form.

    The panic is just an urban legend and we have heard it so many times that it is generally believed. In my Dad’s words, “only idiots thought that the Martians had really landed”.

    Monday, May 26, 2008 at 4:32 pm | Permalink