Today in 1938, Orson Welles and his Mercury Players produced a radio drama based on H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds that started a near panic when some listeners believed the Martian invasion of New Jersey was actually taking place.
The War of the Worlds is a novel by H.G. Wells about Earth being invaded by Martians. It is presented as a factual account, with the narrator being a journalist. In 1938, Orson Welles created an episode of Mercury Theatre on the Air based on the novel that was set in 1939. It was presented as a series of news bulletins and was presented without commercial breaks. Though the degree to which panic ensued is in question, there is no doubt that some people who heard only part of the broadcast believed that it was real.
There is thought to be only two copies of the script around anymore, one of which was sold at auction in 1988 for $143,000. After the broadcast, police seized all copies of the script as evidence, according to Howard Koch, the co-author of the radio play. There was a question at the time about if there was some criminal implications of the broadcast. The second surviving script, Welles' directorial copy, was sold at auction in 1994 and was bought by Steven Spielberg for $32,200.
What causes you to panic?