It was on this night, October 30, 1938 that an episode of the American radio drama anthology series, The Mercury Theater on the Air performed an episode which was an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds.” (1898)
The Columbia Broadcasting System radio network aired the program which was directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles.
The Mercury Theater on the Air was radio program that played without commercial breaks and had a program playing that was repeatedly interrupted as the main show was presented as simulated news broadcasts for the first two thirds of the 60 minute broadcast, which suggested to many listeners that the news broadcasts were of an actual alien invasion by Martians that was currently in progress.
In the days following the broadcast there was widespread outrage and panic by many listeners of the program who had believed the events described in the program were real. The program used a news bulletin format that was later described as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures. This episode made Orson Welles famous despite the outcry and rage focused at the perpetrators of the program.
Orson Welles had played recordings of Herbert Morrison’s radio reports of the Hindenburg disaster for actor Frank Readick and the rest of the cast to demonstrate the mood he wanted to portray with the broadcast.