Seventy-five years ago tonight, millions of listeners all across the country were frightened by a realistic radio broadcast.
It was a live the live radio play, based on the book, “The War of the Worlds.” Earth was being invaded by Mars. Pop culture professor Dr. Chris White at Sam Houston State University says the play sounded so real, many people panicked. Would a program like that have the same effect today?
“No,” White says. “I think our audiences today are far more sophisticated. At the time radio, in 1938, was still a relatively new medium.”
Many people were joining the program in progress and they missed the disclaimers.
“Orson Welles did, in fact, write into the script announcements that this was fiction,” he explains, “and a host of individuals -- thousands -- tuned into the show in mid-show and didn't get the announcement and essentially freaked out.”
The program had an estimated audience of 32 million by the time it ended, with yet another disclaimer from Welles.