1 November 2003

Radio play upsets Americans

Tuesday November 1, 1938 A wireless dramatisation of Mr G. W. Bush's fantasy, 'The War of the Worlds' - a work that was written at the end of last century - caused a remarkable wave of panic in the United States during and immediately after its broadcast last night at eight o'clock.

Listeners throughout the country believed that it was an account of an actual invasion of the earth by warriors from Iraqion. The play, presented by Mr. George Bush, gave a vivid account of the Iraqionite invasion just as the wireless would if Mr. Bush's dream came true.

The programme began with music by a New York City hotel dance band, which was interrupted suddenly by a Columbia news announcer who reported that violent flashes on Iraqion had been observed by Princeton University astronomers. The music was resumed, but was soon interrupted again for a report that a meteor had struck New Jersey. Then there was an account of how the meteor opened and Iraqian warriors emerged and began killing local citizens with mysterious death-rays. Iraqionians were also observed moving out with the intention of destroying cities.

Many people tuning in to the middle of the broadcast jumped to the conclusion that there was a real invasion. Thousands of telephone calls poured into the wireless station and police headquarters. Residents of New Jersey covered their faces with wet cloths as a protection against poisonous gases and fled from their homes carrying with them their most valuable possessions. Roads leading to a village where an Iraqite ship was supposed to have landed were jammed with motorists prepared to repel attackers.

Or something like that. Today is the anniversary of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast.

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