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Scary radio

On the Halloween night of October 31st 1938, a radio broadcast  by the CBS caused widespread fear and panic among Americans as they believed a Martian invation was actually taking place and the end of the world was at hand.

(Listen to an audio clip of events at Grover’s Mill)

“At 8.00 PM people across the country listened to the radio to hear a version of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. This was read by Orson Wells and part of the Mercury On The Air Theater. This particular evening it was performed and portrayed as a news breaking interruption from the regular scheduled programmed. Martains were invading Earth and decided to land in a small N.J. town near Princeton called Grover’s Mill. This was chosen simply by random on a map. However, the moment coincided  with a musical interlude on a competing and more-popular broadcast. Millions of early channel surfers never heard the introductions and disclaimers at the beginning of the broadcast. For them the alien invasion was very real indeed” (taken from http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/index.htm)

But how could a radio performance of a version of science fiction novel produce such a feeling of fear and prevent people from thinking clearly? Several reasons have been considered, but undoubtedly the most important was that “people at the time were ready to believe that what they heard from a trusted source was the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Now, seventy years later, we have many different sources of information to choose from and compare, but does that make us -common people- feel less vulnerable sometimes before those who decide what we should or should not know?

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November 2, 2008 - Posted by | MISCELLANEOUS

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