As a nation, we glibly mention the events of that night in passing. Yet
October 30, 1938 was more than just a minor disturbance. At least 1.2
million people rushed from their homes in a panic. Some estimates place
the figure closer to 3 million. Radio stations' and newspapers' phone
lines jammed with callers seeking news or offering their services to help
dispel the destructive alien forces from their country. Swarms of
humanity rushed homes and stores known to have storm shelters. Fire
departments were repeatedly sent out to hunt ellusive fires reportedly
caused by death rays. One husband returned home to find his wife ready to ingest poison rather than die at the hands of aliens.
And these incidents were not limited to a specific geographical location. The Kansas City Bureau of the Associated Press received queries about the "meteors" from Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Missouri, and Texas. An irate mayor of one midwestern city called CBS threatening retribution if this was just a Halloween hoax. Churches in the South called emergency "end of the world" prayer meetings. Priests were overwhelmed after they offered to hear confessions from any and all who wished. When residents of Concrete, Washington experienced a power failure at the precise moment the aliens were supposedly disrupting communications and power supplies throughout the country, they accepted the broadcast as fact and joined those panicking in the streets. Farmers throughout the nation grabbed whatever firearm was closest and headed into their fields to protect family, farm, and country.
Other nations observing these reactions behaved just as intensely. Britains couldn't believe people would really react so dramatically and sought to explain it as a grand Halloween prank played on the world. Recent studies out of England totally dismiss the panic as newspaper propaganda rather than fact. Canada (which also experienced some of the panic from radio waves crossing the border) investigated methods of censorship on American programs. Hitler and Mousillini saw the reaction of the American Public as signs of cowardice. In one of Germany's main newspapers, Der Angriff, it was stated:
If Americans fall so easily for a fantastic radio broadcast of an invasion from Mars, that explains why they so readily believe Nazi atrocity tales.... Naivete is a gift of God, but it should not be abused.
The panic consumed the public into the afternoon of the 31st. Telephone companies stopped answering the lines politely, but simply plugged in and stated there were no aliens and to please calm down. Those who fell prey to the hysteria sought an outlet for their apparent "gullibility". Newspaper headlines screamed of countless deaths (although none actually died) caused by the incident. And all blamed Orson Welles and his cast and crew.