It is possible the panic would have still ensued without one of the four components discussed here. The broadcast has been adapted and repeated in other countries, with the same reaction. Peru's version ended with the actual burning of the radio studio by the listeners because of the "deception." What the key ingredient is cannot be determined without repeated test cases, and there is no way to recreate the atmosphere of the times. However, the panic was not spawned because of a lack of education. It was not spawned because of a national gullibility and cowardice. It grew out of a knowledge of the medium, an inbred curiousity and fear of the extraterrestrial, a respect for their Commander-in-Chief, and the unstable European and Asian situations.

Until recent years, no broadcaster has attempted to air the program in our country again. In 1994, CBS aired a television movie of the broadcast but had repeated announcements as to the fictional nature of the broadcast. Every newsroom they filmed had a scrolling message stating this was merely fiction. Each time they went to commercial and came back, the announcement would again appear. In 1998 the town of Grover's Mill celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the "invasion" of their town and country. The broadcast hit the airwaves again, but this time no panicked residents errupted from their homes. Perhaps we have had too many disasters heading our way from the skies brought to us by our friends in Hollywood to worry over a simple alien invasion. Or perhaps we expect "Men in Black" and our advanced technology to protect us from any emergency involving space. If the panic were ever to hit the streets from a broadcast -- radio or television, the nature of the broadcast would need to be unique to our time.


Works Consulted:

Brown, Robert. Manipulating the Ether: the Power of Broadcast Radio in Thirties America. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998.

Cantril, Hadley. The Invasion from Mars: a Study in the Psychology of Panic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940.

Classic Sci-Fi Review

De Fleur, Melvin and Shearon Lowery. "The Invasion from Mars: Radio Panics America." Milestones in Mass Communication Research: Media Effects. New York: Longman, Inc., 1983. 59-84.

Herzog, Herta. "Why Did People Believe in the Invasion from Mars?" Memorandum to Dr. Frank Stanton, Director of Research, Columbia Broadcasting System (1939). In Lichty, Lawrence W., and Malachi C. Topping, American Broadcasting: A Sourcebook on the History of Radio and Television. New York: Random House, 1975.

Higham, Charles. Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

Koch, Howard and Orson Welles. The Invasion from Mars. CBS, October 30, 1938.

Koch, Howard. The Panic Broadcast. New York: Avon Books, 1970.

Leaming, Barbara. Orson Welles. New York: Viking, 1985.

Old Time Radio: Science Fiction

Radio Listeners Panic

Smulyan, Susan. Selling Radio: the Commercialization of American Broadcasting 1920-1934. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.

The Complete War of the Worlds Website


Many of the sound clips heard on this site were originally encoded for Old Time Radio's web site. I appreciate their allowing me to incorporate them into my site.
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