The War of the Worlds Effect : RadioLab

Oct 30, 1938, Orson Welles famously performed a 60-minute radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ alien invasion story, The War of the Worlds. Here we have a documentary about the phenomenon by RadioLab.

The Infamous “War of the Worlds” program was part of a series called The Mercury Theater featured an hour of radio drama aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). It scared the daylights out of the American public.

The show was performed without any commercial breaks. It also contained a series of fictional news bulletins. Many listeners casually tuned in after the initial announcements that the program was a radio play.

Welles performing,The Mercury Theater on the Air, 1938

The public was already on edge because of the looming war overseas. Many folks actually believed that the earth was under attack by extraterrestrial beings from the Planet Mars.

The news made the front page of the New York Times. There was an immediate backlash. An enraged public demanded an explanation. Public hearings were held to get to the bottom of the resulting scandal.

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World Theater Day (Radio Dramas)

Radio theater is theater of the mind.

You have to construct symbols in your mind as you eavesdrop on the story from your safe remote location on the receiving side of the transmission.

Let’s open the time capsule to the 30s and 40s and explore the classic Radio Drama from the period.

In honor of World Theater Day, we have collected two extremely rare programs.

These two classic suspense thrillers survived only as air-check tapes. Alex Velocity, your host, will talk about how these programs were obtained during the podcast, so tune in! But first, dim the lights and find a quiet corner alone.

We’ve made an attempt to sonically improve them to make them easier to listen to, without taking away from the characteristic sound of old time radio which was done with primitive monophonic equipment.

Program 1 – The Halls of Fantasy – “The Jewels of Kali”
Ancient Hindu legend predicts certain death to anyone who defiles the lost temple of Kali. Do you think there is anything to those old stories? And if they are true, exactly who or what carries out the curse?

Program 2 – The Haunting Hour – “The Hands of Mister Smith”
Its a creepy tail of uncontrollable urges to do unspeakable things with your hands. Enter the mind of a confused criminal.

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Further Exploration:
World Theater Day, The Halls of Fantasy, The Haunting Hour, YesterdayUSA, Dr Mabuse