When Martians invaded

'War of the Worlds' radio broadcast sparked fear, panic 80 years ago in America, Orlando

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80 years ago today, a broadcast of H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds, narrated by Orson Welles, allegedly caused a mass panic. However this incident was later to have been proven as a small, isolated incident.

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A stronger possibility is that our first encounter with alien life will be through finding microbes from other worlds, which are far more likely to be common across all the cosmos than intelligent organisms, said Wall, who is a senior writer at Live Science's sister site Space.com.

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The next day, The War of the Worlds broadcast was front page news across the country.

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An illustration from a 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.Image: British Library Radio dramas have made a comeback over the past few years, with podcasts like Welcome to Night Vale, The Bright Sessions, and Limetown (whose second season launched this week) reviving the bygone era of fictional stories told through spoken word.

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The scope of the panic has been exaggerated over the years, according to researcher A. Brad Schwartz, author of "Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News."

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However, even though microbes may well be the first "aliens" that we'll encounter, that doesn't rule out the possibility of detecting intelligent extraterrestrial communications, Shostak told Live Science.

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On this day (Oct. 30) 80 years ago, actor Orson Welles announced to audiences in a chilling radio performance that Martians were invading New Jersey, leading terrified listeners to believe that Earth was under attack by hostile aliens.

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Orson Welles and the "Mercury Theatre On The Air's" adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi novel "The War of the Worlds" used realistic news bulletins and caused some folks to panic.

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Thanks to decades of space research, understanding of extraterrestrial life has come a long way since Welles' radio play, and it's generally understood that Mars isn't home to an advanced alien civilization with lethal weaponry and spacecraft.

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It was WMAS radio, housed in the Hotel Stonehaven in Springfield, that broke the news to Massachusetts listeners 80 years ago: Unstoppable Martian forces had landed in Grover's Mill, New Jersey, and were advancing on New York City.

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While radio listeners may have fallen for the tale of a Martian invasion, space scientists of the day were already well aware that Mars wasn't capable of harboring a thriving civilization of intelligent aliens, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) in California, told Live Science.

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Here’s just a snippet from the script, which you can read in full here: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed . . . Wait a minute!

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War of the Worlds radio hoax broadcast 80 years later: When Martians attacked New Jersey

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During the broadcast, which aired on October 30, 1938, Welles posed as a news announcer who was interrupting some scheduled programming with news of a horrifying alien invasion.

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"This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of The Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be.

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Today is the 80th anniversary of The War of the Worlds broadcast. “Fathers put their families in a car and took off for parts unknown,” Sanders said. “Other people came to see what they (the Martians) looked like.”

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Even though the actual response to War of the Worlds may be more myth than fact, that doesn’t change the fact that the radio drama holds up really well, even after 80 years.

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Today is the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ classic reading of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

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