On a day like today (October 30), 1938, in the United States, Orson Welles caused panic in several cities of the country by reading The War of the Worlds (by HG Wells) on the radio.
George Orson Welles, born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915, was an actor, director, screenwriter and film producer.
The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel written by Herbert George Wells and first published in 1898, which describes a Martian invasion of the Earth. It is the first known description of an alien invasion of Earth, and has undoubtedly had an influence on subsequent and abundant revisions of this same idea.
At that time, television was in an experimental phase and radio dominated the entertainment options in American homes with programs of comedies, dramas or current affairs.
Orson Welles had a certain prestige adapting novels in the radio space. In July 1938, CBS offered Orson Welles and his crew a weekly program of book adaptations.
Orson Welles adapted several novels such as Dracula, Treasure Island, Julius Caesar or The Count of Monte Cristo. The Sunday before The War of the Worlds was broadcast, Around the World in 80 Days was performed.
Prior to the show's airing, Orson Welles and his team believed that the story would, to regular listeners, find the "war of the worlds" story boring as unlikely.
At the beginning of the program and at minute 40:30, Orson Welles makes two announcements in which he indicates that it is a dramatization.
Even at the end of the program, Orson Welles once again insists that the program was a joke.
“Goodbye everyone and please remember for a day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That globular, shimmering invader, who appeared making faces in the rooms of his houses, is only an inhabitant of the imagination; and, if your doorbell rings and you don't see anyone there, don't think he was a Martian… he was the mischievous genie that shows up on Halloween”Orson Welles, at the end of the broadcast.
"The War of the Worlds"
It is not clear to what extent the mass hysteria that produced the broadcast of the program reached, but that mass hysteria demonstrated the power of the mass media.
Some sociologists today point to the power of the media, not as the cause of the mass hysteria over the broadcast of Welles's attack, but as the creators of the subsequent myth that a large part of the population he took the alien invasion seriously.
And there have been subsequent adaptations. The most tragic was in Quito on February 12, 1949 where an adaptation on Quito radio caused the anger of some people who ended up destroying and burning the station. In that fire, 5 people lost their lives.
Be that as it may, if the media causes hysteria or creates the idea that the broadcast caused hysteria, the fact is that the power of the media in the population is demonstrated.
PS.: The photo in the post is a crater on Mars named after Orson Welles in honor of the artist and his adaptation of "The War of the Worlds"
- Dad! have you heard?
- the radio!
- and what does it say?
- the aliens are coming
- son, your cousin Carlos is not so ugly
- but dad..
- Pablo, I already told you not to mess with your cousin Carlos
- but dad...
- neither buts nor pure, your cousin Carlos is very ugly but it is not right to insult him
- but dad...
- To the fourth!