On October 30, 1938, from the Mercury Theater in New York City, Orson Welles broadcasted a “modernized” radio play of H.G. Wells 1898 novel “War of the Worlds.”
For the last three quarters of the century, we’ve been told that this fictionalized CBS broadcast sent Americans into a panic; that citizens across the country did not realize that this was science-fiction (despite the fact that it was explicitly stated at the beginning and twice during the broadcast) and thought the USA was under attack from an invading Martian army.
Littered with realistic simulated news reports and “eyewitness accounts,” the hour long broadcast was innovative and an extremely entertaining way to present the story.
But the thing is, no such nation-wide panic actually occurred.
While there were certainly many exceptions, documented evidence indicates most who listened did know it was a dramatization and were completely aware that New Jersey was not being destroyed by visitors from space.
Further, the broadcast didn’t have very good ratings when it first aired; so even if everyone who listened had thought it was real, it wouldn’t have resulted in the level of mass hysteria commonly spoken of since.
Read on further via The “War of the Worlds” Mass Panic That Never Really Happened.