Download a PDF that you can enlarge for easier reading
Hysteria Sweeps Nation When Radio Reports Mythical War
Purely Fictional Account of Conquerors From Mars Is Taken Seriously at Widely Scattered Points With People Fleeing From Homes
By CHARLES E. HARNER
NEW YORK, Oct. 30. ─ (AP) ─ Hysteria among radio listeners throughout the nation and actual panicky evacuations from sections of the metropolitan area resulted from a too-realistic radio broadcast tonight describing a fictitious and devastating visitation of strange men from Mars. Excited and weeping persons all over the country swamped newspaper and police switchboards with the question:
"Is it true?"
It was purely a figment of H. G. Wells' imagination with some extra flourishes of radio dramatization by Orson Welles. It was broadcast by the Columbia broadcasting system.
But the anxiety was immeasurable.
The broadcast was an adaptation of Wells' "War of the World," in which meteors and gas from Mars menace the earth.
New York police were unable to contact the CBS studios by telephone, so swamped was its switchboard, and a radio car was sent there for information.
A woman ran into a church in Indianapolis screaming: "New York destroyed; it's the end of the world. You might as well go home to die. I just heard it on the radio." Services were dismissed immediately.
Five boys at Brevard (N.C.) college fainted and panic gripped the campus for a half hour with many students fighting for telephones to inform their parents to come and get them.
At Fayetteville, N.C., people with relatives in the section of New Jersey where the mythical visitation had its locale, went to a newspaper office in tears, seeking information.
A message from Providence, R.I., said:
"Weeping and hysterical women swamped the switchboard of the Providence Journal for details of the massacre and destruction at New York and officials of the electric company received scores of calls urging them to turn off all lights so that the city would be safe from the enemy."
Mass hysteria mounted so high in some cases that the people told police and newspapers they "saw" the invasion.
(The following is from the continuation on Page 10)
Woman "Sees" Fire
The Boston Globe told of one woman who "claimed she could 'see fire,'" and said she and many others in her neighborhood were "getting out of here."
Minneapolis and St. Paul police switchboards were deluged with calls from frightened people.
In Atlanta, there was worry in some quarters that "the end of the world" had arrived.
It finally got so bad in New Jersey that the state police put reassuring messages on the state teletype, instructing their officers what it was all about.
And all this despite the fact that the radio play was interrupted four times for the announcement: "This is purely a fictional play."
Newspaper switchboard operators quit saying "Hello." They merely plugged in and said: "It's just a radio show."
The Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va., reported some of its telephone calls came from people who said they were "praying."
The Kansas City Bureau of the Associated Press received queries on the "meteors" from Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Beaumont, Tex., and St. Joseph, Mo., in addition to having its local switchboard flooded with calls.
One telephone informant said he had loaded all his children into his car, had filled it with gasoline, and was going somewhere.
"Where is it safe?" he wanted to know.
Residents of Jersey City, N. J., telephoned their police frantically, asking where they could get gas masks. In both Jersey City and Newark, hundreds of citizens ran out into the streets.
Atlanta reported that listeners throughout the southeast "had it that a planet struck in New Jersey, with monsters and almost everything, and anywhere from 40 to 7,000 people reported killed." Editors said responsible people, known to them, were among the anxious information-seekers.
In Birmingham, Ala., people gathered in groups and prayed, and Memphis had its full quota of weeping women calling in to learn the facts.
After an introductory explanation by Welles at 8 p.m., an announcer gave a commpnplace weather forecast. Then, in standard fashion, came to the words: "We take you now to the ….. Hotel, where we will hear the music, etc."
After a few bars of dance music there came "a bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News bureau" saying there had been a gas explosion in New Jersey.
After that the bulletins came more and more rapidly with "Professor Pierson," played by Welles, explaining about the attack by Mars and the little men who were pouring out of their meteor-like airplanes.
For some time, warriors drove everything before them. Mere armies and navies were wiped out right and left, and the real radio audience were as frightened as the actors pretended to be. Then the little men acquired a lot of germs to which we men-of-the-world are virtually impervious. So the little men died, and everybody lived happily ever after.
Tucson Calls Are Numerous
Beginning at 6:20 o'clock last night, the switchboard of The Arizona Daily Star was kept busy for a half-hour period with calls from excited listeners to the radio dramatization of H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds."
The first call was from a breathless woman who said she had just heard Secretary Ickes broadcast a statement that troops had surrounded a plane from Mars, which landed in New Jersey, and were keeping machine guns trained on the occupants.
Caught unawares, members of the newspaper's editorial department were unbelieving, but nonetheless took a quick look at the incoming Associated Press report for possible light on the subject before reassuring the woman and many who called in the next few minutes.
The Sunday night Orson Welles drama is regularly broadcast at 7 o'clock Monday by stations of the Arizona network. Officials of KGAR in Tucson said that so far as they knew, the men from Mars would stage a second invasion for Arizona listeners tonight.