In 1898, H. G. Wells releases his first person narrative of an unnamed protagonist facing down an alien invasion on London. It is considered to be one of the earliest stories of a conflict between humans and an alien species. This is epic.

 

Fast forward to October 30, 1938. Orson Wells, a young actor at that time, unleashes a radio drama of the War of the Worlds from a small studio at the Mercury Theater over the Columbia Broadcasting Network. In this 60 minute version, the first two thirds of the broadcast are presented as a series of eye witness news bulletins, interrupting the Ramon Raquello Orchestra. The first reports were from “Richard Pierson,” a famed astronomer, reporting explosions seen coming from the surface of Mars. As the interruption frequency intensifies, we learn of a large, cylindrical meteor impacting on a farm in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. It is from this location that the large Martian Tripod emerges from its crater, incinerating all that were present – the radio transmission goes silent.

 

From the actual broadcast:

 

“Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face, it . . . Ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by . . . possibly gravity or something. The thing’s raising up. The crowd falls back now. They’ve seen plenty. This is the most extraordinary experience. I can’t find words . . . I’ll pull this microphone with me as I talk. I’ll have to stop the description until I can take a new position. Hold on, will you please, I’ll be right back in a minute.”

 

Believing that this radio broadcast was real, genuine wide spread panic ensued, especially around Grovers Mill, NJ. Residents from neighboring towns grabbed their guns and headed into the epicenter of the alien invasion. Just behind a farm house and silhouetted against the darkened sky, stood a 60′ tall Martian Machine. The residents took aim and blasted away at it – but… it was simply a water tower.

 

Even though Martian Machines did not descend on the sleepy town of Grovers Mill, NJ in 1938 – the remains of the water tower, now on private property are still present. Across the street from the water tower is Van Nest Park at 222 Cranbury Rd, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550. In that park you will find the War of the Worlds monument, commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the attack that never happened.

 

For a complete transcript of the 1938 broadcast that sent millions into a frenzy is found here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/orsonwellswaroftheworlds.htm

 

And to keep with Halloween Eve tradition, you can listen to the actual broadcast by Orson Well here: http://sounds.mercurytheatre.info/mercury/381030.mp3