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Halloween Countdown, Day 30


On this night 71 years ago, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air shook the world with their 60-minute Halloween-themed radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds. At the time, the documetary-style broadcast captured the imagination of listeners and created mass panic and alarm. To this day, the broadcast remains an unparalleled masterpiece of science fiction horror.

I've repeatedly listened to (and, in my classes, taught) this program over the years, and it remains a great favorite of mine. I find it also takes on new meaning in different contexts, as our experiences and world events change. Truly chilling listening. "In the 39th year of the twentieth century came the Great Disillusionment..."





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* Download the complete broadcast at The Mercury Theatre on the Air website.

* Read "The War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast: The Historical Perspective."

* See the website for the 1938 Martian Landing Monument at Grovers Mill, New Jersey.




Spooky Text of the Day: Today's text is the original script from the The Mercury Theatre on the Air, The War of the Worlds, October 30, 1938.

Excerpt:
ANNOUNCER: I'm speaking from the roof of the Broadcasting Building, New York City. The bells you hear are ringing to warn the people to evacuate the city as the Martians approach. Estimated in last two hours three million people have moved out along the roads to the north, Hutchison River Parkway still kept open for motor traffic. Avoid bridges to Long Island . . . hopelessly jammed. All communication with Jersey shore closed ten minutes ago. No more defenses. Our army wiped out . . . artillery, air force, everything wiped out. This may be the last broadcast. We'll stay here to the end . . . People are holding service below us . . . in the cathedral.
(VOICES SINGING HYMN)

Now I look down the harbor. All manner of boats, overloaded with fleeing population, pulling out from docks.
(SOUND OF BOAT WHISTLES)

Streets are all jammed. Noise in crowds like New Year's Eve in city. Wait a minute . . . Enemy now in sight above the Palisades. Five -- five great machines. First one is crossing river. I can see it from here, wading the Hudson like a man wading through a brook . . . A bulletin's handed me . . . Martian cylinders are falling all over the country. One outside Buffalo, one in Chicago, St. Louis . . . seem to be timed and spaced . . . Now the first machine reaches the shore. He stands watching, looking over the city. His steel, cowlish head is even with the skyscrapers. He waits for the others. They rise like a line of new towers on the city's west side . . . Now they're lifting their metal hands. This is the end now. Smoke comes out . . . black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now. They're running towards the East River . . . thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke's spreading faster. It's reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but it's no use. They're falling like flies. Now the smoke's crossing Sixth Avenue . . . Fifth Avenue . . . one hundred yards away . . . it's fifty feet . . .
(BODY FALLS)

OPERATOR FOUR: 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . New York. Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there . . . anyone . . .?


Read the complete script here.

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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
lothithil
Oct. 30th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
I think the newspaper is what scares me the most... particularly the article to our right of the War of the Worlds *shiver*
st_crispins
Oct. 30th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
yes. Good catch.

Ironic, isn't it? The mythical fleeing victims ---and the real ones.

And the folks of the time period were more scared of the mythical... at least on that day.
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 30th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
Great catch. I think that context left a lasting mark on the work, too, which is a reason it continues to speak to us. The entire sequence between Piersen and the Stranger, for example, is a chilling study. The Stranger's desire to "bring everybody down to their knees," to "own the world," has nothing to do with Martians, and everything to do with with the real, human monsters.
st_crispins
Oct. 30th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
Yes, I teach it too.

And if you play the report of the Hindenburg fire along with it, it's difficult to tell the difference between real and fake reports of the time period.
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 31st, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
And if you play the report of the Hindenburg fire along with it, it's difficult to tell the difference between real and fake reports of the time period.

So very true!

I've been interested to see how the fictional reporting resonate differently wit students since 9/11 and Katrina, too - fascinating stuff.

Happy Halloween!
sittingduck1313
Oct. 30th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
For more OTR goodness, why not try out this episode of Quiet, Please entitled The Thing on the Fourble Board? And have some zombie-blasting fun with All Hallow's Eve.
eldritchhobbit
Oct. 31st, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
Oooh, yummy stuff! Thank you!
agentxpndble
Oct. 31st, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
:::giggle::: Thanks creepy twin for posting the links I didn't think to. ;-) I've got a lot of reading to do - I was busy working my way through screen and audio, but not Googling for articles... I suspect it would take *years* to read everything that's been said about it.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )