The War Of The Worlds

Written by H.G. Wells


CBS Radio Network


The Mercury Theatre On the Air

Directed by Orson Welles. - Starring Orson Welles



Be sure to check out all the links at bottom of this webpage.


60th Anniversary

The plan to create an artificial extraterrestrial threat to the Earth was first mentioned by the Marxist, John Dewey.

"Some one remarked that the best way to unite all the nations on this globe would be an attack from some other planet. In the face of such an alien enemy, people would respond with a sense of their unity of interest and purpose." John Dewey, New York 1917.

The premise was tested for credibility with the CBS presentation of The War Of The Worlds by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on October 30, 1938. At 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, on the evening of October 30, 1938, the night before All Saints Day, now generally celebrated as Halloween, an estimated six million Americans listened to the famous Orson Welles broadcast, War Of The Worlds. The broadcast described an extraterrestrial invasion from Mars. An estimated one million sheople responded with sustained credulity and fear. Thousands responded with sheer panic.

The broadcast was a psychological warfare experiment conducted by The Princeton Radio Project. The Rockefeller Foundation funded the project in the fall of 1937. An Office of Radio Research was set up with Paul F. Lazarsfeld as director, and Frank Stanton and Hadley Cantril as associate directors. Cantril used a special grant from the General Education Board to study the effects of the broadcast. Cantril published the study as a book titled The Invasion From Mars - A Study In The Psychology Of Panic. It contains a complete script of the broadcast. The book is one of a series of studies sponsored by the Federal Radio Education Committee.

War Of The Worlds, was broadcast by Mercury Theater on the Air, from a microphone in a New York studio of the Columbia Broadcasting System. Council on Foreign Relations member Frank Stanton was a CBS executive. Stanton would direct Radio Free Europe. Regarding the programs realism Cantril writes, "The sheer dramatic excellence of the broadcast must not be overlooked. The unusual realism of the performance may be attributed to the fact that the early parts of the broadcast fell within the existing standards of judgment of the listeners..."

A few short weeks before this broadcast, millions of listeners had kept their radios tuned for the latest news from a Europe apparently about to go to war. They had learned to expect that musical programs, dramas, broadcasts of all kinds would be cut off in a serious emergency to inform or warn an eager and anxious public. A large proportion of listeners, particularly those in the lower income and educational brackets, have grown to rely more on the radio than on the newspapers for news... On this particular night when the listener tuned to the Mercury Theater, he heard the music of "Ramon Raquello" and his orchestra coming from the "Meridian Room" in the "Park Plaza Hotel" of New York City. Soon after the first piece had begun an announcer broke in: "Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News."

...This report brought the story of the first explosion on Mars. The music was resumed only to be followed by another break: "Ladies and gentlemen, following on the news given in our bulletin a moment ago, the Government Meteorological Bureau has requested the large observatories of the country to keep an astronomical watch..." This bulletin contains the information that a "huge flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey." The swing band gets in 20 seconds more. Then the invasion continues uninterruptedly..."

The last announcement comes from New York City, the Announcer says,

"I'm speaking from the roof of 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 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 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 to 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 smokes spreading faster. It's reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but its no use. They're falling like flies. Now the smokes crossing Sixth Avenue -- Fifth Avenue -- 100 yards away -- it's 50 feet --"

The announcer breaks off, and a field artillery radio operator is heard,

"2X2L calling CQ...

2X2L calling CQ...

2X2L calling CQ...New York

Isn't there anyone on the air?

Isn't there anyone...

2x2L_______ (MIDDLE BREAK)"

XX (Roman Numeral 20), X-2, or 2-X are espionage code names for a double-cross. The fictitious call letters can be interpreted by insiders to mean DOUBLE-CROSS [2X] TO HELL [2L].

Hadley Cantril was born in Hyrum Utah, 16 of June 1906. He graduated Dartmouth College with a B. S. in psychology in 1928. He studied in Munich and Berlin (1929-1930). He received a Ph. D. in psychology from Harvard in 1931. In 1949 Cantril received a LL. D from Washington and Lee University. Cantril taught sociology at Dartmouth College (1931-32), and psychology at Harvard (1932-1935), and Columbia University (1935-36). In 1936 Cantril joined the Princeton psychology department. He remained a member of the department until his death in 1969. In 1950 Cantril authored a book called Tensions that Cause Wars (1950). Hadley Cantril was an active and influencial member of the Council On Foreign Relations.

The public believed the War Of The Worlds was real thus setting the stage for the implementation of an alien threat scenario... the only problem was that the state of the art of technology at that time did not allow for a believable presentation. The development of saucer shaped wingless and tailless flying machines by the Germans during WW-II solved the problem.

"In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us realize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world." - President Ronald Reagan, in a speech made to the 42nd General Assembly of the United Nations, Sept. 21, 1987

He inserted it in eight speeches during his time in office. Click here for Reagan's own words in his own voice.





  • Actual Broadcast - Listen to War Of The Worlds

  • Chronology of Welles' Mercury and CBS productions

  • Comprehensive listing of Welles' films

  • Council on Foreign Relations Experiments in Fear

  • Estate of Orson Welles

  • George Pal: Creator of War of the Worlds

  • H.G. Wells

  • Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds 1978

  • Life On Mars?


  • Mark Time's SF Audio Hall of Fame of Science Fiction

  • Mars

  • News Stories About War Of The Worlds

  • Official War of the Worlds Homepage

  • Orson Welles

  • Orson's younger years and birthplace

  • Radio Radio

  • Read it Online - War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells

  • The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said. But still they come.

  • War of the Worlds Web Edition

  • War of the Worlds: The Physical Merchandise

  • Welles and the Mercury on the boards

  • Orson Welles information on the WWW

  • WOW Pictures and Sounds

  • WOW Series Guides



    Copyright © 1999 HOTT, All rights reserved.
    Revised: December 17, 1999 .