One of the most famous radio broadcasts, if not THE most famous broadcast, was The War of the Worlds as presented by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater on the Air. In the spring of 1938, following the successes of Julius Caesar and The Shoemaker’s Holiday as presented on the stage from the Mercury Theater, CBS radio offered the young Orson Welles and his troop a 13 week summer replacement slot to air Mondays at 9pm EST. On September 11th, the show moved to Sunday nights at 8pm thus opening the door for a scheduled broadcast on Halloween Eve.
While I personally think the claims of widespread panic during the live broadcast of The War of the Worlds were certainly overblown, there’s no doubt many listeners – some of which who had no doubt tuned in during the first musical interlude of the top rated The Chase and Sanborn Hour – wondered just what in the hell were they listening to. It’s easy to understand why too, given the fact that from the finish of the show’s intro and monologue through the first break, the story is presented as a series of news bulletins interrupting a live musical performance.
Even to this day, the moments of eerie near silence of a poison gas filled New York City give me the creeps.
Turn out the lights and give a listen to The War of the Worlds on the Mercury Theater on the Air as it aired eighty three years ago tonight, October 30th, 1938.
Download the show to take on the go right here.
On a quick side note, most visitors to TGG probably don’t know I ran an old time radio website quite a few years back and I have tens of thousands of radio shows in my collection. Each of the programs I’ll share during the Spooktacular have had their audio personally cleaned up by me to remove many of the pops, crackles, and hisses so common with old time radio recordings. These aren’t pristine by any means but keep in mind the original broadcasts you’ll be hearing are anywhere from fifty to eighty years old…
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