Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of what is arguably the most infamous radio broadcast of all time. In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast a radio play by H.G. Wells on CBS. War of the Worlds was designed for maximum realism, with the story unfolding in newsbreak style segments. The story of the fictional Martian invasion of New Jersey has become famous for generating mass hysteria, but some question just how much panic could have been caused with a relative handful of listeners to a new radio show playing at the same time as a popular, longstanding one. Welles said at the time he only meant to entertain but later admitted he wanted to point out the power of the new medium.
Nevertheless, the power of the legend endures 75 years later. Students from Washington State University, Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture Program have created a project around the iconic broadcast. It’s called “Martians with Moustaches.” To kick off the project, Willamette Radio Workshop will be performing a free reenactment of the original War of the Worlds broadcast.
How does the War of the Worlds story resonate with you? Do you think it has lessons to teach today? What are they?
- Sam Mowry: Director of the Willamette Radio Workshop
- John Barber: Associate Professor at WSU Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture Program