The night of October 30, 1938, began as any other peaceful Sunday evening, with millions of listeners tuned to their radios. Yet the outward calm hid a nation tense with apprehension: The Great Depression refused to let up, and the threat of war in Europe loomed larger every day. Then, at 8:15 pm, a newscaster reported that Martians had landed in New Jersey. Radio stations were flooded with calls from worried listeners; many feared that New Jersey had been laid to waste and that the Martians were headed west. In cities and towns throughout the country, people stopped a moment to pray—then grabbed their loved ones and fled into the night. What began as a broadcast performance of H.G. Wells’s fantasy, The War of the Worlds, turned into one of the biggest mass hysteria events in American history.
Join us for this fascinating documentary to examine the elements that created this frenzy, including our longtime fascination with life on Mars, the emergence of radio as a powerful new medium, and the creative wunderkind behind the event, Orson Welles—a 23-year-old mischief-maker supreme. An American Experience Film, by PBS. Runtime 60 minutes.
The Robert H. Smith Auditorium at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Free as part of our Summer of Magic evenings. Reserve tickets by calling (212) 485-9268 or clicking "Reserve Now" above. Unclaimed tickets will be released ten minutes before the program begins.