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Passion For Learning

War of the Worlds 75 Years Later

October 29, 2013 11:47am (EDT)
Orson Welles Explaining Radio Broadcast at Press Conference, October 31, 1938. (Courtesy PBS.)
Orson Welles Explaining Radio Broadcast at Press Conference, October 31, 1938. (Courtesy PBS.)

In this age of Twitter and Facebook, it’s hard to imagine anyone mistaking a fictitious radio news report on a Martian invasion for the real thing. It did happen 75 years ago when Orson Welles broadcast the radio play "War of the Worlds." Tonight the American Experience examines the mass hysteria that happened as a result of the show.

But wait, was it really a mass panic? The documentary takes the A.P. History approach of investigating whether the age old story told about the reaction to the "War of the Worlds" broadcast is true or just fabrications of the media at the time. Did people really run out into the streets or think the world was ending?

Get a preview of the documentary and then watch it tonight on GPB at
9 p.m. to decide.

Can "War of the Worlds" Hysteria Be Repeated?

By contrast and this would be a good exercise for students to conduct in comparisons, the NPR show Radio Lab illustrates how "War of the World" hysteria repeated itself three times in three locations - Santiago, Chile, Buffalo, New York and Quito, Ecuado which proved to be particularly tragic. What climate led to the impassioned responses? How did culture influence their reactions? Take a listen to the stories and discuss it.

All volunteers receive training, free parking and a catered meal provided by Carole Parks Catering.

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