Oct. 30, 1938:
As area residents relaxed at home after a long day, they turned on their radios and heard a “special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. At 20 minutes before 8, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.” So began Mercury Radio Theatre’s dramatization of the H.G. Wells book, “War of the Worlds.”
The radio play was broadcast in Scranton and the surrounding areas over WGBI, and listeners were glued to their radios. As the play continued, some listeners believed that the small town of Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, was under attack by the armies of Mars. Listeners began flooding Scranton Police headquarters with phone calls concerned about the attack. Similar scenes played out across the country.
Mercury Theatre was created by Orson Welles, who — along with fellow actors Frank Readick, Kenny Delmar and Ray Collins — performed the live hour-long broadcast. Howard Koch wrote the radio play based on the novel, which debuted in 1897.
Following a night of calls about alien attacks, Scranton Police had Halloween to deal with. The switchboard at the police department lit up again with residents calling about pranksters knocking down fences, cutting down clotheslines, soaping automobile windows and throwing fruit onto porches. Police also registered four false fire alarms from people pulling call boxes around the city.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast