Friday, October 30, 2009

The Night America Fooled Itself

Well kiddies, tomorrow night is Halloween. The time when we all like to get spooked. And today is the 71st anniversary of the night when this country spooked itself, but good.

In 1938 on this date, The Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast their radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds".

The Mercury program was an artisan's show from New York organized by a young unknown Orson Welles. Every week this small company of very talented and very serious-in-their-craft actors and actresses would perform a radio play based on a highbrow theatre piece or a literary work, usually adapted and written by Welles, starring Welles and directed by Welles.

It was a highbrow kind of show, and not well known by most radio listeners.

On their Halloween week broadcast they decided to dramatize the H.G. Welles classic. A unique spin that Welles put on it was, to begin the show as a music program and then have it interrupted by fake newscasts telling the story of a Martian invasion.

Listeners across the New York area and all down the eastern seaboard heard the show...and believed it as the real deal.

People panicked and barricaded themselves in their houses.

Angry mobs formed to defend communities from the deadly Martians.

Orson Welles said, "Boo!" and a skittish nation of superstitious natives fell for it.

People think their more sophisticated than that now. I think their wrong. I see people falling for shit everyday.

Myself included.

To remind us all of how foolish we can be we should remember this story. We should remember how good this play was too.

Sit back tomorrow night with the lights out and give a listen. It's 71 years old, but still really good, gripping story-telling.

I know it seems odd posting an audio file of a radio show from YouTube, but blogger doesn't allow for the embedding of audio files here. Enjoy.

Thanks Orson for scaring the bejeesus out of all those folks that night. We ARE them.

We could use a good TP ing now and again to remind us how fragile we are.

ADDENDUM: October 29, 1969 the internet was created as the first communication from one computer to another was sent 400 miles from UCLA to Stanford.

30 years after the miscommunication of "The War of the Worlds" and 40 years ago today!

More science fiction amazing fetes or more scientific nightmares? You decide.

Just kidding. It's an amazing fete. There ARE still folks out there who are afraid of computers, and those folks will soon be left in the dust as natural selection eliminates them.

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