The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

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What could explain the public's reaction to Orson Welles' Mercury Theater's 1938 broadcast of "War of the Worlds?"

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The mass hysteria that accompanied the October 30,1938, radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds caught Orson Welles and his theater group, Mercury, by complete surprise.  Broadcast the evening before Halloween, it was intended as an entertaining, if frightening to children, presentation of a popular science fiction story. Unfortunately, Welles was a little too convincing in his narration.

Radio was still largely in its infancy as a form of mass entertainment in 1938.  Plus, this was pre-television, let alone the internet, which was still decades away form conceptualization let alone emerging as a form of mass communication.  Americans, geographically and politically isolated from most of the world, had limited visibility into the broader world outside their borders.  In addition, what was known of the outside world was not encouraging: the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, the expansionism of Imperial Japan, the Great...

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