Close Up

30 October 2018: Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds


On the evening of October 30, 1938, radio listeners across the United States heard a startling report of a meteor strike in the New Jersey countryside. With sirens blaring in the background, announcers in the field described mysterious creatures, terrifying war machines, and thick clouds of poison gas moving toward New York City. As the invading force approached Manhattan, some listeners sat transfixed, while others ran to alert neighbours or to call the police. Some even fled their homes. But the hair-raising broadcast was not a real news bulletin – it was Orson Welles' adaptation of the H. G. Wells classic The War of the Worlds.

Marking the 80th Anniversary of its original broadcast, Gareth Evans presents Orson Welles’ infamous radio production of The War of the Worlds, in our pitch-black auditorium.

The War of the Worlds is an episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, performed as a Halloween episode of the series and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel of the same name. It became famous for allegedly causing mass hysteria.