Got this today from the Daily Perspective. (On the Website, the news articles cited -- which I've put in parentheses -- are accessible links):
October 30, 2006
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1938: War of the Worlds terrifies listeners
Radio dramatist Orson Welles frightened thousands of listeners today with the Halloween special War of the Worlds. The fictional drama was so realistic to listeners throughout the United States that people fled from their homes, prayed for salvation and swamped police stations with frantic calls.
"Explanatory announcements during the program between 8 and 9 P.M., were overlooked by thousands who were led to believe a poison gas expedition had arrived from Mars and was spreading death and destruction over the New York Metropolitan area," an article in The Modesto Bee and News Herald reported on October 31, 1938.
Welles' radio drama was based on H.G. Wells' classic novel that was set in Great Britain. Yet, for the radio broadcast, the location of the imaginary alien attack was switched to someplace closer - New Jersey. The following day, newspapers reported that the Federal Communications Commission had begun an investigation of the program. "Any broadcast that creates such general panic and fear as this one is reported to have done is, to say the least, regrettable," Frank P. McNinch, chairman of the FCC said.
Links to the Past
Mass Hysteria Is Result of Play Broadcast in US (Dunkirk Evening Observer, October 31, 1938)
Continued: Mass Hysteria
Nationwide Terrorism Created by Radio War Drama Starts Inquiry (The Modesto Bee and News Herald, October 31, 1938)
Probe Called into 'Martian' U.S. War Scare (The Ogden Standard-Examiner, October 31, 1938)
Continued: Mars Didn't Declare War
Fright via Radio (Fitchburg Sentinel, October 31, 1938)
Behind the Mike (The Nebraska State Journal, November 6, 1938)
Strolling the Campus (The Galveston Daily News, November 6, 1938)