By Kevin O’Sullivan
‘No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.’ (H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds, 1898, p. 1)
We all know the story of the response to the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938: the panic, the confusion, and, later, the outrage, as Orson Welles’s uninterrupted simulated news bulletins led listeners to believe that Martians had indeed invaded the earth. Some of you will have read the original (and brilliant) H.G. Wells novel of the same title, a smaller group will be fans of the Jeff Wayne musical version, and probably even less of you will have watched the surprisingly good ‘starring Tom Cruise’ adaptation for the big screen. But have you ever heard the broadcast that caused all the kerfuffle? In a web experience similar to the ‘We Choose Moon’ site marking the Apollo 11 moon landings, from 30 October you will be able to hear the original, from Welles’s series ‘The Mercury Theatre on Air’, in its entirety, seventy-one years to the minute after it originally aired. Go here for details and keep your ears open from 20.00 EST on 30 October (work that out for yourself in local time). Edit: Fintan Hoey has pointed out (see comments) that the broadcast begins at 00.00 GMT on 31 October – the perfect start to Halloween.