"Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact." New York Times 31 Oct. 1938. ProQuest. 9 Apr. 2008.
This is an original article in the New York Times from 1938 that describes the widespread panic that follows Orson Welles radio show version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on Halloween 1938. In the radio show, Orson Welles had done an entire show pretending that aliens had landed in New Jersey and were causing mass destruction throughout New Jersey and New York. Even though the radio station made several announcements to the effect that the show was just a performance, thousands upon thousands of people in the Northeast called their local authorities genuinely terrified and wondering what they could do to protect themselves and their families. Upon being reassured that the show was just a performance, many citizens did not know who to believe – Welles or the police. The telephone companies reported that they had never been so overrun with calls and streets all over New York and New Jersey were flooded with people running aimlessly with wet towels over their mouths trying to protect themselves from the alleged toxic gas.
This article is relevant to Citizen Kane because, aside from Citizen Kane, this stunt was perhaps Welles’ most renowned creative work and is a sort of tribute to his ability as an actor and his talents at emotionally affecting people. Even though the radio show ended up causing mass panic throughout much of New York and New Jersey, and even resulted in a number of people needing treatment for hysteria, Welles had never anticipated the effect his show would have, saying they almost didn’t do the stunt because they thought people would be too bored with something so unbelievable.