Orson Welles' Original War of the Worlds Broadcast Returns

October 29, 2009

Orson Welles' War of the Worlds

With our society's extensive use of the internet, viral marketing has become an invaluable tool for movie marketing. In recent years I think it's safe to say The Dark Knight is the reigning champion for best viral marketing campaign which inspired activity from people all over the world. However, the greatest publicity stunt ever achieved goes all the way back to 1938, when Orson Welles' radio broadcast of H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds created unparalleled panic and fear of a real alien invasion. Now, exactly 71 years later, the broadcast will return as a live stream brought to you by the upcoming film Me and Orson Wells.

The original broadcast aired as an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air as part of their Halloween show. The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress. Adding to the illusion of an invasion was that the program was a "sustaining show" which means it ran without commercial breaks, and thus created a certain amount of urgency and realism. Though many people were scared, there is still dissension amongst historians as to exactly how much panic and chaos resulted from the broadcast.

You can hear the original broadcast in its entirety right here or at exactly 71 years later, to the minute, on Friday, October 30th at 8pm EST. So get some popcorn, gather up your family and friends, and see if Orson Welles' famed broadcast still holds the weight and spook that came with it back in 1938. And despite using the broadcast for its own publicity, I really have to give credit to the Me and Orson Wells marketing team for incorporating such a timely, and clever use of Orson Welles historical influence on entertainment to do so. If you haven't seen the trailer for that film yet, then check it out here.

Find more posts: Cool Stuff, Indies, Viral Marketing



The 1938 broadcast was just the first of many. Similar broadcasts took place in Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Portugal, and several times more in the USA.

John Gosling on Oct 29, 2009


Thanks for posting this I have always wanted to hear this broadcast and I would have never known about it without this website.

Jordan on Oct 29, 2009


I remember my dad telling me the history behind War of the Worlds as I watched the original movie on tv. I was in awe that a radio broadcasted fictional story could cause panic, while movies, which are visual and audio, don't. I've only ever heard clips of the broadcast, so I'll have to listen to it. thanks for posting this!

dave13 on Oct 30, 2009


I have this broadcast on CD. I love it. I listen to it at work every year during Halloween. I doubt the younger generation will find anything appealing about this as they are drones to the pop culture. As my 15 year old neice said as I played it in my car, "this is stupid, can we change it". How can a young generation be supposedly allot more mature but yet be so ignorant to such great things that are older generations brought us.

clippers350 on Oct 30, 2009

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