War of the Worlds 80 Years Later

October 30, 2018

Eighty years ago today, Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast ‘War of the Worlds’ used cutting-edge audio technology to convince listeners that planet Earth was under attack by Martians. What was intended as a Halloween special actually caused listeners all over the country some real distress, and we talk to three experts—Ben Blacker, co-creator of the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast and creator of the comic series Hex Wives; Valerie Stafford, President of the Concrete Chamber of Commerce; and CJ Smith, an educator at The Museum of Flight—to uncover how and why this broadcast so effectively brought to life a Martian invasion. Blacker observes that the episode’s found-footage, documentary style delivery “was a precursor to so much of the audio that’s popular now.” The global anxiety that preceded WWII provided a tense backdrop for War of the Worlds, and according to C.J. Smith, the fear of a Martian invasion could be traced back to a misunderstanding over Martian geography. But it was a strange set of social and meteorological circumstances that spun the small town of Concrete, WA into a panic.

Want to learn more about the pop culture inspirations for science and space exploration? Check out our Charles Simonyi Space Gallery and our APOLLO exhibit. And be sure to join us on November 2-3 for Space Expo 2018, where you can meet members of the Mars Society and ask them about their theories of life on the Red Planet.


Host: Sean Mobley

Producer: Keny Dutton

Webmaster: Layne Benofsky

Content Marketing Manager: Irene Jagla

Topics: Storytelling, Halloween, Radio

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