Cranks, Crack-pots, and Martians
"I suppose that by this time you have received many letters from numerous cranks and crack-pots who quickly became jitterbugs during the program. I was one of the thousands who heard this program and:
- did not jump out of the window,
- did not attempt suicide,
- did not break my arm while beating a hasty retreat from my apartment,
- did not anticipate a horrible death,
- did not hear the Martians “rapping on my chamber door”,
- did not see the monsters landing in war-like regalia in the park across the street…”—Letter dated November 1, 1938, from J. V. Yaukey of Aberdeen, South Dakota, to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the “War of the Worlds” broadcast by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater on the evening of October 30, 1938.
75 years ago on October 30, 1938, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) broadcast an adaptation of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The hour-long radio program began with an announcer introducing a musical performance and moments later interrupting with a special news bulletin describing the landing of Martians in New Jersey and their subsequent attacks with death rays. Although CBS made four announcements during the broadcast identifying it as a dramatic performance, millions of Americans who heard it were scared into some sort of action, many wrote letters. The newly created Federal Communications Commission received more than 600 letters about the broadcast, Not everyone took to the streets however, and many, like the writer of this letter, felt that others were overreacting.