Happy Halloween everybody! I’m a Christian, but I like Halloween (yes, I do know the origins of it). After all, what’s the harm in a little dress up and candy? As long as we’re not glorifying evil, then it’s all in good fun. Which is why my son gets mad at me every year when he wants to be the blood-dripping, sickle-wielding hooded murderer—no way, not gonna happen in my house. Thankfully, my girls still want to be princesses.
This is the last day of hoax month! So here it is—the most famous Halloween hoax of all time is War of the Worlds. Of course, I didn’t hear the original broadcast and neither did my parents, but I have heard about it because it has lived on in our popular culture for decades.
On the evening of October 30, 1938, in honor of Halloween, a radio station aired a supposed news broadcast during a musical program that was already in progress. In this broadcast, reporters claimed that a meteor travelled from Mars to Earth and fell on a farm outside of Grovers Mill, NJ. Then, they reported the meteor was actually a space ship out of which came a tentacle alien who killed people with a deadly heat-ray and a toxic black gas.
Although the producers put out a disclaimer at four separate points in the broadcast—saying it was a dramatic version of H.G. Wells’ story The War of the Worlds—it apparently wasn’t heard by all, because several areas saw widespread panic. This wasn’t meant to be a hoax, but the play was done in such a realistic way that even some people who heard the disclaimer believed that aliens had landed.
As a fiction writer, I spend most of my days presenting the unbelievable in a way that makes it believable. It fascinates me to see what our minds will accept as truth when it’s presented in the way we’re accustomed to learning about reality. In 1938, people were accustomed to having the news reports break into radio programs and many of them didn’t question the veracity of those reports.
What do you think? Do we do the same thing today with what we see on TV and read in books?
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamie-uk/554260961/”>Jamie Durrant</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>