“Welles Scares Nation – Oct 30, 1938 – HISTORY.com.” Welles Scares Nation. History, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.
Orson Welles was a reputable radio voice, acting as “The Shadow” in the program of the same name. The radio play began with an introduction that transitioned into orchestra music. The music then was “interrupted” by a news update of an explosion on Mars before the music picked up again. It was interrupted again by an update that a meteor had landed in a farmer’s field. The meteor was later amended to be a large metal cylinder. Aliens emerged from the cylinder and killed the national guard regiment that had been scattered around it. It was then announced that widespread panic and evacuations had begun, which was really the only part of the broadcast that had proven true. Panic had spread throughout the country. The article cites examples in New Jersey, where highways had become jammed due to people attempting to flee and people begged police forces for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas. When the radio station had been alerted to the panic that had erupted, Welles went back on air and reminded listeners that it was fiction. The FTC investigated but found no wrongdoing on the part of the radio station, but the industry agreed to be careful in the future.
It’s somewhat difficult to imagine something like this happening in modern times, but we have our own hoaxes. People tend to develop a kind of trust in media that would make people give them the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true with a known voice such as Welles, people develop a connection with a person without really knowing them. Especially prior to the internet, it would be difficult to find another source on an event within a reasonable period of time.