On the night of October 30th, 1938, The great Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater On the Air presented a radio drama, which was an adaptation of H.G.Wells novel "The War Of The Worlds". Mass hysteria ensued.

Hulton-Archive-Stringer

The drama was perfectly written and performed for the time. The program, directed and hosted by Orson Welles, did not have a sponsor at that point, thus it ran without commercial interruption, which enhanced the perception that this was indeed happening, and not a radio play.

It ran for an hour, and the first 40 minutes or so consisted of fake news bulletins regarding an invasion by Martians. Many people listening missed the first minutes of the program which of course identified it as a radio play. Many people panicked and packed up their belongings and headed away as fast as they could from Trenton, NJ and New York City, two areas that were supposedly under Martian attack.

In the days that followed the broadcast, there was a lot of media anger, especially newspapers who were losing advertising dollars to radio. They decried the use of news bulletins that were peppered throughout the program. Welles and others had to meet the media and apologize, but it definitely put Orson Welles on the map, and it was only a couple of years later he made a little movie called "Citizen Kane".

Listen to the broadcast.