The book The War of the Worlds was written by HG Wells and published in 1898. It was a two volume work of fiction that was written as a narrative describing Earth being invaded by Martians. This was one of the first books to suggest extraterrestrial life forms coming to Earth.
The War of the Worlds was generally favorably received by the public and the reader. It did receive criticism for the brutality described in the narrative. Today we would pass this off as normal and expected in a sci-fi thriller.
This novel came to life in an unexpected way on Halloween eve, 1938. The upcoming actor and future director, Orson Welles performed an adaptation of the book as part of The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast.
The first two thirds of the show was broadcast as simulated news bulletins, as if the Martian invasion were taking place in real time. Many folks across the country believed this was actually occurring and reports were widespread of panic and distress.
Mercury Theatre on the Air ran without commercial breaks and this led to the realism of the broadcast. Many did not hear the disclaimer and as confusion and fear gripped many, reports were heard of panicked evacuations as people began to flee the Martian invasion. There were even reports of suicides in light of these terrible creatures from outer space that were invading Earth.
My dad was a lad then and he tells me that on that night a neighbor lady came running over to their house insisting they come and listen to this dreadful news on the radio. My dad, my grandmother and my great grandmother all ran with her to the radio and listened as the news announcer explained the shocking happenings and the horrible creatures that were taking over.
The women were certain it was real and helpless to do anything about it. At the height of this worldwide tragedy the neighbor lady’s son came strolling through declaring that he was hungry. Upon seeing leftover biscuits asked his mother if he could have one. Her reply was, “You might as well eat it. It may be the last one you ever get.”
At the end of the program they realized that it wasn’t real and I’m sure all felt fairly stupid.
Orson Welles will always be remembered for this dramatic presentation. It was his claim to fame. We can laugh at it now, but in 1938 this was a serious Halloween!
Even today it seems that people live on the negative edge and anything can spook them. The stock market reacts to what could possibly happen; the talking heads and pundits on TV are always looking for the negative tragedy (Good news doesn’t sell, you know); global warming could wipe us all out (Let’s forget the fact that the polar ice caps are thicker now than ever).
We have spent billions upon billions on the space program, still looking for those “little green men.” the technology is way cool, but the goal is always to find how it all began and who else is “out there somewhere.”
The Bible has always had the answers – God made the sun, moon and all the heavenly bodies for two purposes, “God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light to the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 6-17); the heavens declare the glory and righteousness of God (Psalm 19:1; 50:6). The two purposes of the heavenly bodies are to give light to the earth and present God as maker & sustainer.
But foolish man will continue to look in vain for “others” out there, hoping to prove that evolution is true and that we are not actually accountable to anyone. Like the TV sport guy says, “Come on, man!!”