On October 30, 1938 Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater radio company causes a nationwide panic with his broadcast of an updated H.G. Welles “War of the Worlds”—a realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth. The show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice announced: “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.” Welles introduced his radio play with a spoken introduction, followed by an announcer reading a weather report. Then, seemingly abandoning the storyline, the announcer took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Putrid dance music played for some time, and then the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey. Soon, an announcer was at the crash site describing a Martian emerging from a large metallic cylinder. “Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.” Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church where evening services were being held and yelled, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!” When news of the real-life panic leaked into the CBS studio, Welles went on the air as himself to remind listeners that it was just fiction. Tune into War of the Worlds on hoopla and at the library.
Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring had its debut at the Library of Congress on October 30, 1944. Though written expressly for the ballet and for only 13 instrumentalists—a limitation dictated by the size of the orchestra pit at the Library of Congress—Appalachian Spring was soon adapted into an orchestral suite, which is the form in which it became widely popular. Appalachian Spring was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1945. Find Appalachian Spring this Fall at the library, on hoopla and on Freegal.
On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is published anonymously. A small circle of people, including the Price Regent, learned Austen’s identity, but most of the British public knew only that the popular book had been written “by a Lady.” Find Sense and Sensibility at the library and on hoopla