War of the Worlds was written by HG Wells, one of the most well known SF writers in history. The original story was set in Victorian England (it was written in 1898). On the night before Halloween 1938, Orson Welles & the Mercury Radio Theater performed a radio play based on the original story but set in modern day Grover’s Mill, NJ. The writers chose the town by sticking a pencil in a map at random. The story was told thru news reports from people on the scene.
A disclaimer was established at the start of the program, but anyone tuning in late thought that the what they heard was real.
Worried listeners all over the tri state area called police, panicked that the attack was real. Surprisingly, no one in Grover’s Mill was aware of the panic going on in the rest of the Garden State that night. A monument to the event sits in a small park in Grover’s Mill.
The inscription reads: On the evening of October 30, 1938 Orson Welles & the Mercury Theatre presented a dramatization of HG Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” as adapted by Howard Koch. This was to become a landmark in broadcast history, provoking continuing thought about media responsibility, social responsibility, and civil defense. For a brief time as many as one million people throughout the country believed that Martians had invaded Earth, beginning with Grover’s Mill, NJ.
There are numerous websites that discuss the book, the movies, the series, and of course the infamous Orson Welles broadcast. I won’t try to go into all the details here, why reinvent the wheel? Here are some good links.
This website presents a wealth of information about WOTW from the perspective as if it really happened. In 1938 there was the Orson Welles Broadcast, which according to them was a reconascence mission. In 1953, a major motion picture was released, and this is treated by the site as the major world invasion. In the 80’s the book was re-imagined as a TV series in which the Martians take over human bodies in their attempt to invade Earth.