War of the Worlds

by Charles McGrath

On the evening of October 30, 1938 my Father was doing traffic duty at Broad and Market Streets. Unknown to him the metropolitan area was being placed in a state of terror by a radio broadcast by Orson Wells.

Mercury Theatre on the Columbia Broadcasting System ( CBS ) had Orson Wells do a dramatization of the H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds".

I'm sure most of us have heard about it.

Briefly a Martian space ship landed in Grover's Mill, N. J. When the Martians were confronted by our military they killed 7,000 of our soldiers. They then proceeded towards New York City. The Martians were attacked by eight of our aircraft in the Jersey Meadows. Our aircraft reported seeing a large "black cloud" near South Street flowing towards Raymond Boulevard. The radio broadcast instructed the people of Newark to evacuate the city. They were told to use Routes 7,23 and 24.

People were stopping their cars and asking my Father for his advice. They told him about the large black cloud approaching the city and the evacuation order. In his innocence he told them to go up Market Street and take Springfield Avenue to the safety of the mountains. He later found out that it wasn't true but rather a dramatization on the radio.

Over the years he told me this story many times. While it amused me it also interested me. I made a point of visiting Grover's Mill several years ago (it's around 10 miles southeast of Princeton). It is as laid back as any little town could be. I thought of my Father on Four Corners and the advice he gave to the fleeing motorists.

I recently listened to the original radio broadcast. To me I could understand why people believed what they heard. This is a link to the original radio broadcast.

See what you think.


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