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«by HADLEY CANTRIL with the assistance of Hazel Gaudet & Herta Herzog Princeton University Press Princeton, New Jersey Published by Princeton ...»

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Much of our information was derived from detailed interviews of 135 persons. Over 100 of these persons were selected because they were known to have been up­ set by the broadcast. The names of the persons who were frightened were obtained almost entirely by the personal inquiry and initiative of the interviewers. The names of persons who were listed in the newspapers as having been frightened failed to produce more than a halfdozen interviews. Many more names were finally ob­ tained than could possibly be interviewed with the limited funds available. Every attempt was made to keep the group fairly representative of the population at large. However, no pretense is made that the group is a proper sample of the total population, and the results and interpretations of the complete study do not depend on such a sample since these cases can be studied against the background of two extensive statistical surveys made prior to the intensive personal interviews. Twentyeight persons who were not frightened but who tuned in late to the broadcast were included in the group interviewed.

The interviews were limited to the New Jersey area for reasons of finance and supervision. All names of respondents used in the text are fictitious and identify­ ing characteristics are disguised, but the true flavor of the case studies is preserved. The interviewing began one week after the broadcast and was completed in about three weeks. The regrettable delay in getting to the respondents was unavoidable for two reasons: funds were not immediately available to begin the study;

highly trained interviewers are difficult to obtain, and the danger of delaying the interval between such an experience and an interview is probably less than the danger of obtaining an inadequate or unreliable report from an unskilled interviewer.

Quotations have been freely used to illustrate psycho­ logical processes which are implied in the statistical figures. They have also been included at times wher­ ever language failed and meaning could be better conveyed by the impression gained from a quotation.

Since the budget of the Princeton Radio Project was obviously unable to anticipate this particular study, the investigation was made possible by a special grant from the General Education Board. The interviews upon which most of the study is based were made by Mrs.

Paul Trilling, Frances Ginevsky, Mrs. Richard Robin­ son, and Mrs. David Green. The writer is indebted to all of these women for their faithful reporting. Mrs.

Green was especially inexhaustible and resourceful in gathering names of frightened persons.

Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre have co­ operated in every way by allowing the writer to examine material related to the broadcast. Howard Koch has kindly permitted us to publish for the first time his brilIiant adaptation of the War of the Worlds. And Mr. H. G. Wells generously gave his permission for the use of the adaptation.

Dr. Frank Stanton, Director of Research for the Columbia Broadcasting System and Associate Director of the Princeton Radio Project, is to be thanked for his methodological advice and his careful reading and checking of the manuscript. The Columbia Broadcast­ ing System has been kind enough to release the original script of the broadcast and the results of two special surveys commissioned by it and supervised by Dr.


Hazel Gaudet, Research Assistant on the Princeton Radio Project, was in charge of the actual administra­ tion of the investigation. She not only made most of the tabulations based on the interviews, but many of the ideas reflected in the tabulations and the text were con­ tained in her detailed memoranda to the writer. From first to last she was indispensable in the progress of the research.

Herta Herzog made an independent survey of the panic before this study was undertaken. On the basis of her experience and insight, we were able to prepare the interview schedule used here. She made the initial study of the checks attempted by the listeners and analyzed the case studies reported in Chapter VIII.

The author's greatest indebtedness is to Dr. Paul Lazarsfeld, Director of the Princeton Radio Project. He has not only given the writer innumerable suggestions for analysis and interpretation, but he has, with his rigorous and ingenious methodological help, provided the writer an invaluable intellectual experience. Because of his insistence, the study has been revised many times, each revision bringing out new information hidden in the statistics and the case studies.

The author cannot properly acknowledge throughout the text his debt to Muzafer Sherif. Social psychologists will recognize the general theoretical framework of the study as an elaboration of the systematic outline in Sherif's Psychology of Social Norms.

Gordon Allport, Lloyd Free and Daniel Katz have all read the study in some form and given critical advice.

Joseph Brandt and Datus Smith of the Princeton University Press have suggested ways of making the presentation more readable and interesting for the nonacademician. Jack Peterman has worked indefatigably drawing up tables, while Carolyn Taylor and Rose Kohn have labored with memoranda and manuscript.

"Incredible As It May Seem"


AT EIGHT P.M. eastern standard time on the /\ evening of October 30, 1938, Orson Welles JL A.with an innocent little group of actors took his place before the microphone in a New York studio of the Columbia Broadcasting System. He carried with him Howard Koch's freely adapted version of H. G.

Wells's imaginative novel, War of the Worlds. He also brought to the scene his unusual dramatic talent. With script and talent the actors hoped to entertain their listeners for an hour with an incredible, old-fashioned story appropriate for Hallowe'en.

Much to their surprise the actors learned that the series of news bulletins they had issued describing an invasion from Mars had been believed by thousands of people throughout the country. For a few horrible hours people from Maine to California thought that hideous monsters armed with death rays were destroying all armed resistance sent against them; that there was sim­ ply no escape from disaster; that the end of the world was near. Newspapers the following morning spoke of the "tidal wave of terror that swept the nation." It was clear that a panic of national proportions had occurred.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Com­ mission called the program "regrettable."

What had these actors said in the brief hour at their disposal? What wild story had they let loose? With the permission of the Mercury Theatre on the Air, the Columbia Broadcasting System, and Mr. H. G. Wells, we are able to print the whole of the radio drama for the first time.



ON THE AIR SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1938 8:00 to 9:00 p.m.


(... 30 seconds... ) ANNOUNCER: The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air in War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.

THEME ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen: the director of the Mercury Theatre and star of these broadcasts, Orson Welles....


We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intel­ ligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied them­ selves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infi­ nite complacence people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their dominion over this small spinning fragment of solar driftwood which by chance or design man has inherited out of the dark mystery of Time and Space. Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic regarded this earth with envi­ ous eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. In the thirty-ninth year of the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

It was near the end of October. Business was better.

The war scare was over. More men were back at work.

Sales were picking up. On this particular evening, October 30, the Crossley service estimated that thirtytwo million people were listening in on radios.


... for the next twenty-four hours not much change in temperature. A slight atmospheric disturbance of undetermined origin is reported over Nova Scotia, caus­ ing a low pressure area to move down rather rapidly over the northeastern states, bringing a forecast of rain, accompanied by winds of light gale force. Maximum temperature 66; minimum 48. This weather report comes to you from the Government Weather Bureau.

... We now take you 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.



Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. From the Me­ ridian Room in the Park Plaza in New York City, we bring you the music of Ramon Raquello and his orches­ tra. With a touch of the Spanish, Ramon Raquello leads off with "La Cumparsita."



Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jen­ nings Observatory, Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.

The spectroscope indicates the gas to be hydrogen and moving towards the earth with enormous velocity.

Professor Pierson of the observatory at Princeton con­ firms Farrell's observation, and describes the phenome­ non as (QUOTE) like a jet of blue flame shot from a gun.

(UNQUOTE.) We now return you to the music of Ramon Raquello, playing for you in the Meridian Room of the Park Plaza Hotel, situated in downtown New York.


ENDS.... SOUND OF APPLAUSE) Now a tune that never loses favor, the ever-popular "Star Dust." Ramon Raquello and his orchestra....



Ladies and gentlemen, following on the news given in our bulletin a moment ago, the Government Meteoro­ logical Bureau has requested the large observatories of the country to keep an astronomical watch on any fur­ ther disturbances occurring on the planet Mars. Due to the unusual nature of this occurrence, we have arranged an interview with the noted astronomer, Professor Pierson, who will give us his views on this event. In a few moments we will take you to the Princeton Observatory at Princeton, New Jersey. We return you until then to the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.



We are ready now to take you to the Princeton Ob­ servatory at Princeton where Carl Phillips, our com­ mentator, will interview Professor Richard Pierson, famous astronomer. We take you now to Princeton, New Jersey.

(ECHO CHAMBER) PHILLIPS Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is Carl Phillips, speaking to you from the observatory at Princeton. I am standing in a large semicircular room, pitch black except for an oblong split in the ceiling.

Through this opening I can see a sprinkling of stars that cast a kind of frosty glow over the intricate mech­ anism of the huge telescope. The ticking sound you hear is the vibration of the clockwork. Professor Pierson stands directly above me on a small platform, peer­ ing through the giant lens. I ask you to be patient, ladies and gentlemen, during any delay that may arise during our interview. Beside his ceaseless watch of the heavens, Professor Pierson may be interrupted by tele­ phone or other communications. During this period he is in constant touch with the astronomical centers of the world.... Professor, may I begin our questions?

PIERSON At any time, Mr. Phillips.

PHILLIPS Professor, would you please tell our radio audience exactly what you see as you observe the planet Mars through your telescope?

PIERSON Nothing unusual at the moment, Mr. Phillips. A red disk swimming in a blue sea. Transverse stripes across the disk. Quite distinct now because Mars happens to be at the point nearest the earth... in opposition, as we call it.

PHILLIPS In your opinion, what do these transverse stripes sig­ nify, Professor Pierson ?

PIERSON Not canals, I can assure you, Mr. Phillips, although that's the popular conjecture of those who imagine Mars to be inhabited. From a scientific viewpoint the stripes are merely the result of atmospheric conditions peculiar to the planet.

PHILLIPS Then you're quite convinced as a scientist that living intelligence as we know it does not exist on Mars?

PIERSON I should say the chances against it are a thousand to one.

PHILLIPS And yet how do you account for these gas eruptions occurring on the surface of the planet at regular in­ tervals?

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