Seventy-five years ago, on Oct. 30, 1938, mere hours before Halloween began, millions of Americans got the fright of a lifetime: Orson Welles, 23 at the time, performed a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds…without reveling that it was a play. Most people figured out what was going on, but many other believed Martians had truly launched an attack on the Earth. That event has gone down in history, but the story didn’t stop that night.
The very next day, Orson Welles appeared at a press conference—shown above—to apologize for causing a panic, even though he knew that the panic was actually a sure sign of victory for him as an actor.
Tomorrow, Oct. 29, PBS’ American Experience will broadcast their own War of the Worlds, pairing the original broadcast with a documentary looking back at how Welles managed to fool the public, and what that meant for the future of radio. Take a look at an exclusive preview here.