General Question

clairemiller's avatar

When War of the Worlds was read over the radio, did people really commit suicide?

Asked by clairemiller (7points) February 11th, 2008
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

6 Answers

Patlutz's avatar

I heard that they did, but I really hope it’s not true…

jrpowell's avatar

I have been searching for about the last 20 minutes and I can’t find any proof of this. It looks like people fled their homes to hide but no cases of suicide.

Fun question.. Hopefully someone can come up with a definitive answer.

Jill_E's avatar

I did a ‘War of the Worlds’ paper for a mass communication class at college. The only one I remember faintly was an heart attack. I am trying to remember if he/she survived that heart attack. I could be very wrong.

There was definately hysterias over the broadcast.

artemisdivine's avatar

I also learned that the broadcast was nationwide—in other words, the cast did not return 3 hours later for the west coast feed. I learned this from a microfilm of the Los Angeles Times dated Oct. 30, 1938. The Mercury Theater came on at 5:00 p.m. that Sunday night.

But panic they did. Some researchers now doubt the estimate of nearly one million hysterical listeners. And early reports of deaths from stampedes, traffic deaths, and suicides were false.

The authority of radio was never greater than in the fall of 1938. News came every day of the Japanese war on China; Hitler spoke at the annual Nuremburg rally in September and demanded the partition of Czechoslovakia at meetings with England’s Chamberlain starting Sept. 15. A news bulletin of the Munich crisis had broken into his radio broadcast of Sherlock Holmes on September 25. The world listened to live broadcasts of the pact concluded in Munich Sept. 29, the return of Chamberlain to England Sept. 30 waving the agreement at the airport that he had made “peace for our time,” and the German occupation of the Sudetenland October 1. The British government began to distribute gas masks.

The year was 1949, the date February 12th and the place Quito, the capital city of Ecuador and home at the time to some 250,000 people. By the end of that evening, the local newspaper offices would be burnt to the ground and at least six people would be dead at the hands of an enraged mob.

smendler's avatar

On a related note, there was a TV-movie called “The Day After” a few years ago that painted such a stark bleak picture of a post-nuclear-war America that some feared it could trigger suicides as well. So far as I know, no suicides from that either.

Pachy's avatar

As both a huge sci-fi and Orson Welles fan, I’ve always been fascinated by the WOTW broadcast and still find it modestly fresh and scary (if you’ve never heard it, do). Last Sunday (10/20/13) heard a lively discussion on the Moth Radio Hour about it. One of the takeouts was that regardless of whether Welles intended the broadcast to be simply a harmless prank, as he stated rather at the time, or a somewhat sadistic deception, which he claimed years later, his “Happening Now” radio technique set the format for all national and local news reporting today. I’m still looking for the link and will post when I find it.

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