NEW YORK, Oct. 30, 1938 (UP) Residents of New Jersey fled their homes tonight, squad cars and ambulances roared through Newark and newspaper and press association offices throughout the country were besieged with telephone calls demanding to know about "a meteor which fell in New Jersey."
The uproar resulted from a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells' novel, "The War of the Worlds," in which the arrival of men from Mars upon earth at first is believed to be a meteor shower. In the radio rendition the report of a meteor falling near Trenton, N.J., was made so realistic that persons who tuned in after the introductory remarks had been made believed the statement to be fact.
There was an immediate flood of telephone calls to newspaper offices, police stations and hospitals.
A report spread through Newark that the city was to be the target of a "gas bomb attack." Wild excitement prevailed there. Police headquarters was notified that there had been a serious "gas accident" in the Clinton Hills section of Newark, a residential area, and to send squad cars and ambulances.
There they found householders, with possessions hastily bundled, leaving their homes. They returned only after fulsome explanations that there was to be no gas-bombing.
The Newark police switchboard operator estimated he had received 2,000 queries within an hour about the "meteor" and "gas attack."
There was similar excitement in other cities from coast to coast. Tulsa, Okla., reported two heart attacks and a stroke resulting from the dramatization. Dallas, Kansas City and Omaha reported hundreds of telephone calls to authorities and newspaper offices, some from persons who had relatives in New Jersey and feared for their safety.
An excited parishioner dashed into the First Baptist Church at Caldwell, N.J., during evening services and shouted that a tremendous meteor had fallen, causing widespread death and destruction, and the North Jersey was threatened by a shower of meteors. The congregation joined in prayers for deliverance.
Advised of the furor the program had created, Orson Welles, the director, was quoted as saying;
"We've been putting on all sorts of things from the most realistic situations to the wildest fantasy and nobody ever bothered to get serious about them before. We just can't understand why this should have had such an amazing reaction.
"It started off with music and then I made a speech, supposedly in 1939, saying that as I looked back I never dreamed that such things existed as had actually come before my sight. Then there was a jazz band playing and it was interrupted by bulletins announcing the arrival of the Martians-huge creatures that crawled around shooting death rays, and so forth.
"For the next few minutes the program was devoted to special broadcasts, bulletins and so forth announcing the progress of the invasion of the Martians. Things seemed to be in a bad way alright, but just then we broke for station announcements and disclosed once again that it was all just a huge make-believe.
"After that we dropped the convention of the news bulletins and I began to talk-as if I were describing what I saw in 1939-people lying dead in the streets and nearby the Martians-dead, too. They had succumbed to disease germs.
"It's too bad that so many people got excited but after all we kept reminding them that it wasn't really true. You can't do much more and hope to keep up any impression of suspense when you're putting on a play."