GROVERS MILL, N.J. -- Thumping his heels against the concrete loading dock of Grovers Mill Co., Eddie Kemp chuckled at the memory of the Halloween Eve when some people thought Martians had landed in the rural hamlet.
'I drove on home, like a damn fool,' said Kemp, 70, a mechanic who has lived in the isolated community all his life.
'I knew there was a whole bunch of cars. I thought there was an accident or a fire or something -- I didn't pay any attention to it. I went on home and went to bed.
'There was a lot of people who felt pretty foolish because a lot of them took off. They got so far away before they found out it was just a story.'
It was dreary and cold on Oct. 30, 1938. Fog swirled in with dusk, then a drizzle. About 8:30 p.m., a shocked CBS radio broadcaster announced to a national audience that Martians had landed in Grover's Mill.
'On-the-scene' reporters followed the invaders as they blasted their way through New Jersey, slaughtering the militia, and crossed over the Pulaski Highway into New York City.
They were described as having 'tentacles... large as a bear ... black eyes ... with saliva dripping from their rimless lips.'
The broadcaster was Orson Welles, 23, dramatizing 'War of the Worlds,' a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells. Much of his audience missed the opening disclaimer and panicked.
Kemp recalled a farm family who loaded their car with 'pots, kids and dogs,' raced off with the gas tank nozzle still in place 'and jerked the thing out of the ground.'
A shotgun-toting man barricaded himself behind bags of grain on the porch of the gray millhouse, the center of the hamlet that is actually just a few farms, a handful of homes, Grovers Mill Co. and a pond. It has changed little since 1938.
Rubbing his jowl, Kemp pointed to a four-legged water tower that rises three stories above a grassy field next to the supply company.
'That night people were actually shooting at it,' he said. 'They thought they were visualizing the Martians. They were actually visualizing a lot of things.'
It was the same across the country.
In Boston, a woman claimed she could see the fire in New York City.
A man headed home from Reno to New York to save the wife he wanted to divorce.
The chairman of Princeton University's geology department, hearing initial reports of a 'meteor,' rushed to Grover's Mill to determine its planetary origin.
A woman in Pittsburgh unsuccessfully took poison because 'I'd rather die this way than that.'
Kemp admitted he would have 'probably been gone too' had he heard the broadcast.
'You listen to that rerun and just think of what they're doing,' Kemp said. 'You'll get so scared. Good God, is it ever scary.'
Adv for Sunday Oct.