Category Archives: Halloween

Vintage Halloween (Happy Day After Halloween)

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Historic Storytelling: Orson Welles Scares the Nation

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October 30th, 1938 – Orson Welles Scares the Nation

Orson Welles causes a nationwide panic with his broadcast of “War of the Worlds”—a realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.

Orson Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells’ 19th-century science fiction novel War of the Worlds for national radio. Despite his age, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably as the voice of “The Shadow” in the hit mystery program of the same name. “War of the Worlds” was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of the havoc it would cause.

The show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice announced: “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”

Sunday evening in 1938 was prime-time in the golden age of radio, and millions of Americans had their radios turned on. But most of these Americans were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy “Charlie McCarthy” on NBC and only turned to CBS at 8:12 p.m. after the comedy sketch ended and a little-known singer went on. By then, the story of the Martian invasion was well underway.

Welles introduced his radio play with a spoken introduction, followed by an announcer reading a weather report. Then, seemingly abandoning the storyline, the announcer took listeners 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.” Putrid dance music played for some time, and then the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey.

Soon, an announcer was at the crash site describing a Martian emerging from a large metallic cylinder. “Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”

The Martians mounted walking war machines and fired “heat-ray” weapons at the puny humans gathered around the crash site. They annihilated a force of 7,000 National Guardsman, and after being attacked by artillery and bombers the Martians released a poisonous gas into the air. Soon “Martian cylinders” landed in Chicago and St. Louis. The radio play was extremely realistic, with Welles employing sophisticated sound effects and his actors doing an excellent job portraying terrified announcers and other characters. An announcer reported that widespread panic had broken out in the vicinity of the landing sites, with thousands desperately trying to flee. In fact, that was not far from the truth.

Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church where evening services were being held and yelled, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!”

When news of the real-life panic leaked into the CBS studio, Welles went on the air as himself to remind listeners that it was just fiction. There were rumors that the show caused suicides, but none were ever confirmed.

The Federal Communications Commission investigated the program but found no law was broken. Networks did agree to be more cautious in their programming in the future. Orson Welles feared that the controversy generated by “War of the Worlds” would ruin his career. In fact, the publicity helped land him a contract with a Hollywood studio, and in 1941 he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane—a movie that many have called the greatest American film ever made.

Infographic: 62 Percent of Americans Would Consider Buying a Haunted House

With tomorrow being Halloween, this is the time of year when we hear the chitter-chatter surrounding the notion of ghosts and goblins. The intrigue of haunted houses, vampires and the unsolved mystery of the afterlife are on the forefront of mortals’ minds. Did a door mysteriously slam or did a ghost appear outside your window?

The Huffington Post ran a survey on their website that explored consumer sentiments around their perceptions of “haunted” real estate. Of the survey’s nearly 1,400 respondents, 26 percent indicated that they would be open to purchasing a haunted home and 36 percent shared that they might consider a haunted home purchase. When they combine those percentages, nearly 62 percent would contemplate buying a haunted home! Thirty-eight percent said no way to purchasing a spooky home. Though buyers may be reluctant to purchasing a home that is haunted, the novelty of living in a haunted home does appeal to some.

The survey also found that a staggering 35 percent of respondents believe they have lived in a haunted home and nearly 51 percent have heard of someone else’s haunted home experience. Seventy-five percent of the potential home buyers open to purchasing a spooky home would be scared off if they saw levitating objects on a property and 63 percent admitted that they would be dissuaded by ghost sightings.

Leslie Piper, Realtor.com Consumer Housing Specialist and contributor to the article, stated that she has had her fair share of stories about properties rumored to being haunted. Realtor.com’s survey found that 61 percent of respondents thought a cemetery on the property may be an indication that a home is haunted. Fifty percent believe that homes that are older than 100 years old could be haunted. With the many battles won and lost across the United States, 43 percent felt that homes in close proximity to a battlefield could be cursed.

The mystery still remains as to if the legend of a haunted house is a fact or fable. This Halloween season keep your eyes and ears open and if you sense any paranormal activity (or a not so friendly ghost) in your home or neighborhood hire a ghostbuster, ghost hunter, phantom fighter or median to seek them out and help them find their way out of purgatory and move onto a happier place… BOO!!!

Would you live in a haunted house?

Infographic: Halloween Pop-Costume Index

Celebrating 30 years in the fright business, Spirit Halloween offers a look back at how the hottest pop culture trends became the most iconic costumes of the past three decades. From box office hits to small screen stars and celebrity stunners, these are the costumes that captured America’s imagination.

Halloween Pop-Costume Index

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