While there have been plenty of stories in the news about "invasions" recently, 80 years ago this week, panic spread as word of an invasion of New Jersey stoked fears from coast to coast.

Here in the Garden State, plenty of mercurial kids get up to playing pranks the night before Halloween, Mischief Night, but on October 30, 1938, a mischievous group of radio actors sparked fears of an actual Martian invasion with a small central Jersey town as ground zero.

Of course, I'm talking about Orson Welles and The Mercury Theatre on the Air's production of The War of the Worlds, which dramatized an alien invasion of Grover's Mill, NJ (which is a real community in West Windsor, Mercer County).

It was a time before TV, when families would gather around the radio for entertainment courtesy of radio actors and a healthy dose of imagination.

The only problem with this particular production of The War of the Worlds was that it was too well done, to the point that people who missed the disclaimer that it was just a scripted drama thought that the "breaking news" presentation was an actual broadcast of a planetary emergency.

In this day and age of instant news coverage, realistic special effects in movies and on TV, and everyone being able to create just about everything online, it's hard to imagine being duped by a radio drama, but it truly was a different time.

The great Radiolab podcast released an episode this week dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the broadcast, which is totally worth your time! You can click here to check it out.


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