One Christmas long ago, I got Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. I was excited, of course, because I loved anything War of the Worlds. The cover was incredible, featuring a a Martian tripod melting the deck of an ironclad. As I flipped through the included book of artwork, my hopes steadily grew. It was full of paintings of tripods blasting old-timey looking British people. Now that was what I’d been wanting from a War of the Worlds adaptation!
The country was, in the autumn of 1938, primed for a panic. And 23-year-old radio actor Orson Welles was primed to give them one. At 8pm on October 30, 1938, he and the Mercury Theater on the Air began a broadcast that would, if you believe the stories about believing the story, send the whole of the country into a panic, convinced the planet was under attack by Martians.