On Sunday, October 30, 1938, Orson Welles created one of the great hoaxes in American history, broadcasting a seeming Martian invasion. Orson Welles performed an adaptation of the well-known book “The War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells, as the Halloween episode of the America radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air.
The precise extent of listener response is a matter of debate, but the radio broadcast certainly caused panic, and prompted listeners to dial “0” for operator in droves. The telephone switchboard operator, circa 1938, was the first line of defence in terms of emergency information. Of course, the operators knew nothing of any alien landings; yet they were well-trained in keeping a level head and calming customers, which, undoubtedly, came in handy at the time…
Learn how the Operators helped save the world in this video from 1988, where AT&T shows some of their telephone operators recalling (nostalgically!) the night they thought Martians had invaded the Earth.
Featured Image: Radio Drama LP The World of the Worlds