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May 22, 2020 11:22 am  #1

The Real "War Of The Worlds" Radio Disaster You Never Knew About

By now, almost everyone who's either worked in or listened to the radio is very familiar with Orson Welles' pioneering "War Of The Worlds" broadcast on Halloween 1938. Legend has it that caused panic in the streets in certain U.S. cities, although some of those reports were almost certainly overblown.

But I never knew until reading the linked article below, that the Welles' broadcast inspired similar excitement in Ecuador, of all places, back in 1949, and this time the reaction was anything but fictional. When the news announcer excitedly reported that a UFO was spraying poisonous gas across the area, all hell broke loose. By this point, other stations began reporting the incident and though the panic only lasted about 20 minutes, it's what happened after the show ended that was simply incredible. 

" angry crowd surrounded the radio station, throwing stones and setting fire to the door. The flames spread through the piles of newspapers in El Comercio waiting for the night's delivery. The devastation was total.

"The journalists who were in the newsroom at the time called for help, but the police did not go to help them, thinking it was part of the joke.

"The result was terrible. People trying to jump from one building to another to escape the flames and El Comercio turned into a skeleton of concrete and ashes. 

"Five people died, several committed suicide in shock and the damage was uncountable." 

Wow. Talk about listener reaction. The fallout was so bad that the station was taken off the air for two years before finally being allowed to resume broadcasting.  

The other "War of the Worlds" that sowed tragedy in Ecuador