“War of the Worlds” Radio Play – Intermediate Level
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen. Here is the director of the Mercury Theater and star of our radio show, Orson Welles.
ORSON WELLES: We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely. Those watching us had minds more developed than man’s but bodies just as subject to death as our own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were studied and examined carefully. Perhaps almost as carefully as a scientist might examine the many creatures that exist for a short time yet grow in number in a drop of water.
People went about their daily business, going from home to work or school and then back again without a care in the world. They were totally satisfied with their life. They felt secure in their hold over this small planet which by chance or design man had been given out of the dark mystery of Time and Space.
Yet across the endless emptiness of space were minds that to our minds are as ours are to the animals in the jungle. Huge intelligences, cool and uncaring, decided there were things on this earth that they wanted for themselves. Slowly and surely they drew their plans against us. In the thirty-ninth year of the twentieth century came the great moment when the truth became known.
It was near the end of October. Business was better. The war scare was over. More men were back at work. Sales were picking up. On this particular evening, October 30, around thirty-two million people were listening in on radios.
ANNOUNCER: And now for the weather. For the next twenty-four hours, not much change in temperature. However, unusual conditions of unknown cause are reported in the atmosphere over Nova Scotia. This has resulted in a low pressure area which is moving down rather quickly over the northeastern states. It will bring rain, together with strong winds. Temperatures will reach a high of 66 and a low of 48. This weather report comes to you from the Government Weather Department… We now take you to the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York. There you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.
MUSIC STARTS PLAYING…
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, we break into our program of dance music to bring you a special report from World Radio News. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, reports seeing gas explosions on the planet Mars. They are giving off a bright light. They also seem to be following a pattern because the length of time between each explosion is the same. His instruments indicate that the gas is hydrogen and it is moving towards the earth at great speed. Professor Pierson of the Observatory at Princeton has also seen the explosions. He describes them as like a stream of blue flame shot from a gun… We now return you to the music of Ramon Raquello, playing for you in the Meridian Room of the Park Plaza Hotel, situated in downtown New York.
MUSIC PLAYS FOR A FEW MOMENTS UNTIL PIECE ENDS… SOUND OF APPLAUSE…
ANNOUNCER: Now a song that never loses favor, the ever-popular “Star Dust.” Ramon Raquello and his orchestra…
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, some more information following the news given in our report a moment ago. The Government has asked the large observatories of the country to watch carefully for any further unusual events occurring on the planet Mars. Due to the strange nature of what has just happened, we will shortly take you the Princeton Observatory, New Jersey. There, Carl Phillips will interview noted astronomer, Professor Richard Pierson, who will give us his views on what is happening. While we wait, we return you to the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.
ANNOUNCER: We are now ready to take you to the Princeton Observatory. Here, Carl Phillips, or commentator, will interview famous astronomer, Professor Richard Pierson. We take you now to Princeton, New Jersey.
PHILLIPS: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is Carl Phillips, speaking to you from Princeton. I am standing in a large room in the shape of a half-circle. It is totally dark except for an opening in the roof. Through this opening I can see stars spread across the night sky. Their light creates a kind of icy glow over the many pieces of equipment that make up the huge telescope. Professor Pierson stands directly above me on a small raised working area. He is looking carefully through the viewer of the telescope. I ask you to be patient, ladies and gentlemen, during any periods that we have to wait for the professor. Besides his never ending watch of the heavens, Professor Pierson is in continual contact with other astronomers around the world… Professor, may I begin our questions?
PIERSON: At any time, Mr. Phillips.
PHILLIPS: Professor, would you please tell our listeners exactly what you see as you look at the planet Mars through your telescope?
PIERSON: Nothing unusual at the moment, Mr. Phillips. A red circle swimming in a blue sea. You can see lines extending across the circle. Quite clearly now because Mars happens to be at the point nearest the earth… in opposition, as we call it.
PHILLIPS: In your opinion, what do these lines mean, Professor Pierson?
PIERSON: They are certainly not canals, Mr. Phillips, although that’s a popular idea among people who imagine that there is life on Mars. From a scientific point of view, the lines are simply the result of conditions in the atmosphere of Mars which are different to those here on earth.
PHILLIPS: Then you’re quite sure as a scientist that living intelligence as we know it does not exist on Mars?
PIERSON: I’d say the chances against it are a thousand to one.
PHILLIPS: And yet how do you account for those regular gas explosions taking place on the surface of the planet?
PIERSON: Mr. Phillips, I cannot account for it.
PHILLIPS: By the way, Professor, for the benefit of our listeners, how far is Mars from earth?
PIERSON: Around forty million miles.
PHILLIPS: Well, that seems a safe enough distance. Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, someone has just handed Professor Pierson a message. While he reads it, let me tell you again that we are speaking to you from the observatory in Princeton, New Jersey. Here we are interviewing the world-famous astronomer, Professor Pierson… One moment, please. Professor Pierson has passed me a message which he has just received… Professor, may I read the message to our listeners?
PIERSON: Certainly, Mr. Phillips
PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, I shall read you a wire addressed to Professor Pierson from Dr. Gray of the National History Museum, New York. “9:15 PM eastern standard time. Our instruments measured a shock of almost earthquake strength occurring within twenty miles of Princeton. Please visit the location and find out what caused it. Signed, Lloyd Gray, Chief of Astronomy Division”… Professor Pierson, could this possibly have something to do with the explosions seen on the planet Mars?
PIERSON: Hardly, Mr. Phillips. This is probably a meteor of unusual size. Its arrival at this particular time has no connection to the events on Mars. However, we shall carry out a search as soon as daylight permits.
PHILLIPS: Thank you, Professor. Ladies and gentlemen, for the past ten minutes we’ve been speaking to you from the observatory at Princeton. This has been a special interview with noted astronomer, Professor Richard Pierson. This is Carl Phillips speaking. We are returning you now to New York.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, here is the latest report from the World Radio News. Toronto, Canada: Professor Morse of McGill University reports seeing a total of three explosions on the planet Mars. They took place between the hours of 7:45 PM and 9:20 PM, eastern standard time. This supports earlier reports received from American observatories. Now, nearer home, comes a special announcement from Trenton, New Jersey. It is reported that at 8:50 PM a huge, burning object fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey, twenty-two miles from Trenton. It is believed to be a meteor. The flash in the sky could be seen from several hundred miles away. The noise of the crash as it hit the ground was heard as far north as Elizabeth. We have sent our commentator Carl Phillips to the scene. We will give you a description as soon as he can reach there from Princeton. While we wait, we take you to the Hotel Martinet in Brooklyn, where Bobby Millette and his orchestra are offering a program of dance music.
DANCE MUSIC FOR TWENTY SECONDS… THEN CUT…
ANNOUNCER: We take you now to Grovers Mill, New Jersey.
CROWD NOISES… POLICE SIRENS…
PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Carl Phillips again, at the Wilmuth farm, Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Professor Pierson and myself made the eleven miles from Princeton in ten minutes. Well, I… I hardly know where to begin, to paint for you a word picture of the strange scene before my eyes. Well, I just got here. I haven’t had a chance to look around yet. I guess that’s it. Yes, I guess that’s the… thing, directly in front of me, half buried in a huge hole in the ground. Must have hit with great force. The ground is covered with pieces of a tree it must have struck on its way down. What I can see of the… object itself doesn’t look very much like a meteor, at least not any meteor I’ve seen. It looks more like a huge metal cylinder of some sort. It has a width of… what would you say, Professor Pierson?
PIERSON: What’s that?
PHILLIPS: What would you say… what is the width?
PIERSON: About thirty meters.
PHILLIPS: About thirty meters… The metal on the outside is… well, I’ve never seen anything like it. The color is sort of yellowish-white. People wanting to see more are now pressing close to the object. The police are trying to keep them back, but they are going nearer. They’re getting in front of my line of sight. Would you mind standing to one side, please?
POLICEMAN: One side, there, one side.
PHILLIPS: While the policemen are pushing the crowd back, here’s Mr. Wilmuth, owner of the farm here. He may have some interesting facts to add… Mr. Wilmuth, would you please tell our listeners as much as you remember of this rather unusual visitor that dropped to earth behind your house? Step closer, please. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Wilmuth.
WILMUTH: Well, I was listening to the radio.
PHILLIPS: Closer and louder please.
WILMUTH: Pardon me!
PHILLIPS: Louder, please, and closer.
WILMUTH: Yes, sir… while I was listening to the radio and kinda falling asleep. That Professor was talking about Mars, so I was half sleeping and half…
PHILLIPS: Yes, yes, Mr. Wilmuth. Then what happened?
WILMUTH: As I was saying, I was half listening to the radio kinda half…
PHILLIPS: Yes, Mr. Wilmuth, and then you saw something?
WILMUTH: Not first off. I heard something.
PHILLIPS: And what did you hear?
WILMUTH: A hissing sound. Like this… sssssss! Kinda like fourth of July fireworks.
PHILLIPS: Then what?
WILMUTH: Looked out the window and thought I must have fallen asleep and been dreaming.
WILMUTH: I seen a kinda greenish flash in the sky and then bang! Somethin’ hit the ground. Knocked me clear out of my chair!
PHILLIPS: Well, were you frightened, Mr. Wilmuth?
WILMUTH: Well, I — I ain’t quite sure. I reckon I — I was feeling kinda annoyed.
PHILLIPS: Thank you, Mr. Wilmuth. Thank you.
WILMUTH: Want me to tell you some more?
PHILLIPS: No…. That’s quite all right, that’s enough.
PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve just heard Mr. Wilmuth, owner of the farm where this thing fell. I wish I could communicate the feeling… the background of this… amazing scene. Hundreds of cars are parked in a field in back of us. Police are trying to rope off the roadway leading to the farm. But it’s no use. They’re breaking right through. Lights from cars show the giant hole where the object is half buried. Some of the more adventurous among the crowd are now going near the edge. The shapes of their bodies stand out against the shiny metal.
A LOW CONTINUOUS SOUND BEGINS IN BACKGROUND…
One man wants to touch the thing… he’s having an argument with a policeman. The policeman wins. Now, ladies and gentlemen, there’s something I haven’t mentioned in all this excitement, but now it’s becoming more clear. Perhaps you’ve caught it already on your radio. Listen:
Do you hear it? It’s a low continuous sound that seems to come from inside the object. I’ll move nearer. Now we’re not more then twenty-five feet away. Can you hear it now? Oh, Professor Pierson!
PIERSON: Yes, Mr. Phillips?
PHILLIPS: Can you tell us the meaning of that noise inside the thing?
PIERSON: Possibly the unequal cooling of its surface.
PHILLIPS: I see, do you still think it’s a meteor, Professor?
PIERSON: I don’t know what to think. The metal the object is made from is definitely not found on this earth. But the heat created when entering the earths atmosphere usually breaks up or tears holes in a meteor as it falls to earth. This thing is smooth and, as you can see, shaped like cylinder.
PHILLIPS: Just a minute! Something’s happening! Ladies and gentlemen, this is amazing! This end of the thing is beginning to come off! The top is beginning to turn like a lid! There must be something inside!
VOICES: She’s moving! Look, the damn thing’s unscrewing! Keep back, there! Keep back, I tell you! Maybe there’s men in it trying to escape! It’s red hot, they’ll burn up! Keep back there. Keep those fools back!
THE SOUND OF A HUGE PIECE OF FALLING METAL…
VOICES: She’s off! The top’s loose! Look out there! Stand back!
PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, wait a minute! Someone’s crawling out of the space at the top. Someone or… something. I can see two glowing circular objects coming out of the black hole… are they eyes? It might be a face. It might be…
SHOUT OF AMAZEMENT FROM THE CROWD…
PHILLIPS: Good heavens, something’s coming out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now there’s another one, and another. They’re some kind of legs… now I can see the thing’s body. It’s large, large as a bear and shiny, like wet leather. But that face, it… Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost impossible to describe. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and shine with a bright light. The mouth is “V” shaped and some kind of liquid is falling in drops from its lips. The lips open and close in a fast, regular motion. The monster or whatever it is can hardly move. It seems weighed down by… possibly gravity or something. The thing’s raising up. The crowd falls back now. They’ve seen enough. This is the most amazing experience. I can’t find words… I’ll have to stop the description until I can take a new position. Hold on, will you please, I’ll be right back in a minute.
ANNOUNCER: We are bringing you a direct account of what’s happening on the Wilmuth farm, Grovers Mill, New Jersey. We now return you to Carl Phillips at Grovers Mill.
PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen (Am I on?). Ladies and gentlemen, here I am, behind a stone wall beside Mr. Wilmuth’s garden. From here I get a view of the whole scene. I’ll give you every detail as long as I can talk. As long as I can see. More state police have arrived. They’re preventing people from entering the area around the hole, about thirty of them. No need to push the crowd back now. They’re willing to keep their distance. The captain is speaking with someone. We can’t quite see who. Oh yes, I believe it’s Professor Pierson. Yes, it is. Now they’ve parted. The Professor moves around one side, studying the object. The captain and two policemen advance with something in their hands. I can see it now. It’s a white handkerchief tied to a stick… a flag showing they come in peace. If those creatures know what that means… what anything means! Wait! Something’s happening!
THE LOW BACKGROUND NOISE BECOMES LOUDER AND LOUDER…
PHILLIPS: A strange shape is rising out of the hole. I can make out mirror with a small light in the center. What’s that? There’s a stream of flame coming from the mirror, and it shoots right at the advancing men. It strikes them head on! Good Lord, they’re burning!
SOUNDS OF PEOPLE SCREAMING…
PHILLIPS: Now the whole field’s caught fire. The trees… the farm buildings… the cars… it’s spreading everywhere. It’s coming this way. About twenty meters to my right…
A CRASH, THEN DEAD SILENCE…
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, due to situations outside of our control, we are unable to continue the broadcast from Grovers Mill. It seems that there’s some difficulty with our field equipment. However, we will return to that point at the earliest opportunity. While we wait we will continue with some piano music.
PIANO MUSIC… THEN CUT…
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been handed a message that came in from Grovers Mill by telephone. Just a moment. At least forty people, including six state policemen lie dead in a field east of the village of Grovers Mill. Their bodies are so badly burned that they can’t be identified. The next voice you hear will be that of General Montgomery Smith, commander of the National Guard at Trenton, New Jersey.
SMITH: The governor of New Jersey has placed the districts of Mercer and Middlesex as far west as Princeton, and east to Jamesburg, under military control. No one will be permitted to enter this area except by special pass issued by the government or army. Four companies of soldiers from the National Guard are proceeding from Trenton to Grovers Mill. Before we start military operations, they will help people who live nearby to get out of the area safely. Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: You have just been listening to General Montgomery Smith commanding the National Guard at Trenton. As he was speaking, further details of the disaster at Grovers Mill have been coming in. After their deadly attack, the strange creatures have crawled back into their hole. They have made no attempt to prevent the efforts of the firemen to collect the bodies and put out the fire. All of the fire departments of Mercer County are fighting the forest fires which are a danger to the whole countryside. We have been unable to communicate with our reporting team at Grovers Mill. However, we hope to be able to return you there at the earliest possible moment… just one moment please.
A LONG WAIT, THEN ANNOUNCER AGAIN SPEAKING SOFTLY…
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been informed that we have finally been able to make contact with someone at the scene. Professor Pierson is located at a farmhouse near Grovers Mill where he has set up an emergency viewing position. As a scientist, he will give you his explanation of what happened. The next voice you hear will be that of Professor Pierson, brought to you by telephone. Professor Pierson.
PIERSON: Of the creatures in the metal cylinder at Grovers Mill, I can give you no definite information… either as to their nature, where they came from, or their purposes here on earth. Of their destructive instrument I might put forward a possible explanation. For want of a better term, I shall refer to the mysterious weapon as a heat :ray. These creatures clearly have scientific knowledge far in advance of our own. It is my guess that in some way they are able to create great heat which they can project by means of a shiny mirror made of an unknown material. Much like the mirror of a lighthouse which can project a small light a great distance so that it can be seen by ships at sea. That is opinion about the heat ray…
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Professor Pierson. Ladies and gentlemen, here is a report from Trenton. It is a brief statement informing us that the burned and blackened body of Carl Phillips has been identified in a Trenton hospital. Now here’s another report from Washington, D.C. Ten units of Red Cross emergency workers have been sent to assist the National Guard stationed outside Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Here’s an announcement from state police, Princeton Junction: The fires at Grovers Mill and nearby neighborhoods are now under control. People at the scene report all quiet in the hole, and no sign of life appearing from the mouth of the cylinder… And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have a special statement from Mr. Harry McDonald, Operations Director of our station.
MCDONALD: In view of the seriousness of the situation, we have received a request from the National Guard at Trenton to use our radio broadcasting equipment. We believe that radio has a responsibility to serve in the public interest at all times. Therefore, we are turning over our whole radio station to the National Guard at Trenton.
ANNOUNCER: We take you now to the field command center of the National Guard near Grovers Mill, New Jersey.
CAPTAIN: This is Captain Lansing of the communications unit attached to the National Guard. We are now joining in military operations in and around Grovers Mill. The situation due to the reported appearance of creatures of unidentified nature is now under complete control. Thousands of soldiers have been positioned on all sides of the cylinder which lies in a large hole in the ground directly below our position. They are without artillery, but well armed with rifles and machine-guns. There is now no reason for alarm. The things, whatever they are, are scared to even lift their heads above the hole. I can see their hiding place plainly in our searchlights. With all their reported resources, these creatures can’t be expected to survive against the fire of so many heavy machine-guns. Anyway, it’s an interesting exercise for our men. I can see them in their uniforms, crossing from side to side in front of the lights. It looks almost like a real war. There appears to be some slight smoke in the woods along the Millstone River. Probably fire started by campers. Well, we ought to see some action soon. An army unit is getting ready on the left side. A quick attack and it will all be over. Now wait a minute! I see something on top of the cylinder. No, it’s nothing but a shadow. Now our men are on the edge of the Wilmuth farm. Seven thousand armed soldiers closing in on an old metal cylinder. Wait, that wasn’t a shadow! It’s something moving! Solid metal, rising up out of the cylinder. It’s going higher and higher. Why, it’s standing on legs, actually rising on a sort of metal structure. Now it’s reaching above the trees and the searchlights are on it. Hold on!
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I have an important announcement to make. Unbelievable as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to only one conclusion. That is that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmland tonight are the leading units of an attacking army from the planet Mars. The battle which took place tonight at Grovers Mill has ended in one of the most shocking defeats ever suffered by any army in modern times. Seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine-guns fighting against a single fighting machine from Mars. One hundred and twenty known survivors. The bodies of the rest laying everywhere on the battle area from Grovers Mill to Plainsboro. They were either crushed to death under the metal feet of the monster, or burned to death by its heat ray. The monster is now in control of the middle section of New Jersey. It has effectively cut the state through its center.
Communication lines are down from Pennsylvania to the Atlantic Ocean. Railroad lines are torn and trains from New York to Philadelphia have stopped. Highways to the north, south, and west are packed with out of out of control human traffic. Police and army reserves are unable to manage the crowds of frightened people trying to get away. It is expected that by morning they will have increased the populations of Philadelphia, Camden, and Trenton to twice their normal size. At this time the government has placed New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania under army control. We take you now to Washington for a special broadcast on the National Emergency from the Defense Secretary.
SECRETARY: People of the nation: I shall not try to hide the seriousness of the situation that faces the country. Your government will do everything it can to protect the lives and property of its people. However, I wish to make sure that all of you understand how important and urgent it is that we meet the danger with calm and resourceful action. Fortunately, this terrible enemy is still limited to a small area. At this point we must place our faith in the military forces to keep them there. As the army and air force prepares to meet them, the rest of us should continue the performance of our normal duties. However, if it becomes necessary, and placing our faith in God, we must be prepared to fight this destructive enemy as a nation united. We must face the danger strongly without stepping back. Our single purpose must be to make sure that the human race continues to be the master of this earth. I thank you.
ANNOUNCER: You have just heard the Defense Secretary speaking from Washington. Reports are piling up here. There are too many to read. The heat ray has badly effected power lines and electrical equipment. We are informed that because of this the central part of New Jersey is blacked out from radio communication. Here is a special report from New York. Messages received from English, French, German scientific bodies offering assistance. Astronomers report continued gas explosions on planet Mars. They say this indicates that more enemy may be coming with additional machines. Attempts made to locate Professor Pierson of Princeton, who has seen the Martians at close range. It is feared he was lost in recent battle. Langham Field, Virginia: Observer planes report three Martian machines can be seen above treetops, moving north towards Somerville. The population is trying to get away ahead of them. Heat ray not in use. Although advancing at express-train speed, machines pick their way carefully. They seem to be taking special care not to destroy cities and countryside. However, they do stop to destroy power lines, bridges, and railroad lines. It would appear that they want to make it impossible for mankind to fight back. They seem to want to cut all communication lines and prevent our society from operating normally.
Here is a report from Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Hunters have found a second cylinder similar to the first firmly stuck in the great swamp twenty miles south of Morristown. Army artillery units are proceeding there from Newark. Their aim is to blow it up before the cylinder can be opened and the fighting machine set up. They are taking up position in the lower hills of Watchung Mountains. Breaking news from Langham Field, Virginia. Observer planes report enemy machines, now three in number, increasing speed northward. They are kicking over houses and trees as they hurry to join with the other machines south of Morristown. Machines also sighted by telephone operator east of Middlesex within ten miles of Plainfield. Here’s a report from Winston Field, Long Island. Army bombers carrying heavy explosives are chasing the enemy, flying north. Observer planes act as guides. They keep the speeding enemy in sight. Just a moment please. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve run special wires to the artillery firing line in villages around the advancing enemy. We will now bring you direct reports from the location. First we take you to the twenty-second Field Artillery, located in the Watchung Mountains.
OFFICER: Range, thirty-two meters.
GUNNER: Thirty-two meters.
OFFICER: Projection, thirty-nine degrees.
GUNNER: Thirty-nine degrees.
OFFICER: Fire! SOUND OF HEAVY GUN FIRING…
OBSERVER: One hundred and forty meters to the right, sir.
OFFICER: Change range… thirty-one meters.
GUNNER: Thirty-one meters
OFFICER: Projection… thirty-seven degrees.
GUNNER: Thirty-seven degrees.
OFFICER: Fire! SOUND OF HEAVY GUN FIRING…
OBSERVER: A hit, sir! We got the legs of one of them. They’ve stopped. The others are trying to help get it going again.
OFFICER: Quick, get the range! Change to thirty meters.
GUNNER: Thirty meters.
OFFICER: Projection… twenty-seven degrees.
GUNNER: Twenty-seven degrees.
OFFICER: Fire! SOUND OF HEAVY GUN FIRING…
OBSERVER: Can’t see the where the shot landed, sir. They’re letting off a smoke.
OFFICER: What is it?
OBSERVER: A black smoke, sir. Moving this way. Lying close to the ground. It’s moving fast.
OFFICER: Put on gas masks.
VOICES NOW QUIETER BECAUSE OF GAS MASKS…
OFFICER: Get ready to fire. Change range… twenty-four meters.
GUNNER: Twenty-four meters,
OFFICER: Projection, twenty-four degrees.
GUNNER: Twenty-four degrees.
OFFICER: Fire! SOUND OF HEAVY GUN FIRING…
OBSERVER: Still can’t see, sir. The smoke’s coming nearer.
OFFICER: Get the range… COUGH.
OBSERVER: Twenty-three meters.. COUGH.
OFFICER: Twenty-three meters… COUGH.
GUNNER: Twenty-three meters… COUGH.
OBSERVER: Projection, twenty-two degrees… COUGHING.
OFFICER: Twenty-two degrees… COUGHING.
COUGHING NOISE GETS SOFTER UNTIL REPLACED BY THE SOUND OF AN AIRPLANE ENGINE…
COMMANDER: This is army bombing plane, V843, off Bayonne, New Jersey. Lieutenant Voght speaking, commanding eight bombers. Reporting to Commander Fairfax, Langham Field… This is Voght, reporting to Commander Fairfax, Langham Field… Enemy machines now in sight. Joined by three machines from the Morristown cylinder… Six in total. One machine already damaged. Believed hit by an army gun in Watchung Mountains. Guns now appear silent. A heavy black fog hanging close to the earth… very thick, nature unknown. No sign of heat ray. Enemy now turns east, crossing Passaic River into the Jersey wetlands. Another is crossing the Pulaski Bridge. They seem to be heading towards New York City. They’re pushing down an electrical power station. The machines are close together now, and we’re ready to attack. Planes circling, ready to strike. A thousand meters and we’ll be over the first — eight hundred meters… six hundred… four hundred… two hundred… There they go! The giant arm raised… (SOUND OF HEAT RAY) Green flash! They’re shooting at us with flame! Two thousand feet. Engines are giving out. No chance to drop bombs. Only one thing left… crash into them, plane and all. We’re diving on the first one. Now the engine’s gone! Eight…
SOUND OF PLANE GOING DOWN…
OPERATOR ONE: This is Bayonne, New Jersey, calling Langham Field… This is Bayonne, New Jersey, calling Langham Field… Come in, please…
OPERATOR TWO: This is Langham Field… Go ahead…
OPERATOR ONE: Eight army bombers attacking enemy machines over Jersey wetlands. Engines damaged by heat ray. All crashed. One enemy machine destroyed. Enemy now blowing heavy black smoke in direction of —
OPERATOR THREE: This is Newark, New Jersey… This is Newark, New Jersey… Warning! Poisonous black smoke pouring in from Jersey wetlands. Reaches South street. Gas masks useless. Population should urgently move into open spaces… cars use highways 7, 23, 24… Stay away from over-crowded areas. Smoke now spreading over Raymond Boulevard…
OPERATOR FOUR: 2X2L calling CQ… 2X2L calling CQ… 2X2L calling 8X3R… come in, please…
OPERATOR FIVE: This is 8X3R coming back at 2X2L.
OPERATOR FOUR: Can you hear me? Can you hear me? K, please… … Where are you, 8X3R? What’s the matter? Where are you?
SOUNDS OF BELLS RINGING…
ANNOUNCER: I’m speaking from the roof of our radio station building in New York City. The bells you hear are ringing to warn the people to leave the city as the Martians approach. It is believed that in last two hours three million people have moved out along the roads to the north. Hutchison River Highway still kept open for motor traffic. Don’t try to use bridges to Long Island… traffic not moving at all. All communication with Jersey shore closed ten minutes ago. No more defenses. Our army wiped out… artillery, air force, everything wiped out. This may be the last broadcast. We’ll stay here to the end… I can see a church below us, and many people are holding service there.
SOUND OF VOICES SINGING A RELIGIOUS SONG…
Now I look down to the port. All manner of boats, loaded way over the legal limit with escaping population, pulling out from shore.
SOUND OF BOAT HORNS AND WHISTLES…
Streets are full of cars and people. Noise in crowds like New Year celebrations in the city. Wait a minute… Enemy now in sight above the cliffs on the other side of the Hudson River. Five — five great machines. First one is crossing river. I can see it from here, walking through the water in the Hudson like a man walking across a stream… A new report has just been handed me… Martian cylinders are falling all over the country. One outside Buffalo, one in Chicago, St. Louis… seem to be timed and spaced… Now the first machine reaches the shore. He stands watching, looking over the city. His steel control centre is even with the tops of the buildings. He waits for the others. They rise like a line of new towers on the city’s west side… Now they’re lifting their metal hands. This is the end now. Smoke comes out… black smoke, floating over the city. People in the streets see it now. They’re running towards the East River… thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke’s spreading faster. It’s reached Times Square. People trying to run away from it, but it’s no use. They’re falling like flies. Now the smoke’s crossing Sixth Avenue… Fifth Avenue… one hundred meters away… it’s fifty feet…
SOUND OF SOMEONE’S BODY FALLING….
OPERATOR FOUR: 2X2L. calling CQ. This is 2X2L. calling CQ. 2X2L. calling CQ. New York. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone… 2X2L…
ANNOUNCER: You are listening to a CBS presentation of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air. This is an original dramatization of The War of the Worlds by H G Wells. The performance will continue after a brief break. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.
PIERSON: As I set down these notes on paper, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I may be the last living man on earth. I have been hiding in this empty house near Grovers Mill. It is like a small island of daylight cut off by the black smoke from the rest of the world. All that happened before the arrival of these monstrous creatures in the world now seems part of another life. A life that has no continuity with the present for the lonely, homeless man who pencils these words. Written, as I hide from the world, on the back of some astronomy notes bearing the name of Richard Pierson.
I look down at my blackened hands, my broken shoes, my torn and dirty clothes. I try to connect them with a professor who lives at Princeton. A professor who, on the night of October 30, saw through his telescope an orange flash of light on a distant planet. My wife, my colleagues, my students, my books, my observatory, my – my world… where are they? Did they ever exist? Am I Richard Pierson? What day is it? Do days exist without calendars? Does time pass when there are no human hands left to wind the clocks?
I tell myself I shall keep a record for human history by writing down my daily life between the dark covers of this little book. A book that was meant to record the movements of the stars. But to write I must live, and to live, I must eat. In the kitchen I find some bread and an orange. The bread has mold growing on it and the orange is starting to go bad but I eat them anyway. I keep watch at the window. From time to time I catch sight of a Martian above the black smoke. The smoke is still around the house.
Finally there is a hissing sound outside. Suddenly I see a Martian sitting on top of his machine, spraying something into the air, as if to break up the smoke. I watch in a corner as his huge metal legs nearly brush against the house. So tired from fear that I can’t go on, I fall asleep.
It’s morning. Morning! Sun streams in the window. The black cloud of gas has lifted, and the burned fields to the north look as though a black snowstorm has passed over them. I set out from the house. I make my way to a road. No traffic. Here and there a damaged car, baggage thrown around, a blackened body.
I push on north. For some reason I feel safer following these monsters than running away from them. And I keep a careful watch. I have seen the Martians… feed. Should one of their machines appear over the top of trees, I am ready to throw myself flat on the earth.
I come to a tree full of reddish-brown nuts. They are fully grown and ready to eat. I fill my pockets. I must keep alive. Two days I walk aimlessly without any thought of where I was going. I travel in a mostly northerly direction through a lifeless world. Finally I notice a living creature… a small red squirrel in a tree. I look at him with amazement, and wonder. He looks back at me with wide open eyes. I believe at that moment the animal and I shared the same emotion… great happiness at finding another living being.
I push on north. I find dead cows in a field. The smell of death is everywhere. On the other side of the field, the blackened remains of a burnt out farm. The tall grain storage tower remains standing guard over the waste land like a lighthouse deserted by the sea. There is a wind direction indicator on top of the tower. It points north.
Next day I came to a city. I knew it from its general shape, but it somehow looked strangely smaller. Buildings had been leveled off, as if a giant hand had cut off its highest towers. I reached the outer part of Newark and found it not totally destroyed, but for some unknown reason badly damaged by the advancing Martians. Then, with an odd feeling of being watched, I saw something hiding in the entrance area of a nearby building. I made a step towards it, and it came out. It was a man — a man, armed with a large knife!
STRANGER: Stop… where did you come from?
PIERSON: I come from… many places. A long time ago from Princeton.
STRANGER: Princeton, huh? That’s near Grovers Mill!
STRANGER: Grovers Mill… There’s no food here. This is my country… all this end of town down to the river. There’s only food for one… Which way are you going?
PIERSON: I don’t know. I guess I’m looking for — for people.
STRANGER: What was that? Did you hear something just then?
PIERSON: Only a bird… A live bird!
STRANGER: You get to know that birds have shadows these days… Say, we’re in the open here. Let’s hide over in this door and talk.
PIERSON: Have you seen any… Martians?
STRANGER: Naah. They’ve gone over to New York. At night the sky is alive with their lights. Just as if people were still living in it. By daylight you can’t see them. Five days ago a couple of them carried somethin’ big across the fields from the airport. I believe they’re learning how to fly.
STRANGER: Yeah, fly.
PIERSON: Then it’s all over with humanity. Stranger, there’s still you and I. Two of us left.
STRANGER: They got themselves in solid; they destroyed the greatest country in the world. Those cylinders of theirs are probably falling somewhere every night. They’ve only lost one machine. There isn’t anything to do. We’re done. We’re beat.
PIERSON: Where were you? You’re in a uniform.
STRANGER: Yeah, what’s left of it. I was in the National Guard… That’s good! Wasn’t any war any more than there’s war between men and ants.
PIERSON: And we’re ants that they can use as food. I found that out… What will they do with us?
STRANGER: I’ve thought it all out. Right now we’re caught as we’re wanted. The Martian only has to go a few miles to get a crowd on the run. But they won’t keep doing that. They’ll set up a system to catch us… keeping the best and storing us in cages and things. They haven’t begun on us yet!
PIERSON: Not begun!
STRANGER: Not begun! All that’s happened so far is because we don’t have sense enough to keep quiet… bothering them with guns and such stuff and losing our heads and running away in crowds. Now instead of our running around blind we’ve got to fix ourselves up — fix ourselves up according to the way things are NOW. Cities, nations, modern society, progress… done.
PIERSON: But if that’s so, what is there to live for?
STRANGER: Well, there won’t be any more concerts for a million years or so, and no nice little dinners at restaurants. If it’s fun you’re after, I guess the game’s over – there will be no more.
PIERSON: And what is there left?
STRANGER: Life… that’s what! I want to live. Yeah, and so do you. We’re not going to be killed off. And I don’t mean to be caught, either, and trained to work for them, or farmed and fattened, like an animal.
PIERSON: What are you going to do?
STRANGER: I’m going on… right under their feet. I got a plan. We men as men are finished. We don’t know enough. We gotta learn a lot before we’ve got a chance. And we’ve got to live and keep free while we learn, see? I’ve thought it all out, see.
PIERSON: Tell me the rest.
STRANGER: Well, it isn’t all of us that were made for wild animals, and that’s what it’s got to be. That’s why I watched YOU. All these little office workers that used to live in these houses — they’d be no good. They haven’t any stuff to ’em. They just used to run off to work. I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, running wild to catch their train to work in the morning for fear they’d lose their job if they didn’t. Then they would run back at night afraid they won’t be in time for dinner. Lives insured and a little money in the bank in case of accidents. And on Sundays, worried about heaven and hell. The Martians will be great news for those guys. Nice roomy cages, good food, no worries. After a week or so chasing about the fields on empty stomachs they’ll come and be glad to be caught.
PIERSON: You’ve thought it all out, haven’t you?
STRANGER: You bet I have! And that isn’t all. These Martians will make pets of some of ’em, train ’em to do tricks. Who knows? Get emotional over the pet boy who grew up and had to be killed… And some, maybe, they’ll train to hunt us.
PIERSON: No, that’s impossible. No human being…
STRANGER: Yes they will. There’s men who’ll do it gladly. If one of them ever comes after me, why…
PIERSON: If all this happens… where are you and I and others like us to live when the Martians own the earth?
STRANGER: I’ve got it all figured out. We’ll live under the ground. I’ve been thinking about the water pipes. Under New York are miles and miles of ’em. The main ones are big enough for anybody. Then there’s cellars, storerooms, road and railway tunnels, subways. You begin to see, eh? And we’ll get a group of strong men together. No weak ones; that rubbish — out.
PIERSON: And you meant me to go?
STRANGER: Well, I gave you a chance, didn’t I?
PIERSON: We won’t argue about that. Go on.
STRANGER: And we’ve got to make safe places for us to stay in, see, and get all the books we can — science books. That’s where men like you come in, see? We’ll look in the museums, we’ll watch everything the Martians do. There may not be so much we have to learn before… just imagine this! Four or five of their own fighting machines suddenly start off… heat rays right and left, and not a Martian in them. Not a Martian in them! But MEN… men who have learned the way how. It may even be in our time. Wow! Imagine having one of them lovely things with its heat ray wide and free! We’d turn it on Martians, we’d turn it on men. We’d bring everybody down to their knees.
PIERSON: That’s your plan?
STRANGER: You, and me, and a few more of us. We’d own the world.
PIERSON: I see…
STRANGER: Say, what’s the matter? — Where are you going?
PIERSON: Not to your world… Goodbye, stranger…
PIERSON: After parting with the soldier, I came at last to the Holland Tunnel. I entered that silent cylinder, having a strong wish to know what had become of the great city on the other side of the Hudson. Carefully I came out of the tunnel and made my way up Canal Street. I reached Fourteenth Street, and saw several bodies and a strange, black powder on the ground. As an indication of further horrible discoveries the now familiar, evil smell of death comes from the barred windows of the cellars of some of the houses.
I slowly walked up through the Thirties and Forties. I stood alone on Times Square. I caught sight of a thin dog running down Seventh Avenue with a piece of dark brown meat in his mouth. A group of hungry dogs was chasing after it. It made a wide circle around me, as though it was scared that I might prove a fresh competitor for the meat. I walked up Broadway in the direction of the powder. Past silent shop windows, showing their silent products to empty sidewalks. Past the Capitol Theater, silent and dark. Past a shooting game, where a row of empty guns faced a still line of wooden ducks. Near Columbus Circle I noticed models of 1939 cars in the showrooms facing empty streets.
From over the top of the General Motors Building, I watched a group of black birds circling in the sky. I hurried on. Suddenly I caught sight of the top of a Martian machine, standing somewhere in Central Park, shining in the late afternoon sun. A mad idea! Without concern for the danger, I hurried across Columbus Circle and into the Park. I climbed a small hill above the small lake at Sixtieth Street. From there I could see, standing in a silent row, nineteen of those great metal giants. Their control centers empty, their great steel arms hanging without movement by their sides. I looked for the monsters that were in those machines but at first could not see them.
Suddenly, my eyes were attracted to the large group of black birds flying directly below me. They circled to the ground, and there before my eyes, in clear view and silent, lay the Martians. The hungry birds were tearing pieces of brown meat from their dead bodies. Later, when their bodies were examined by government scientists, it was found that they were killed by bacteria. Their systems were unprepared for earth’s bacteria that cause disease and the break down of dead matter. They were killed, after all of man’s defenses had failed, by the simplest thing that God in His wisdom put upon the planet.
Before the first cylinder fell most people believed that through all the deepness of space no life existed other than on the surface of our tiny planet. Now we know more. I had created in my mind a wonderful image of life spreading slowly from earth throughout endless, empty space. But now that could be an unlikely dream. It may be that the destruction of the Martians this time is not the end. It may be that more will come. The future of the universe could be meant to belong to them, and not to us. Only time will tell us the answer.
It seems strange to now sit in the peaceful office of my Princeton home. I am writing down this last chapter of the record begun at a deserted farm in Grovers Mill. Strange to see from my window the towers on the university rooftop, shadowy and blue through an April fog. Strange to watch children playing in the streets. Strange to see young people walking peacefully in the park, where the new spring grass covers the last signs of a blackened earth. Strange to watch families enter the museum where a man-made model of a Martian machine is kept on public view. Strange when I remember the time when I first saw such a machine, bright and clear, hard, and silent, as the sun was rising on that last great day.