“War of The Worlds” Radio Play

war of the worldsAs a special Halloween treat, today we are bringing you a Simplified English version of a Radio Play that is said to have frightened over a million people on Halloween , 1938. “War of The Worlds” is perhaps the most famous English Radio Play of all time. Phone lines were as people called police and radio stations. Reports say that thousands took to their cars to try to get away from cities. Was it an accident that so many people were scared? Was it one of the world’s greatest publicity s? Or was there another purpose? Read our story and the information below to find out.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate level 1800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

General Comments on the Story

war of the worlds news headlinesIt is d that in the weeks following Halloween 1938 over 12,500 newspaper s were published about the program and its effects. Was this an unexpected accident, or was it all part of one of the world’s greatest publicity stunts?

Despite all the publicity, the police ruled that there was no crime committed. But let us look at the publicity stunt question as if it was being considered under U.S. law. In order for a person to be found guilty of a crime in the U.S., three things need to be shown. These are that they had the , and opportunity to carry out the act.

Motive: “War of The Worlds” was broadcast on the program Mercury Theater on the Air over the American CBS and CBC radio s. The people behind the program were most likely worried about the its future. Their director and star, Orson Welles, was only 23 years of age. Although already a well-known stage actor, he was largely unknown on radio. The show started in July, 1938 with a 9 week contract which ended in September. Although the quality of the early shows were excellent, the program had attracted only a small (less than a million listeners) and no s. Fortunately, the initial s were well received by s and CBS decided to continue it into the following season as a sign of cultural responsibility. Unfortunately, the program’s broadcast time was changed to “” on Sunday evening when it was in competition with The Chase & Sanborn Hour, the most popular radio show of the time with over 30 million listeners. There were some very important reasons for the show to do something to increase its audience size.

Means: During the 1930’s, radio had grown from providing light entertainment to being the main source of breaking news around the world. The “War of The Worlds” radio play was presented as a series of pretend live broadcast news s. This was very effective as it made the reported events seem real. This approach to a radio play had not been tried in the United States before. However, in 1926 a similar approach on British BBC Radio which presented a fictional that took over most of London had the same kind of effect on its audience. It is highly likely that Welles and Mercury Theater on the Air writer, Howard Koch, would have known of this when they decided to use the live broadcast idea. It would have been very easy for them to prevent public panic by making more regular station announcements during the program to point out that it was just a story. However, the first of these did not take place until 40 minutes into the show!

Opportunity: In those days, most radio shows had music breaks as well as advertisements. It was known that the first music break in The Chase & Sanborn Hour always took place about 12 minutes into the show. In “War of The Worlds”, this is when the first Martian machine came out of its cylinder. Then, as now, people enjoyed . Anyone who happened to start listening to CBS at this time could certainly have thought that the reports were real. The original listeners knew the show was fictional; new listeners could not be sure. By 30 minutes into the show, Mercury Theater on the Air’s audience is estimated to have grown from less than one million to over six million. Of the additional 5 million listeners, 1.7 million are thought to have believed the story to be true and 1.2 million are thought to have been frightened.

Was the fact that so many people were scared an accident, a publicity stunt, or something else? In a press interview the next day, Orson Welles d and said that he did not think that the show would scare people. In an interview years later he said that it was expected that people would be scared, but that he wanted to teach people not to believe everything they heard on radio. Really? Not a publicity stunt? Up to you to decide!

Did it create good publicity? Certainly! And probably the wildest dreams of those involved. Shortly afterwards, the Campbell Soup Company agreed to sponsor the show and its name was changed to The Campbell Playhouse. Within a year, Orson Welles and Howard Koch signed contracts with Hollywood movie s. Three years later, Welles directed the Academy Award winning movie Citizen Kane, which even today is considered one of the best films ever made. The following year, Koch shared an Academy Award for being one of the writers of the movie Casablanca.

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(n: Eve pl Eves) The day or evening before a special holiday or festival, such as Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, etc. 3000

(n: stunt pl stunts) Something (often unusual or spectacular) that is done to get attention or publicity. (การแสดงโลดโผน) 6000

ant(n: ant pl ants) A small insect that lives in an organized social group called a colony, thought of as hard-working. 6000

applause(n: applause, noncount) A show of approval or appreciation at a play, speech, sporting event, etc., in which people clap their hands together over and over. 6000

artillery(n: artillery, noncount) Large guns that are used to shoot over a great distance. 6000

(n: astronomy, noncount) The scientific study of stars, planets, and other objects in outer space.
(n: astronomer pl astronomers) A scientist who studies astronomy. 9000

atmosphere(n: atmosphere pl atmospheres) 1. The mass of air surrounding the earth. 2. The particular way a place or situation makes you feel. 3000

avenue(n: avenue pl avenues) A wide street, often with trees or tall buildings along either side. 3000
The picture to the left shows Fifth Avenue in New York.

background(n: background pl backgrounds) 1. A surface, color or part of a scene that is behind or around a main figure or object. 2. The events and conditions that help to explain why something happens. 2000
The expression 'in the background' describes something that is heard or seen while something else is being listened to or watched.

bacteria(n: bacterium pl bacteria) Any one of a group of very small living things not able to be seen except under a microscope, some of which are germs and cause disease. 5000

boulevard(n:boulevard pl boulevards) A wide and usually important street that often has trees, grass, or flowers planted down its center or along its sides 9000
The picture to the left shows Washington Boulevard in New York.

broadcast(v: broadcast, broadcasts, broadcast, broadcasting) To send out (signals, programs, etc.) by radio or television.
(n: broadcast pl broadcasts) A television or radio program. (รายการออกอากาศ) 4000

canal(n: canal pl canals) A long, narrow man-made waterway. 3000

cellar(n: cellar pl cellars) A part of a building that is below or partly below the ground, often used to store coal or wine. Also called 'the basement'. 4000

cliff(n: cliff pl cliffs) A high, steep surface (or 'face') of rock, earth, or ice. 3000

countryside(n: countryside, noncount) Land that is outside big towns and cities. 2000

crush(v: crush, crushes, crushed, crushing) To press or squeeze (something) so hard that it breaks or loses its shape. 3000

cylinder(n: cylinder pl cylinders) A solid shape or object with a circular ends and straight sides. 3000

downtown(n: downtown pl downtowns) The main or central part of a city or town; the part of a city or town where there are tall buildings, stores, offices, etc. 11000
The picture on the left shows downtown Los Angeles, California.

dessert(n: earthquake pl earthquakes) A shaking of a part of the earth's surface that often causes great damage. 5000

fireworks(n: firework pl fireworks) A small device that explodes to make a display of light and noise, often used for entertainment at special events. 5000

flame(n: flame pl flames) The hot, yellow colored gas that can be seen when a fire is burning. 3000

flash(n: flash pl flashes) 1. A quick showing of a bright light. A flash of lightning. 2. A sudden appearance or occurrence of something. A flash of anger/color. 3000

gas mask(n: gas mask pl gas masks) A masks used to protect the face and lungs against poisonous gases.

glow(v: glow, glows, glowed, glowing) 1. To give out heat or light without any flame. 2. To have pink cheeks because of heat, cold, emotion etc. 3. To look happy or excited about something. 3000

grain(n: grain, noncount) The seeds of food plants such as wheat, corn, oats, rice, etc.
(n: grain pl grains) A small, hard piece of something. A grain of sand/salt. 3000

gravity(n: gravity, noncount) The natural force that tends to cause things in space to move towards each other; the force that causes things to fall towards the Earth. 4000

hissy(v: hiss, hisses, hissed, hissing) To make a sound like a long “s”, often used to show anger or displeasure. 7000

(n: hydrogen, noncount) The simplest, lightest, and most common chemical element. A gas that has no color or smell and burns easily and which, when combined with oxygen, produces water. 8000

(n: junction pl junctions) A place at which two things (especially roads or railway lines) join or meet. 2000

(n: lieutenant pl lieutenants) A junior officer in the army, navy, or air force; an officer in a fire or police department who has a rank below a captain. 6000

lighthouse(n: lighthouse pl lighthouses) A tower with a powerful light that is built on or near the shore to guide ships away from danger. 9000

machine-gun(n: machine-gun pl machine-guns) A gun that is able to shoot many bullets very quickly one after the other.

meteor(n: meteor pl meteors) A small piece of rock or metal traveling very quickly through space; a piece of such material that burns and glows brightly in the sky as it falls from outer space into the Earth's atmosphere. 9000

mold(n: mold or mould pl molds or moulds) A growth of fungus on old stale food etc. 4000

observatory(n: observatory pl observatories) A special building studying stars, planets, weather, etc; a building from which scientists study and watch the sky. 11000

poison(n: poison pl poisons) A substance that can cause people or animals to die or to become very sick if it gets into their bodies. 3000

professor(n: professor pl professors) 1. [the U.S.A.] Any teacher at a college or university. 2. [the U.K. and most other English speaking countries] A university teacher who is head of a department. 3. [some Asian countries] A university teacher of the highest rank. 4000

ray(n: ray pl rays) A thin beam of energy (such as heat, light, X-rays) that comes from an object. 2000

rifle(n: rifle pl rifles) A gun that has a long barrel and that is held against your shoulder when you shoot it. 5000

sidewalk(n: sidewalk pl sidewalks) Used in the U.S. and Canada to describe a path along the side of a street for people to walk on. Usually called pavement in the U.K. and footpath in Australia. 5000

siren(n: siren pl sirens) A piece of equipment that produces a loud, high-pitched sound, usually used as a warning. (ไซเรน) 5000

spray(v: spray, sprays, sprayed, spraying) To put (something) on a surface or into the air in a way that produces a stream of small drops of liquid. (ฉีด) 3000

squirrel(n: squirrel pl squirrels)) A small animal with soft fur and a long bushy tail that lives in trees. (กระรอก) 6000

subway(n: subway pl subways) A system of underground trains in a city. (รถไฟใต้ดิน) 10000

swamp(n: swamp pl swamps) An area of soft wet land that is often partly covered with water and has many trees. (บึง) 5000

telescope(n) A device shaped like a long tube that you look through in order to see things that are far away. (กล้องโทรทรรศน์) 6000

tunnel(n: tunnel pl tunnels) An underground passage, especially a man made one cut through a mountain or hill or under a river, etc. (อุโมงค์) 3000

(n: universe, noncount) All of space and everything in it that exists anywhere, including stars, planets, galaxies, etc. (จักรวาล) 4000

wetland(n: wetland pl wetlands) An area of soft, wet land that has many grasses and other plants but few if any trees; a marsh. (บึง) 5000

police whistlinggirl whistling(n: whistle pl whistles) A device through which air or steam is forced to produce a very high and loud sound. The policeman blew his whistle. (นกหวีด)
(v: whistle, whistles, whistled, whistling) 1. To produce a very high, often musical, sound by forcing air through your lips or teeth. He whistled a happy tune. (ผิวปาก) 2. To make such a sound with a whistle or by passing quickly through the air. The bullet whistled past his head. (ทำให้เกิดเสียงหวีดหวิว) 3. (of the wind) To blow with such a sound. (พัดให้เกิดเสียงหวีดหวิว) 3000

(v: estimate, estimates, estimated, estimating) To guess based on the information you have about the size, amount, etc., of something without measuring it exactly. 2000

article(n: article pl articles) A piece of writing about something in a newspaper, magazine, on the Internet, etc. 2000

(n: motive pl motives) Something that makes a person choose to act in a particular way; a reason for doing something. 3000

(n: means pl means) 1. A way of doing something or of achieving a desired result. The city has good trains, buses, and other means of transportation. 2. Money available for living etc. She's a person of considerable means. 1000

(n: network pl networks) 1. A group of people or organizations that are closely connected and that work with each other. 2. A group of radio or television stations that usually broadcast the same programs. 4000

audience(n: audience pl audiences) 1. A group of people who come together to listen to or watch something. The concert attracted a large audience. 2. The people in general who watch, read, or listen to something. The film is intended for a young audience. 3. A formal meeting with an important person. They had an audience with the King. 2000

(n: sponsor pl sponsors) A person or organization that pays the cost of an activity or event [such as a radio or television program, sports event, concert, etc.] in return for the right to advertise during the activity or event. (สปอนเซอร์) 2000

(n: episode pl episodes) A radio or television show that is part of a series. 5000

(n: critic pl critics) Someone, usually an expert, whose job it is to give opinions about books, movies, or other forms of art. 2000

(n: prime time, noncount) The evening hours, generally between 7 and 11 p.m., when the largest radio or television audience is available.
(adj: prime) The most important. 2000

(n: bulletin pl bulletins) 1. A short announcement from an official source about an important piece of news. 2. A short piece of writing that an organization publishes to give news about itself. 6000

riot(n: riot pl riots) A situation in which a large group of people behave in a violent and uncontrolled way. 5000

apology(v: apologize, apologizes, apologized, apologizing) To say that one is sorry for a fault or having done or said something wrong. I must apologize for being so late.
(n: apology pl apologies) A statement saying that you are sorry for a fault or having done or said something wrong. 2000

beyond(prep: beyond) 1. On the other side of. My house is just beyond those trees. 2. Farther on than something in time or place. I cannot plan beyond tomorrow. 3. To a degree or amount greater than; out of the range, power etc of. He is beyond help. 4. Other than; in addition to. What is there to say beyond what's already been said? 2000

studio(n: studio pl studios) 1. A place in which movies or TV programs are made, or a company that makes them. (โรงถ่ายภาพยนตร์) 2. A room where an artist works or people go to learn, practice, or study an art such as singing, dancing, or acting. (ห้องทำงานของจิตรกรหรือช่างภาพ) 4000

(adj: classic) Used to describe something that has been popular for a long time and has come to be thought of as one of the best of its kind. 3000

(adj) When talking about phone lines, this means that so many people are trying to reach a number that most cannot get through. (ติดขัด)
(v) Quickly changing TV or radio stations (channels) during a break in a show to see what else is on. Also known as ‘channel hopping’.

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