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Today In History: Orson Welles scares everyone's pants off

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles stirred up a heaping batch of Halloween trouble when he and his Mercury Theatre group performed a very realistic radio-play of H.G. Wells’ classic novel War of the Worlds.

By performing the play as a faux-radio news broadcast, thus making it sound like an actual alien invasion was happening in New Jersey, Welles was able to cause a good amount of panic—exactly as he drew it up. The newspapers of the time pounced on the opportunity to criticize radio—a medium papers were losing revenue to—and scored a minor victory for newsprint-stained, cigar-chompin’ publishers everywhere.

All’s well that ends Welles, right? Orson went on to become one of the most acclaimed film directors of all time and now no one reads newspapers or listens to the radio.

Elsewhere on October 30ths past? Muhammad Ali returned to boxing after a three-year ban for not serving in the Vietnam War and whooped George Foreman at the Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa.

Learn more about previous October 30ths and watch more Today in History videos at Timeline.

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