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Mark Simonson

October 26, 2013

'War of the Worlds' caused little local concern


“They planned to spend the night there and to return home in the morning. Panic reigned throughout their section of New Jersey, Emmon Andrus said, with families frantically trying to flee from the imagined peril.”

Unlike the quiet in Oneonta, reaction was a bit stronger in Broome County. Many Oneontans subscribed to or purchased The Binghamton Press newspaper from paperboys in the afternoon each day, and there were no reports of panic published. The Binghamton Sun, that city’s morning paper and not locally distributed, had several incidents to report.

“The Orson Welles broadcast was little more than five minutes old before the Sun’s switchboard operator began to get a taste of the public’s apprehension over the situation,” the Sun reported on Oct. 31.

A restaurant proprieter told a Sun reporter that a woman rushed into a “Greek Halloween party … crying that ‘the world is coming to an end.’ The party was broken up, those present hurrying to their homes to spend what they believed were to be their last minutes with members of their families.”

“A gasoline station attendant on the South Side (Binghamton) was reported to have left his station unattended while he rushed home to kiss his wife farewell.”

“A group of neighborly Sixth Warders (Binghamton), led to believe ‘the end had come,’ left their homes to embrace each other in the street, according to a report reaching police headquarters.”

The aftermath of the broadcast was plentiful, in terms of reaction by the Federal Communications Commission and letters to the editor of larger city newspapers. Nothing was mentioned beyond the account of the Andrus family in Oneonta newspapers.

The Otsego Journal, based in Gilbertsville however, had some editorial comments in its Nov. 3, 1938, weekly edition.

“After the realistic performance of an H.G. Wells fantasy, Mr. Welles can rest on his laurels until the Butternut Valley goats come home.”

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Mark Simonson

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