Orson Welles's War of the Worlds Broadcast Might Not Have Caused Mass Panic

By Acme News Photos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Acme News Photos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

It was 80 years ago today that War of the Worlds—an Orson Welles-directed episode of the American radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air—made history for inciting mass hysteria with its mock news bulletins detailing a Martian invasion. Or at least that has long been the story. But some say that the broadcast's effect on the public has been largely exaggerated—and that few people even heard it at all. So why does it have such an infamous legacy? 

According to Slate, the newspaper industry was competing with radio for advertising dollars, and they wanted to make their rival medium look bad. So reporters exaggerated listeners’ reactions, trying to make it seem as though radio news wasn't a legitimate source of information.

“The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which has yet to prove ... that it is competent to perform the news job,” wrote the industry trade journal Editor and Publisher. Sooner or later, more and more people started reporting that they’d heard the broadcast. The tale eventually swelled into a legend, which still persists today.

National ratings, however, tell a different story. Only two percent of people who were surveyed via telephone said they were listening to anything resembling War of the Worlds; most of them were tuned in to popular ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s variety show at the time.

While some sources, like PBS, say people dial-surfed and stumbled onto War of the Worlds during a musical break, there’s no hard evidence to support this claim. And thanks to local commercial programming, War of the Worlds didn’t air in many places at all.

Learn more about the radio show’s dramatized history over at Slate, or listen to the original broadcast in the video below.

[h/t Slate]

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LapGear
LapGear

If you're not working in an office right now, you'll understand the freedom of taking a Zoom meeting from your back porch, jotting down notes from your bed, and filling out spreadsheets from your sofa. But working from home isn't always as comfortable as everyone thinks it is, especially if you're trying to get through the day while balancing a notebook, computer, and stationery on your lap. To give you the space you need while maintaining your well-earned place on the couch, LapGear has the perfect solution to your problems with their lap desk, which you can find on Amazon for $35.

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17 Euphemisms for Sex From the 1800s

He's probably suggesting they engage in some amorous congress.
He's probably suggesting they engage in some amorous congress.
whitemay, iStock/Getty Images

While shoe-horning these into conversation today might prove difficult, these 17 synonyms for sex were used often enough in 19th-century England to earn a place in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a book for upper-crust Britons who had no idea what members of the lower classes were talking about.

1. Amorous Congress

To say two people were engaged in amorous congress was by far the most polite option on the list, oftentimes serving as the definition for other, less discreet synonyms.

2. Basket-Making

"Those two recently opened a basket-making shop." From a method of making children's stockings, in which knitting the heel is called basket-making.

3. Bread and Butter

As the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue puts it, this refers to one person on top of the other. "Rumor has it he found her bread and butter fashion with the neighbor."

4. Brush

"Yeah, we had a brush once." The emphasis here is on brevity; just a fling, no big deal.

5. Clicket

"They left together, so they're probably at clicket." This was originally used only for foxes, but became less specific as more and more phrases for doing it were needed. One definition from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue maintains the term’s original outdoorsy nature: “the man and woman are copulating in the ditch.”

6. Face-Making

Aside from the obvious, this also comes from "making children," because babies have faces.

7. Blanket Hornpipe

There is probably no way to use this in seriousness or discreetly, but there you have it.

8. Blow the Grounsils

"Grounsils" are foundation timbers, so to have sex on the floor.

9. Convivial Society

Similar to "amorous congress" in that this was a gentler term suitable for even the noble classes to use, even if they only whispered it.

10. Take a Flyer

"Flyers" being shoes, this is to have sex while still dressed, or “without going to bed.”

11. Green Gown

Giving a girl a green gown can only happen in the grass.

12. Lobster Kettle

A woman who sleeps with soldiers coming in at port is said to "make a lobster kettle" of herself.

13. Melting Moments

Those shared by "a fat man and woman in amorous congress."

14. Pully Hawly

A game at pully hawly is a series of affairs.

15. Riding St. George

In the story of St. George and the Dragon, the dragon reared up from the lake to tower over the saint. "Playing at St. George" or "riding St. George" casts a woman as the dragon and puts her on top.

16. A Stitch

Similar to having a brush, "making a stitch" is a casual affair.

17. Tiff

A tiff could be a minor argument or falling-out, as we know it. But in the 19th century, it was also a term for eating or drinking between meals, or in this case, a quickie.