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]

This Outdoor Lantern Will Keep Mosquitoes Away—No Bug Spray Necessary

Thermacell, Amazon
Thermacell, Amazon

With summer comes outdoor activities, and with those activities come mosquito bites. If you're one of the unlucky people who seem to attract the insects, you may be tempted to lock yourself inside for the rest of the season. But you don't have to choose between comfort and having a cocktail on the porch, because this lamp from Thermacell ($25) keeps outdoor spaces mosquito-free without the mess of bug spray.

The device looks like an ordinary lantern you would display on a patio, but it works like bug repellent. When it's turned on, a fuel cartridge in the center provides the heat needed to activate a repellent mat on top of the lamp. Once activated, the repellent in the mat creates a 15-by-15-foot bubble of protection that repels any mosquitos nearby, making it a great option for camping trips, days by the pool, and backyard barbecues.

Mosquito repellent lantern.

Unlike some other mosquito repellents, this lantern is clean, safe, and scent-free. It also provides light like a real lamp, so you can keep pests away without ruining your backyard's ambience.

The Thermacell mosquito repellent lantern is now available on Amazon. If you've already suffered your first mosquito bites of the summer, here's some insight into why that itch can be so excruciating.

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See What the First Costco Looked Like in 1983

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For many consumers who like to buy cheese, toilet paper, and clothing in bulk, Costco is essential. The big box chain is a success today, but when it launched nearly 40 years ago, selling wholesale goods to the public was still a new concept. If you need help imagining a world where Costco wasn't a household name, check the video below from Business Insider.

In this segment, Business Insider covers the history of Costco, starting with its humble beginnings to its current position as an industry leader. The video also features photos of the very first Costco location in Seattle. When Costco first opened in 1983, an annual club membership cost just $20. Adjusted for inflation, that's roughly equivalent to today's membership price of $60 a year. By the end of 1984, Costco had sold 200,000 memberships.

Costco's success isn't limited to its bulk groceries and toiletries. The store's cafeterias are hugely popular, and depending on how you define a pizza franchise, Costco ranks among the top 20 biggest pizza chains in the country. Costco is even a major player in the fashion industry, selling more clothes than Old Navy.

Even with its cheap offerings, Costco has managed to become a $1 billion company. Here are some more surprising facts about the beloved chain.

[h/t Business Insider]