I recently had the chance to enjoy a great chat with Jim Harold, the host of the Paranormal Podcast. Jim had very kindly invited me onto the show to talk about a shared passion for The War of the Worlds and old time radio and of course to plug my book, Waging the War of the Worlds. It was a fun interview, and we touched on a number of different panic broadcasts. I was particularly pleased to be able to offer some new insights (detailed in my book) about the 1949 Quito broadcast. The full podcast is available now for download from Jim's site, the Paranormal Podcast, where you'll also find over a 100 other shows covering every spooky, controversial and paranormal subject under this, or any other sun.
While it is easy enough to get your hands on a copy of the 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds, it is a rather nice idea to be able to tune into a live repeat at the exact same time and date it went out in 1938. So thumbs up to the folks behind the new movie Me and Orson Welles, who have organised the website waroftheworldstribute.com to do just that. Visit at 8pm EST and you'll be able to hear the whole broadcast. Perhaps they can keep the site going and made it an annual event.
The 71st anniversary of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast falls on October 30th and recent events seem to indicate that we're still just as gullible and susceptible to this sort of thing as people were back in 1938. I’ve posted the question “Could there ever be another War of the Worlds style scare?” on the Amazon.com history discussion forum and so far the consensus seems to be yes. You can add your own thoughts on the Amazon discussion, but for the record, I’m siding with those who say it could happen. The recent stories featuring Balloon Boy and the Latvian meteor show just how easy it is for hoax stories to gain traction in the Internet age. It’s a subject I cover in a chapter of my new book, Waging the War of the Worlds.
Did some Latvian pranksters have the Oct 30th anniversary of the War of the Worlds broadcast in mind when they faked a meteor impact? There's no specific suggestion that they did, but the timing is great and the story is all over the Internet, with video emerging of fires burning in a crater that was discovered in the Mazsalaca region near the Estonian border on Sunday afternoon. Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre, said: "This is not a real crater. It is artificial." I'm sure Uldis is right, though whoever did this either had a lot of time on their hands, or a lot of help, as the crater measures 27ft wide and 9ft deep! A shame that it was revealed as a hoax so quickly - it would have been great fun to watch the story develop.
Maybe it's because the 71st anniversary of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast is coming up, but it's notable how many stories about the kid who was supposedly trapped in a balloon have inspired journalists to cross-reference Welles' infamous drama. It probably helps that the balloon was shaped like a UFO, and of course it all turned out to be a gigantic hoax by the publicity seeking parents - who deserve to have the book thrown at them by the way - but you can't help but admire the way Welles broadcast has worked itself so thoroughly into popular culture that it can be drafted into service like this. Just set up a Google news alert for the term "War of the Worlds" and you'll be astounded at how often it gets used. It was particularly popular during the run on the banks as I recall, but it's in constant use for all manner of subjects.
This is easily the silliest post I've ever put on this blog, but it's hard to resist a story that brings together The War of the Worlds, Desperate Housewives and Lost in one giant plane crash of an episode. Word has it that Wisteria Lane is to suffer a plane crash, possibly killing off several characters. Apparently pictures have leaked showing the crash scene, though these look to be from the still standing plane crash set for the Cruise/Spielberg version of The War of the Worlds. That's not to say that Desperate Housewives won't end up using a redressed version of that very set, though in a final twist, the plane is expected to carry the insignia of fictional carrier Oceanic, which of course was the plane that crashed in the long running TV series Lost.
With thanks to Bob Koshinski, Buffalo's resident expert on War of the Worlds broadcasts, here's the full detail of the event planned to celebrate the declaration that Buffalo has been proclaimed the “War of the Worlds Radio Capital of the World.”
DiPaolo’s To Hold “War of the Worlds” Halloween Party Fundraiser.
New York Governor David Paterson and the New York State Senate today proclaimed Buffalo New York as the “War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast Capital of the World”. This declaration is due to the fact Buffalo New York has been the home of more unique radio broadcasts of the H.G Wells story “War of the Worlds” than any other city on the globe.
As many as eight Buffalo radio stations have either produced and broadcast their own original production of the H.G Wells story or have re-aired the classic Orson Welles 1938 original since 1968. Those stations include WKBW, WWKB, WGRF, WEDG, WNUC, WNSA, WEBR and WNED.
Governor Paterson’s declaration and the Senate Proclamation was presented today by Senator William Stachowski (D 58th) to Buffalo Broadcast Association Chairman Don Angelo at a news conference held at DiPaolo’s Restaurant in Blasdell NY.
To celebrate this distinction, the DiPaolo’s Scholarship Fund will hold a Halloween “War of the Worlds” costume party on October 31st to raise funds for Kids Escaping Drugs and the DiPaolo Scholarship Fund. The DiPaolo Scholarship Fund has raised over $750,000 for local charities as well as scholarships for local high school wrestlers since 1996.
The party will be held 7-11 pm on Halloween. Cost will be $25 per person and will include food, beer, wine and soft drinks. A guest Martian DJ will be provided and great prizes for best costume.
Buffalo’s fascination with the Wells story began in 1968 when WKBW’s Program Director Jeff Kaye created an original War of the Worlds radio production which aired on Halloween night. Kaye, along with Engineer and Director Dan Kriegler created a broadcast that has been featured in books, television documentaries, web sites and has received world acclaim. This unique local production, now known as the most famous radio broadcast in Buffalo history, featured such legendary Buffalo broadcasters as Irv Weinstein, Dan Neaverth, Sandy Beach, Jim Fagan, Joe Downey and of course creator Jeff Kaye.
Then on Halloween night 1998 WGRF-FM and WEDG-FM broadcast their own unique War of the Worlds production under the direction of PD John Hager. The broadcast featured staffers Larry Norton, Rob Lederman, Ted Shredd, Tom Ragan, Tom Tiberi and Anita West. It also included WKBW-TV’s Irv Weinstein, WGRZ-TV’s Kevin O’Connell, WIVB’s Don Postles and Carol Jasen, Empire Sports Network’s Bob Koshinski, Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski and even a special cameo from Jeff Kaye.
In fact, Halloween 1998 stands out because on that night stations WGRF and WEDG aired their own unique broadcast, WWKB re-aired the WKBW original and WNUC 107.7 FM re-aired the Welles 1938 original. No radio market in the world had four distinct stations airing unique versions of the H.G Wells classic on the same night.
In keeping with that tradition this Halloween night WWKB 1520 AM is re-airing the 1968 WKBW original and WECK 1230 AM is airing the Orson Welles 1938 version.
Movie site Aint it cool News is carrying a long interview with William Dafoe in which he touches on his role in the forthcoming Pixar adaptation of John Carter of Mars. Excitement is building for this first live action film from the prolific animation studio (Just saw "Up" today and loved it) and Dafoe seems pretty pumped up about it as well, talking about some early pre-production work that will turn him into a 9 foot tall Martian! He also alludes to some stunning design work that is under way. The full interview can be found here - for those who don't want to work through the other stuff, scroll down toward the end of the interview.
The city of Buffalo has declared itself the War of the Worlds Broadcast Capital of the World. It's a claim that it can make with some justification, having suffered not only the original 1938 Orson Welles broadcast, but a 2nd locally produced production by WKBW radio. It was every bit as scary as the original, in fact I'd go so far as to say it was better then Welles production as it seamlessly integrated the story into existing programming and used many well known local news reporters. The initiative to declare Buffalo War of the Worlds Broadcast Capital of the World came from Governor David Paterson and the State senate. However, it's worth noting that there is another contender. Lisbon in Portugal has been hit several times by locally produced War of the Worlds radio broadcasts and of course Quito in Ecuador saw significant loss of life in 1949 when a production went badly wrong. You can read the full story of these broadcasts in my book Waging the War of the Worlds, which tells the history of 10 distinct panic broadcasts around the world.
I'm delighted to have a new article published on the otrcat.com website. The article will take you on a little journey through some of the War of the Worlds radio broadcasts that have bedevilled listeners over the years, including a few that until now have been all but forgotten outside the countries that experienced them. It contains a particular favourite of mine, a broadcast in Portugal in 1958 that almost got its creator shot by the secret police! Here's a deep link to the article on the otrcat website, where you'll also find some great Old Time radio recordings.
A new Zombie horror movie with the innocuous sounding title of Pontypool appears to be tipping its hat to Orson Welles and his infamous 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast. The story is set in the radio studio of tiny station in the town of Pontypool, Canada. The DJ Grant Mazzy (played by Stephen McHattie) begins taking calls from terrified citizens reporting that people are suddenly behaving with extreme violence toward each other. It seems that a Zombie plague is infecting the population, but unlike other Zombie movies, where the disease is spread by bites, in this case the culprit looks to be certain words! Naturally this proves a bit of an impediment to the radio station in warning their rapidly dwindling listeners of the danger.
While I'm not entirely convinced by comparisons to the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, the filmmakers are clearly keen to make one. Watch the trailer on the official site and you'll immediately recognise the opening narration as channelling the ghost of Orson Welles. Of course Pontypool turns the concept of the War of the Worlds broadcast on its head. It’s not the radio station broadcasting a fake story, but trying to deal with the incoming news of a real panic occurring in the outside world.
The film is based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess and seems to be getting good word of mouth. The trailer for Pontypool is certainly a tense piece of work.
Orson Welles is returning to his home town of Kenosha in Wisconsin thanks to the local radio theatre RG Productions, who are staging a production of The War of the Worlds. Performances are scheduled on October 17 at the Kenosha History Center and on October 24 at Kemper Hall. More details can be found at the RG Productions website. It looks like they also archive their productions on the site, so those wishing to hear a new version of the play would be advised to check back to see if it's posted.
The European Space Agency mission ExoMars is now likely to leave Earth in 2018, a two year delay. Mission planners believed the money pledged by the European Union was insufficient to meet mission requirements, so sought help from NASA to defray some of the costs. This approach has now been approved, though budgets will still need to be reassessed before a formal full go-ahead at the end of the year. The current proposal is to use a US Atlas rocket to launch ExoMars, but the US will also lend expertise in controlling the rover's entry, descent and landing. As part of the revised plans, Europe will also look at a less costly 2016 mission, which will deliver an orbiter and a static lander. More detail can be found at the BBC News website.
Readers of this blog based in the USA have an opportunity this month to enjoy the acclaimed LA Theatre Works production of The War of the Worlds, (paired up with The Lost World.) The production is on tour across a number of locations, including Cleveland, Fairfax and Stony Brook, NY. A full tour schedule can be found on the LA Theatre Works website and there are some nice pictures from previous performances on the baylinartists website. If anyone gets to see one of the performances and would like to submit a review, I'd be happy to look at posting it on the War of the Worlds Invasion website.
My recent book Waging the War of the Worlds would not exist if not for Orson Welles, so great to see a new movie about the great man is on the horizon. The trailer for Orson Welles and Me is now available at Yahoo Movies and it looks like it's going to be good. I'm no fan of Zac Efron who takes the romantic lead, but Christian McKay looks to have nailed Orson Welles and the recreation of Welles' groundbreaking production of Julius Caesar is loaded with atmosphere. Having read just about every book ever written about Welles, it's going to be a blast to see him brought back to life.
A video that recently surfaced on the Internet purporting to show a UFO pursued by jet fighters has, in a bizarre twist, proven to be a tribute to the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast. The viral video was actually produced to promote the Spanish terra.es website, and was one of several in a series. The others are extremely silly, but the one that got the Internet abuzz is a much more intense piece of work. A group of fishermen out at sea are seen on shaky hand held footage to be freaking out at something in the sky. Jet fighters roar past, and then the camera manages to focus on a disc shaped object, which abruptly plunges straight down into the sea, ejecting a great plume of water as it submerges. Next second a helicopter comes into view and a voice orders the ship to return to port immediately.
This is fantastic stuff, as a bit of a UFO buff myself, I was very excited to find it, but cynic that I also am, I determined to have a hunt around to see if anything could be found to explain it. It didn't take long. A video detailing how it was all made even exists on the terra website, and the reference to it being a tribute to the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast is there in black and white, well Spanish to be precise - "Un homenaje de Terra a 'La Guerra de los Mundos' de Orson Wells en su aniversario." As well as the making of video, you can also see some of the other videos in the series on the terra site, including a nice copy of the UFO Jet fighter chase.
Quite odd to think (and a little worrying) that something made to celebrate a fake broadcast could in itself be mistaken for the real thing. I discuss exactly this sort of thing in my book, Waging the War of the Worlds, arguing (I think all too plausibly given this example) that it would not be impossible for a really talented and determined group of people to pull off a scare on the scale of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast, though this time on a truly global scale.