The original script of a radio show which caused a nationwide panic in 1938 reveals that broadcast censors, concerned by the script's realism, tried in vain to soften its disturbing potential.
The typescript for Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds", to be sold at auction at Sotheby's here later this month, contains a number of changes made by censors at CBS Radio, the show's broadcaster.Sotheby's Marsha Malinowski told Reuters the yellowing script shows nearly 30 changes suggested by CBS censors "to diminish the realistic tenor" of the piece.
In a clear, bold hand, censors changed the names of New York landmarks such as the Museum of Natural History in an attempt to underline the show's fictional nature.
The names of actual military installations in the area of the fictional alien landing were also altered.
The dramatization of a Martian invasion of New Jersey was aired on the eve of Halloween 50 years ago. It was so realistic that many listeners across the country panicked, crowding into church basements for safety and roaming the highways with guns.
But before the show's airing, CBS' apprehensive in-house censors had attempted to soften its fright quotient for the benefit of its 10 million listeners.
One million of these are said to have taken the radio drama at face value, resulting in several miscarriages and broken limbs.