Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the plague of fear that swept the country on Halloween 1938.
It also marks the day, 75 years ago, that my husband, Joe, escaped death.
It seems so incredible that a radio show, "War of the Worlds" read by Orson Welles, could have the effect that it did on unsuspecting … and perhaps, gullible people.
For those of you who don't know, 75 years ago on Halloween, Welles described an invasion of Martians in the United States. Some radio listeners, who missed the opening segue -- which explained the invasion to come was fictitious -- totally panicked.
Today, it seems incredible to us that people could have been taken in by this scary script, but if you listen to a tape of the show, it does become incredibly real, with phony breaking news bulletins hitting the air waves with regularity.
Were people really fooled by this broadcast?
I personally know three that were. My mother, who lived on North Hill in 1938, said people were running down Dayton Street screaming "The Martians are coming."
My mother-in-law and father-in-law, who had a 2-month-old son (my future husband), were preparing to throw their newborn into the fire of their coal-burning furnace. My guess is the broadcast appeared very real to them.
Years later, when his family told me about the experience, I asked how they could possibly consider throwing their baby into the fire.
They replied: "That would have been better than having the Martians take him."
Sometimes truth is much stranger than fiction.
Fortunately, for Joe and me, common sense reigned, and they realized -- I'm not sure how -- that the broadcast was false, the Martians had not landed in New Jersey, and their country was not under attack.