The War of the Worlds on Podcast: How H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Riveted A Nation

in Audio Books, Media, Sci Fi | July 31st, 2007

Today, by popular demand, we’re running an updated version of one of our more popular posts to date. Enjoy…

At hastened speeds during the past year, we have seen book lovers recording homegrown audiobooks and posting them on sites like Librivox (see our collection of free audiobooks here). For obvious copyright reasons, these audio texts largely come from the public domain, and, yes, they’re sometimes of uneven quality. Some good, some okay. Among the recent releases, you’d expect to find great classical works — the major plays by Shakespeare, the essential treatises by Plato and other philosophers, etc. — and you do get some of those. However, far more often you get texts by more modern writers who wrote within the thriller, sci fi and adventure genres. Here, I’m talking about Washington Irving, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells. (Find these podcasts here.)

It seems rather fitting that Wells, the father of science fiction, would be among the first to have his writings digitally recorded and distributed. Nowadays, you can download, sync and listen to his major works – The New Accelerator (mp3), The Invisible Man (iTunesfeed), The Time Machine (iTunesfeed), and The War of the Worlds (iTunes). But what’s better than all of this, at least in our minds, is this vintage gem …

Here you can download the version of The War of the Worlds that Orson Welles famously adapted and aired on national radio in October 1938. Presented so that it sounded like an actual news broadcast, the Orson Welles version was mistaken for truth by many listeners who caught the program midstream (more info here), and, soon enough, they found themselves fleeing an unfolding Martian invasion, running down into their basements with guns cocked and ready to fire. You can catch the mp3 version of the famous Welles recording here (and also alternatively here). Have fun with this broadcast. It’s a classic.

Related content: For more old time, sci-fi radio broadcasts, check out this nice collection on iTunes.

Also see: Vintage Radio Archive: The Lone Ranger, Abbott & Costello, and Bob Hope

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Comments (11)

  1. SWT says . . .
    August 2, 2007 / 8:36 am

    Awesome I love Orson Wells

  2. Richard Phelan says . . .
    November 4, 2007 / 7:34 pm

    I heard the original broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”, as a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Texas. Then, it wasn’t necessary to add “at Austin”. I was in a diner near the campus. People stopped talking, then stopped eating, as they listened. I went onto the campus and sat by the famous fountain, uneasily waiting for something ominous to show up in the sky. Nothing did. I then went to my rooming house and phoned the “American-Statesman”, asking if they had any unusual news on the wire about an event in New Jersey. A young woman told me no. Then I turned on the radio and heard the last of the program, Welles telling people that it was all a Hallowe’en prank. The next day we read of panic in the East, people fleeing, etc. The news story lasted for days.

  3. February 1, 2008 / 1:50 pm

    […] what a gem this is!  A brilliant piece of radio, far ahead of its […]

  4. February 22, 2008 / 3:29 pm

    […] The War of the Worlds on Podcast: How H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Riveted A Nation | Open Culture The War of the Worlds on Podcast: How H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Riveted A Nation (tags: mp3 Podcast OrsonWelles WaroftheWorlds) […]

  5. July 6, 2008 / 10:12 am

    […] Nu kan je dit programma downloaden als podcast. […]

  6. March 11, 2010 / 2:17 pm

    […] Sandburg, among others. For more oldies and goodies, check out Orson Welles Vintage Radio & The War of the Worlds on Podcast: How H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Riveted A Nation. […]

  7. June 2, 2011 / 12:12 pm

    […] his own personal investment in the subject, Welles reflects on his controversial radio experiment, The War of the Worlds (1938), and in the process, implicates himself in the act of fakery. Needless to say, the film provides a […]

  8. jeff says . . .
    July 22, 2011 / 4:58 pm

    Is that radio boadcast of War of the Worlds royalty free? If something is in the public domain can one simply just use it?

  9. February 26, 2012 / 7:02 pm

    ebooks master resell rights…

    […]The War of the Worlds on Podcast: How H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Riveted A Nation | Open Culture[…]…

  10. jc9571 says . . .
    March 18, 2013 / 3:06 pm

    are the pics you used copyrighted or public domain?

  11. Funda Istvan says . . .
    July 5, 2016 / 12:14 pm

    I was wondering if you could answer this question for me – could I use some clips from this recording in a theater piece, kind of interspersed as voiceover throughout the play? Is that considered fair use if something is public domain? Thank you for sharing your knowledge about all of this stuff. I was really surprised to be reminded of how exciting this broadcast must’ve been to those very first listeners who heard it. I heard about this event when I was a little kid, but never gave the recording a real listen until recently. Thank you, Internet.

    Best regards,

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