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


Waroftheworld_1 Since we’re already talk­ing today about Orson Welles (see imme­di­ate­ly below), it seems worth doing a reprise of anoth­er arti­cle that looks at Welles’ famous radio broad­cast. It’s per­haps our most pop­u­lar entry to date. Enjoy.

Over the past year, we’ve seen tech-savvy book lovers start record­ing and issu­ing their own home­grown audio books and aggre­gat­ing them on sites like Lib­rivox. The audio texts most­ly come from the pub­lic domain for obvi­ous copy­right rea­sons (though you can find some excep­tions), and, yes, they’re some­times of uneven qual­i­ty. Among the first releas­es, you’d expect to find a lot of the great clas­si­cal works the major plays of Shake­speare, the foun­da­tion­al philo­soph­i­cal works by Pla­to, etc. and you do get some of those. But what you find more often are texts by more mod­ern writ­ers work­ing in the thriller, adven­ture, and sci fi gen­res: Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing, Robert Louis Steven­son, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells. (Find these pod­casts here.) It seems entire­ly fit­ting (and, when you think about it, unsur­pris­ing) that Wells, the father of sci­ence fic­tion, would be among the first to find 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 even bet­ter and cool­er than all of this, at least in our minds, is that you can now also 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 cow­er­ing in base­ments or flee­ing in cars with guns cocked and loaded, all in a des­per­ate attempt to avoid an unfold­ing Mar­t­ian inva­sion. You can catch the mp3 ver­sion of the famous Welles’ record­ing here. Or here is an alter­na­tive in case the orig­i­nal file gets over­ly traf­ficked. Enjoy.

See our com­plete Audio Book Pod­cast Col­lec­tion and oth­er pod­cast col­lec­tions.


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.