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

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 (12)
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  • SWT says:

    Awe­some I love Orson Wells

  • Richard Phelan says:

    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.

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

  • […] 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) […]

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

  • […] 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. […]

  • […] 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 […]

  • jeff says:

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

  • ebooks mas­ter resell rights…

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

  • jc9571 says:

    are the pics you used copy­right­ed or pub­lic domain?

  • Funda Istvan says:

    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,

  • Laia says:

    Hel­lo! I am mak­ing a pod­cast about extrater­res­tial intel·ligence, and I’d like to use a frag­ment of this mp3, as I will be talk­ing about War of the Worlds. Is that pos­si­ble or are there rights involved?

    Thank you, ‑Laia

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