Morristown, NJ

Halloween Hysteria, Mischief Night from 1938 to 2021

Morristown Minute

1938, the night before Halloween. The day when Orsen Welles would go down in history for causing mass hysteria across the nation. In a show presented without commercial interruptions, an adaptation of H. G. Wells’s 1898 novel, 'The War of the Worlds,' was presented live as an episode of The Mercury Theatre over the CBS radio network. Six million people heard the broadcast, but what many of them missed was the vitally important information at the beginning of the broadcast that stated the following presentation was one of fiction, not fact. 

The program begins as a typical news cycle of events with the occasional interesting report of odd explosions on Mars. Shortly thereafter, the program reports sightings of unknown objects falling or perhaps landing in Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Then comes a "live" report from Grover's Mill where a crowd has surrounded the mysterious cylindrical object that has touched down in the small rural town. 

Then all chaos breaks loose. The Martians emerge from the spacecraft with their long tentacle legs and fire heat rays into the crowd evaporating police and bystanders. The state militia enacts martial law in New Jersey as Martian tripods destroy everything in their path. Then the Martians make it across the Hudson River and release clouds of poisonous gas into the city.

Meanwhile, in the land of reality, citizens of Grover's Mills, who had missed the important message early on in the broadcast stating this was a fictional presentation, barricaded themselves indoors or formed posses of shotgun-wielding citizens to fend off the invading aliens.  The tale ends with Martians falling ill to earthly germs for which they have no immunity and the Earth is once more in the safe hands of humankind.

While Grover's Mill residents understandably felt embarrassed for their hysterics, in 1988 the Township of West Windsor, where Grover's Mill is located, commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the broadcast with a bronze statue to honor the interplanetary war that never was.

Today, mischief night is not quite so clever. Morristown residents are used to the common shenanigans of the night such as toilet paper in their trees, ding-dong ditches, and general spookiness. Perhaps no mischief night will ever be as iconic and spooky as the night before Halloween in 1938.

Comments / 0

Published by

A local news source for Morristown residents - covering the news that impacts you and your neighbors.

Morristown, NJ

More from Morristown Minute

Comments / 0