“Not while everyone is killing each other.” Even at four, I was stubborn.
“It’s too hot to sleep. Let’s talk about this.” Mum turned the radio off.
She grabbed a sheet and string and led me outside. I sat on the back step and watched her. She draped the sheet over a tree fern and tied a dripping hose to the top of it so that, if a breeze blew through the sheet, the air that reached us would be a little cooler.
I admired my mother’s ingenuity, convinced she was the only one who’d ever invented an air cooler. With that distraction, I stopped being afraid of the Korean War news.
“If you get frightened, don’t ever run away and hide.” Mum sat beside me. “Don’t ever climb into a fridge. If the door closes, you can’t get out.”
“I’m not silly,” I said. I did feel silly, though. Silly that Mum had seen me afraid of a radio news report.
“I know of two children who ran away because they thought the Martians were coming,” my mum said. “They hid in a dumped fridge. No one found them until the next day. They suffocated to death.”
“Oh!” Eyes wide, I shook my head. “I’d never do that.”
Then Mum told me about confidence tricksters, as she called them. That was the night I learned about the infamous radio drama The War of the Worlds.
This blog writer is author and artist Ryn Shell, creator of stories go crime, mystery, suspense, coming-of-age, love and Australia.
“We interrupt this program to announce—we are at war.”
In my writing studio, secure in the knowledge that we are not about to be invaded by Martians or Hitler, I listened to the broadcast my mother and her friends heard, without prior notice that it was a radio drama.
As I listened, I jotted down this flow of events. They are not an accurate transcript, just fragments I thought I was hearing as I listened. I was trying to put myself in the position of the unprepared listener, years ago. A scientist speaks of a disturbance on the surface of Mars. … “The people of Grover’s Mill… burnt to death... national emergency.” …
“Ladies and Gentleman, I have grave news for you… has ended in one of the most shocking… communications are down between… highways are clogged… police cannot control… mad flight.”
… “Citizens of the nation, I shall not try to conceal the gravity of the… urgent need of calm… in the meantime, placing out faith in God...” “Just a moment, please, ladies and gentlemen… Fire!” The radio broadcast emits the sounds of heavy gunfire and a man shouts, “Fire!”
Then target coordinates are given; there are battle sounds and sound effects of heavy weapons being fired are heard.
“What is it? Put on gas masks.” More heavy gunfire sounds. Then, coughing and gunfire sound effects. Coughing — scraping noise — coughing.
—Silence— Then listeners hear a plane and what sounds like a radio transmission from a pilot in his cockpit lining up on the enemy target. The pilot is describing a dense fog hanging over the ground. “The aliens… evident objective is New York City… ready to strike. 1,000 yards, and we’ll be over the first… 800 yards, 600… 400… 200. There they go. There are… flames… engine’s gone… we’re crashing.” … A deep voice declares, “Warning, poisonous black cloud…” … “Stay away from…” … “I am speaking to you from the roof of broadcast building… people are moving out…” … “Our army… everything wiped out.” “People are holding service… in the Cathedral.” “The enemy… crossing the river... Martians!” ... “This is the end… smoke... Now… they are running. People dropping into the river — like rats… people running… falling like flies.”
Coughing audio effects “The heat!” We hear a sound; assume it is the speaker falling. … Radio silence and then a metal scraping noise… … “2X2 calling New York… is there anyone in New York… is there anyone?”