I always think about Orson Welles this time of year. For me, Halloween is associated with his War of the Worlds radio broadcast, which caused a national panic on October 30, 1938.
My family had the show on a "Golden Age of Radio" record album, and it spooked me as a kid. Welles staged the story of a Martian invasion as if it were happening in real time, and a million listeners took the bait. A lot of them packed up their belongings and fled their homes. Others flocked to police stations, seeking refuge. Some people actually ran around with clothing pressed to their mouths so they wouldn't inhale the Martians' poison smoke.
Americans felt duped the next day, when they realized the Earth had survived the hour-long broadcast by CBS's Mercury Theatre on the Air. The government launched an investigation, and Congress threatened to censor radio broadcasts. The Wisconsin State Journal's front-page headline was typical of newspapers around the world: "Hysteria Sweeps Country as Radio Hoax Describes Invasion by Mars Giants!"
Welles was a 23-year-old Wisconsin native, born in Kenosha and schooled in Madison. Listen to an audio commentary on his War of the Worlds broadcast, a prelude to his sensational movie debut with Citizen Kane. It originally aired on Wisconsin Public Radio's Wisconsin Life.