A Halloween date needs to be scary. Alas, genuine scares are hard to come by.
Movies and television shows are hokey. Haunted houses are too padded for liability reasons to feel dangerous or real. On top of it all, the vast sea of information the internet provides also kills suspension of disbelief. We’re natural born skeptics with all the evidence we need to brush off “horror” stories. How’s a guy/girl supposed to send chills down their spines these days?!
Here’s how: time travel.
This Halloween, grab some blankets, kill the lights, snuggle up with someone special, and cue up War of the Worlds, infamous writer/director/actor Orson Welles’ radio broadcast that spooked over two million people on October 30, 1938. During the original broadcast, Welles’ alien invasion radio drama sent audiences into a tizzy, prompting listeners to pack up their belongings and flee major cities. At the time, radio was the source of all information, no Googling or checking Twitter to help unsuspecting audience members realize that what they were hearing was fiction.
And Welles didn’t provide any hints that his broadcast wasn’t live news reporting. Though today’s recordings feature an introduction by Welles, the story simply picked up as alien crafts were landing on American soil. All of a sudden, instead of Welles’ usual Mercury Theatre on the Air — which War of the Worlds technically was — audiences heard the astounded voice of a radio announcer describing Martians emerging from warships. Terrifying, if you didn’t have a clue.
Listening to the recording now is a transportive experience, achieving something that accompanying visuals would take away from. It was and continues to be the Blair Witch Project of radio. If the mood is right, we guarantee Welles’ stirring adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel will have the same spine-tingling effect (minus the running for your life part). Imagination fills in the blanks, and that can be scarier than anything a haunted house will throw at you.
Matt Patches is a writer and reporter living in New York City. His work has been featured on Vulture, Time Out New York, and The Hollywood Reporter. He is the host of the pop culture podcast Operation Kino.