“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Carl Phillips again, out at the Wilmuth farm, Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Professor Pierson and myself made the eleven miles from Princeton in ten minutes. Well, I—I hardly know where to begin to paint for you a word picture of the strange scene before my eyes, like something out of a modern “Arabian Nights.”
“Well, I just got here. I haven’t had a chance to look around yet. I guess that’s it. Yes, I guess—that’s the thing, directly in front of me, half buried in a vast pit. Must have struck with terrific force. The ground is covered with splinters of a tree it must have struck on its way down. What I can see of the object itself doesn’t look very much like a meteor, at least not the meteors I have seen. It looks more like a huge cylinder.”
The words above were broadcast on the evening of October 30, 1938, as part of a radio drama adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic <i>The War of the Worlds</i>. The performance, presented by actor and filmmaker Orson Welles, consisted of simulated news bulletins reporting on the crash landing and subsequent invasion of Earth by Martians.
In an era before news and information could be quickly and easily verified, and in a country tense during the buildup to World War II, some listeners believed the fictional broadcast was of a real event. Although many stories of widespread panic and chaos have been debunked over the years, the broadcast did resonate with many Americans and some were legitimately afraid. The program was accused of being deceptive, leading to calls for stricter regulations to prevent similar scares from occurring in the future.
In 1988, the unincorporated community of Grover’s Mill—the very real town featured as the landing site of the very fictional Martian invasion—erected an eight-foot high bronze monument to this unique event in broadcasting history. Inscribed with a description of the evening and a rendering of the alien craft from the story, the monument stands in a quiet location near a pond.
Know Before You Go
The monument is located in a field in Van Nest Park, on the south side of Cranbury Road just east of Clarksville Road. Interpretive signs in the part also tell the story of the broadcast.