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10.30.13

David Acord

(2 Hours, 10 Minutes)


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Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the legendary 'War of the Worlds' radio broadcast of 10/30/1938, BoA:Audio welcomes author David Acord for a discussion on his new book, When Mars Attacked, which details the infamous Orson Welles program that set off a panic throughout America. Over the course of the conversation, we discuss Welles' remarkable childhood, early life, and rise to fame as well as the explosion of radio as the hot form of media in the 1930's. We also find out about all the various elements which came together to make the War of the Worlds panic happen and David separates the facts from the fiction as to what actually happened on 10/30/1938 and what the intent behind it was. Additionally, we examine conspiracy theories surrounding the broadcast as well as connections between War of the Worlds and the UFO phenomenon.

Altogether this is an episode which will likely provide BoA:Audio listeners with a wealth of new information on the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast which has entrenched itself in urban legend, paranormal lore, and pop culture history for the last 75 years as David Acord tells us about When Mars Attacked.

Full Preview: We begin with the standard bio / background on David Acord and how his interests led him to write When Mars Attacked. He details how his book aims to tell the actual story of the legendary broadcast and shed light on how and why it was actually created. The discussion then turns to Orson Welles and his heartbreaking but strange and apocryphal childhood and early life. Honing in on some finer details that David mentions in the book, we find out about Welles' estranged brother Richard as well as the mystery of his daughter named 'Christopher.'

We then take the conversation to the origins of radio and how its rise mirrored later media like television and the internet. David tells us about how radios went from being a distraction for hobbyists to a mass media juggernaut. He then weaves Welles' life into the evolution of radio and tells us how he hoped to bring Broadway-style entertainment to the new media. We also marvel at Welles' amazing work ethic as he balanced between radio and theater stardom. Smashing the timeline, we briefly jump ahead to the downfall of Orson Welles and how remarkable it is as we are talking about his prodigious early life.

Setting the stage for the War of the Worlds broadcast, David talks about the confluence of world and weird events which laid the groundwork for how people reacted to the broadcast. We learn about a strange meteor flap which happened in the Summer before the broadcast and how, since there was no flying saucer phenomenon yet, may have provided an initial kernel for folks to start thinking about 'things' coming from space. The examination of the era continues as we talk about how the concept of 'breaking news' was a completely new concept to the people of the time and, thus, took all such broadcasts as total truth because they almost always were.

Next we focus in on 10/30/1938 and start by talking about how famed format of the broadcast was actually the result of tremendous last-minute tinkering and serendipity. David then does a masterful job of dismantling the legend that the broadcast was a purposeful hoax designed to fool the public. We also talk about how, contrary to the popular mythos surrounding War of the Worlds, the broadcast was not on a highly rated radio program and never actually claimed to be 100% real and even notified listeners at various intervals that it was a presentation.

This leads to David detailing how, by virtue of a boring competitor, the War of the Worlds broadcast picked up a massive audience a few minutes into the program and missing the opening to the show. Additionally, he clarifies why not finding news about the 'invasion' on other stations during the broadcast wasn't a particularly impossible scenario for listeners of the time. Looking at the situation from the studio, we find out how much and, if so, at what point the actors knew about the panic unfolding during the program.

The conversation then turns towards the aftermath of the broadcast and why newspapers hyped up the hysteria surrounding the broadcast. David tells us about the press conference held the following day by Welles where he explains what happened the previous night. He also provides some perspective on the real post-WoW frenzy as opposed to the urban legends as well as what the actual listenership was for the program that night. He also details the 'Paul Revere Effect' and how it played a critical role in the panic that spread that night. He then shares a couple of stories of actual panic as well as a hilarious letter one man sent to the FCC to praise the program.

We then look at how the public perception of the event changed from fear to embarrassment to anger to appreciation over the course of day, weeks, and months. David details how one influential columnist helped sway the tide for Welles when she praised him for showing the potential dangers of the mass media. This leads to some fourth-wall breaking talk about how, even today, the public is still susceptible to a War of the Worlds type panic. Returning to the original WoW broadcast, we look at the longstanding theories that the program was orchestrated to study mass hysteria or part of a larger conspiracy theory.

Heading toward the close, we talk about the connection between the later explosion of interest in the UFO phenomenon in that the WoW broadcast may have planted the seed for mainstream discussion about the possibility for aliens visiting Earth. In light of the much-theorized UFO cover-up at work in America, we ponder how much the War of the Worlds panic influenced that policy decision as well as how it may have set the stage for the giggle factor used to besmirch UFO witnesses. Putting a bow on the War of the Worlds broadcast, we learn about how Welles responded to the infamy surrounding the story in his later years. Wrapping up the conversation, we find out where folks can pick up when Mars Attacked as well as what might be next for David Acord.




David Acord Bio

David Acord is the author of When Mars Attacked: Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds and the Radio Broadcast That Changed America Forever. He is an accomplished author and veteran Washington, D.C. journalist. He spent more than a decade covering complex federal regulations in the nationís capitol for various business publications. He also served as managing editor and editor-in-chief, respectively, for two international business publishing firms. He is currently the director of communications and executive editor for a national trade association in the D.C. area.

David is also the author of What Would Lincoln Do? Lincoln's Most Inspired Solutions to Challenging Problems and Difficult Situations (Sourcebooks, 2008) and Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons from the Master Detective (Penguin Perigee, 2011). He lives in Arlington, Virginia. He received his BFA from Arkansas Tech University in 1993 and his MFA in English from Penn State University in 1996.


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