Martians invade Summit County’s radio waves |

Martians invade Summit County’s radio waves

Kimberly Nicoletti

“Good heavens, something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake,” the newscaster said. “Now it’s another one, and another. They look like tentacles to me. There, I can see the thing’s body. It’s large as a bear and it glistens like wet leather. But that face. It … it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate. … I’m pulling this microphone with me as I talk. I’ll have to stop the description until I’ve taken a new position. Hold on, will you please, I’ll be back in a minute.”

On Oct. 30, 1938, Americans hid in cellars, loaded guns, packed to leave the country and even wrapped their heads in wet towels to protect themselves from Martians that possessed citizens by osmosis. The mass hysteria began when newscasters interrupted dance music with news bulletins reporting that a huge flaming object had landed near Grovers Mill, N.J.

Scores of people missed the brief explanation that the broadcast was Orson Welles’ adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds,” and they panicked, thinking cyclops-eyed Martians would soon take over their bodies. News of the panic generated calls for government regulations of broadcasting, and Congress investigated the radio drama for intentionally misleading the public.

Martians attack mountain towns

The government didn’t take any action to regulate broadcasting, leaving Summit County airwaves vulnerable to a similar attack.

“Seeing how there’s a Martian spaceport hidden at the bottom of Lake Dillon, I think it’s very apropos that we’re doing this show while the lake is being lowered due to forces of nature,” Breckenridge resident Lee Edwards said.

Edwards’ allegations of an alien presence in Dillon could not be verified by press time, but sources have confirmed that descriptions of the Martian attack will air on Krystal 93 at 8 p.m. Sunday.

However, Backstage Theatre artistic director Jeremy Cole said he doubts the broadcast of Martian invasions will create mass hysteria in Summit County.

“They could have arrived in Heeney,” Cole said. “It could have been fun, but we’d have to rewrite the whole thing.”

Locals describe Martian attack

Instead of rewriting the script, Cole brought “The War of the Worlds” home by making it neo-realistic, pairing roles with people in the community who worked at similar jobs.

“I couldn’t get the secretary of interior, but I got Tim Gagen, who’s the Breckenridge town manager,” Cole said.

“It gives us a chance to hear local people and not just obscure actors,” Summit Daily News editor Whitney Childers said. “They’re voices that you know that live and work in the community.”

Colorado Mountain College instructor Tom Hart relives his experience of the Martian attack as a professor of astronomy who informs the media.

“People will be able to experience this with their imagination,” Hart said.

“It’s an interesting concept,” said Bonnie Smith-Allen, owner of Exclusive Mountain Retreats. “We’re dealing with the senses here – with a sense we don’t use frequently.”

The radio drama recreates past programming, when theater dominated the air waves.

“I think it’s going to be very nostalgic for a lot of people,” Backstage Theatre programming director Sarah Tschirpke said. “There’s kind of a romantic idea about the whole thing.”

“People like to look back at what their parents and grandparents experienced before television,” said Deb Edwards, executive director of the Summit Foundation.

Many of the actors recall hearing or watching “The War of the Worlds” in their youth.

“I remember listening to it way, way long ago,” Gagen said. “I thought it was pretty scary. It just fit right into this new focus I had as a kid of creating a whole new world in a book.”

“It was the first movie that scared the wee-jeezus out of me,” Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales said. “I’d go outside to make sure these things weren’t coming.”

“What’s interesting about it is that it’s a play that turned into reality,” Gagen said.

“At the time it came out, “The War of the Worlds’ had such a huge cultural impact,” Childers said. “It was such a memorable entertainment piece in our history, to recreate it in Summit County will be a lot of fun.”

S and Martians may begin a trend

“We’re hoping that it comes off well enough that we can do radio theater a couple times a year,” said Tony Mauro, programming director of Krystal 93.

Cole said he would like to perform radio theater on Halloween and Christmas Eve.

“The War of the Worlds” is a fund raiser for the Backstage Theatre. Between acts, people may make pledges to convert Shamus O’Toole’s Roadhouse Saloon into a space for theater.

“Tune in – live theater has it’s wonderful moments,” Lee Edwards said.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at

“The War of the Worlds”

-When: 7 p.m. Sunday, June 2

-Where: Tune into KYSL at 93.9 FM

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