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Recreation of Orson Welles Broadcast Causes Panic in Portugal

October 30, 1988

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ A 50th-anniversary recreation of Orson Welles’ ″War of the Worlds″ radio broadcast caused panic in a region of northern Portugal on Sunday, police and radio employees said.

Residents flocked to an area outside the town of Braga where the local radio station reported aliens from Mars were landing, officials said. Others began fleeing in cars while police and fire services were alerted by scores of calls, according to news reports from the area.

Lines reportedly formed at some gas stations.

The 90-minute broadcast was a recreation of Welles’ radio dramatization of the H.G. Wells novel ″The War of the Worlds.″

On Oct. 30, 1938, the actor and director interrupted radio broadcasts in the United States with a report that Martians had landed in New Jersey. The broadcast caused panic.

In Portugal, police were called to control 150 to 200 demonstrators who gathered outside the studios of Radio Braga to protest the broadcast of the recreation of Welles’ version, said Paulo Sousa, a reporter at the station.

Sousa said the station received more than 100 calls. ″Some called to complain, some to inquire and some to offer congratulations,″ he said in a telephone interview.

Sousa said the broadcast was intended as a homage to Welles and had been well publicized previously in newspapers and on the radio station itself the day before. He said the program itself contained clues that it was fiction.

A police spokesman in Braga, who asked not to be named, confirmed police had been called to the station. He said many people believed the broadcast initially, but he added that no serious incidents were reported.