In 1938 radio was still a new but exciting medium for Americans. On Sunday evening October 30 of that year, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast a radio drama that was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The broadcast was intended as a pre-Halloween prank on what was known as mischief night.
Wells’ story of a Martian invasion of Earth was interwoven into a live musical radio show and presented as news flashes during the hour-long broadcast.
The fictional story of Martians landing on Earth had an impact few could have imagined at the time. Despite periodic announcements that the broadcast was fiction, a national panic resulted from the broadcast as some of the estimated 6 million listeners mis-took the drama for an actual newscast. This panic was documented in newspapers at the time, but some later historians claim that the panic story was overblown. What is not disputed is the connection to New Jersey. In the broadcast adaptation of Wells’ novel, the Martians landed in the New Jersey town of Grover’s Mill.
Grover’s Mill is a small unincorporated hamlet within West Windsor Township. The role of Grover’s Mill in the fictional Martian invasion led the local government to erect a monument to the invasion in Van Nest Park located at 218 Cranbury Road (CR 615). West Windsor Township commissioned a bronze plaque to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the broadcast.
This town and park is located in Mercer County not far from the state capitol in Trenton and is free to explore. In addition to the monument to an invasion that never happened, the park offers fishing on Grover’s Mill Pond and children’s play sets.