T'was the night before Halloween, the year was 1938 everyone was tuning in to listen to their regularly schedule broadcast by a well known theater group. It was announced repeatedly that the following was an adaption from HG Wells' famous War of the Worlds. What happens next? The world pretty much falls to chaos. Of course leave it to Americans to take the slightest bit of information and make it a national catastrophe. I would have expected as much in those days. People were throwing themselves out their apartment, even the people living in the areas mentioned in the episode, who you think would have been able to look outside and see nothing of the sort, were committing suicide. Terrified citizens tied up every phone line trying to reach family or the police. (Would have been the best day to pull that heist you were planning) At the end of the broadcast Orson Wells wrapped it up with his own eerie way of saying "Happy Halloween everyone" and America kind of paused a moment, pretty dumbfounded I'd say. Despite the reaction, it was a brilliantly executed and the first to ever be done as if it were a real new broadcast. This shaped many of the movies we see today. All those movies that are "found footage" or filmed from the perspective of cast themselves are the influence of Wells.
The radio show adaptation in 1938, along with the 1953 film from Paramount Pictures all happened on the cusp of war. For the radio show it was World War II. But when they finally released the film in 1953 the old War was in full swing. So it served as a great distraction for many. And no one threw themselves from their apartment building so that's a plus.