The Night The Martians Marched On Mississippi When Joe Pigott was growing up in Mississippi, he knew that his step-grandfather was an unusual man. A country doctor, "he had no sense of humor whatsoever," Pigott recalls. And then one night, the family heard a report of an invasion from Mars.
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The Night The Martians Marched On Mississippi

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The Night The Martians Marched On Mississippi

The Night The Martians Marched On Mississippi

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It's time again for StoryCorps, the national project in which loved ones interview each other and hear each other's stories - and so do we. We're about to hear what happened to one man's family 71 years ago today.

Judge Joe Pigott tells this story about his step-grandfather, a man he calls the Doctor, and his reaction to a famous radio broadcast.

Mr. JOE PIGOTT: I had an unusual step-grandfather who was a country doctor, with emphasis on country. And he had no sense of humor whatsoever, especially when it involved himself. And his only recreation was listening to the radio. When he was listening to the radio, you just did not make a sound, especially when the news was on.

Well, in 1938, on Mercury Theater on the radio, Orson Welles announced that men from Mars had landed in New Jersey.

(Soundbite of radio program, "War of the Worlds")

Mr. ORSON WELLES (Actor, Filmmaker): Those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight are the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars.

Mr. PIGOTT: And since it was New Jersey and I had an uncle in New Jersey, they thought, well, there he goes. And the program kept telling they were coming in this direction. And so the doctor told his wife let's get in the car and go over to my brother's house so we can all be together when the end comes.

So, they got in his Chevrolet automobile and drove around to his brother's house. And they began talking about it was the end of the world, and they began confessing to each other and repenting of their sins. And the more they talked, the madder they got at each other.

But along about 11 o'clock that night, one young skeptic went back into the house and turned on the radio, and he heard on the news that it was just a drama on Mercury Theater…

(Soundbite of radio program)

Unidentified Man: Were the results of a studio dramatization.

Mr. PIGOTT: Well, he walked back out into the yard where they were confessing, and he waited a few minutes before he told them that there was nothing to it, that it was just a big hoax. Doctor and his wife were convinced that it must have been something to it, because they had smelled on the way over there this rubber burning, and they figured that was the scent of it. They later found out he had driven all the way over there with the emergency brake on.

Anyway, they drove back home without the Doctor saying a word. This story was told over and over within the family, but Doctor never saw any humor to it at all and would get up and leave in a huff anytime anyone began to repeat it.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Joe and Lorraine Pigott at StoryCorps in Jackson, Mississippi. Their story and all the others will be archived at the Library of Congress.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Unidentified Man: The 17th and his weekly series of dramatic broadcasts…

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