Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grover's Mill, NJ

This is Van Nest Park in Grover's Mill, NJ, the landing site of the Martians.  It was the night before Halloween, October 30th 1938 when twelve million people tuned in to Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players adaption of H.G. Well's "War of the Worlds" for radio and created what is known as the "Night that Panicked America."

Susan and Rob bought the album years ago and heard the entire radio broadcast and Rob was just curious to see the town, so they first drove there in 2006.  They made the repeat trip this Memorial Day weekend at my request. 

The radio show, done as a news program, had all the markings of realism, especially if you tuned into the show about 10 minutes late when you would have missed the announcement about the Mercury Theatre and its theme music. People who tuned in after that heard only Ramon Raquello conducting his orchestra with an announcement that there were several explosions on Mars and that these were gases and headed toward Earth.  It wasn't long before another interruption, this time an interview with Professor Pearson from Princeton (played by Orson Welles) and shortly after that the Martians landing in Grover's Mill, not too far from Princeton.  It wasn't until the end of the broadcast that Mr. Welles provided a disclaimer saying that it was just a holiday radio show, but by then it was too late. 

Water Tower
The site was actually picked by producer Howard Koch by sticking a pencil in a map and coming up with Grover's Mill.  He plotted the advance of the Martians to New York City with radio announcements to back up their story.  People started flooding the local police stations with calls for any news that they could find.  Back in Grover's Mill, residents grabbed their guns and opened fire on a water tower thinking that it was one of the Martians. 

The monument was placed here in 1988 and every once in a while a celebration of the broadcast is held.  One year included a Martian ball.  

But there is a little bit of history to the town.  There actually was mill, operated by Daniel Wolsey in 1757,  It passed through several owners until it was bought in 1868 by John H. Grover.  It would stay in the Grover family until 1929 when Charles L, Dey buys the mill and the surrounding 40 acres of land and 5 houses.  Along with his brother, William T. Denison, Dey founds the Grover's Mill Company.  It is run by the Denisons until 1963.  In 1974 Jay and Robert Schwartz buy the mill from the Denisons.  It is renovated  to hold their graphic arts company.  In 1975, Art Gallery opens.

In 1976, Grover's Mill Pond is donated by the Denison family and in 1994 the mill became the home of Elizabeth and Mark Schulman.  After that, I have no research, but the pic in 2006 looked as if the mill was operating again.

Grover's Mill Company, 2006
Grover's Mill Pond, 2006
The town was quiet on the Sunday we drove in, just some fishing in the pond and a few people hanging out picnicking, but that was it.   So if you live close by, you can check out this small town where the Martians landed and caused havoc in 1938. 
I have lots of links this time including the actual 1938 Mercury Theatre radio show:

From the Mercury Theatre website.  This is the actual radio show that panicked America that night before Halloween on October 30, 1938.  If you go back to the original site, you can listen to any one of the shows that came before or after this one.

Roadside America article:

Everything you always wanted to know about any version of War of the Worlds.  If you click on the bar that say Radio, you will see some pics of Orson Welles and learn more about the broadcast.   On the right side there is a pic of the mill and the word Miscellaneous.  If you click here, you'll learn more of the history of the town.  There is a timeline as well.  A very interesting and informative site.

the script of the radio broadcast

Grover's Mill Pond, 2011


  1. Another cool blog, clyde!! I am listening to the original broadcast as I write this. I don't think I ever heard the entire broadcast before. Grover's Mill looks like a very tranquil small town.

  2. Great blog, Clyde! I learned a lot, and Grover's Mill sounds like a nice place to visit!