STORY #2: CITIZEN ABDUCTION
Orson Welles is best known for his classic film, Citizen Kane, often named by critics as the best American film ever made. Welles is also famous for another classic bit of melodrama: his 1938 radio production of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Adapted and directed by Welles and starring actors of his Mercury Theatre on the Air cast, The War of the Worlds was presented (on Halloween night) as if it were a radio news broadcast of an invasion from Mars, providing on-the-scene descriptions of the huge metal monsters as they began to destroy New Jersey. Even though Welles’ show was interrupted by the usual sponsor commercials, there were many who took his fictional drama as fact, sending them into a panic at the news of Earth’s decimation by the Martians.
Welles had several ties to science fiction during his career. He was the voice of radio’s The Shadow, narrated the trailer for The Incredible Shrinking Man, and was even considered by George Lucas as the voice for Darth Vader in Star Wars.
A biography of Orson Welles published in 1982, just two years before his death, described an incident that might explain why he might have been attracted to War of the Worlds and its extraterrestrial invaders from the sky. On a September night in 1937, Welles was driving toward Los Angeles with fellow actors Everett Sloan and Ray Collins. He was to meet his cousin Laura Brinkley at a diner near Lancaster, pick her up, and continue on to Los Angeles.
Welles became concerned when his cousin was not at the diner at the agreed-upon time, however. He was about to call the authorities when he saw Laura walking toward the diner. She seemed disoriented and her coat was muddied. They took her into the diner, and she began to tell them – in a fashion Welles described as “dreamlike” – a bizarre story. She was “compelled” to wander away from the diner into the darkness, she told them, then saw two bright lights descending toward her from the sky. She remembers the lights getting close and a very “nervous” feeling in her body, and then she must have passed out because she could recall nothing else.
The owner of the diner, who was listening to the story, told Welles that his cousin had actually originally entered the diner at least a full hour before Welles arrived. He saw her walk out, but did not know why. So apparently there was nearly an hour of unexplained missing time for Laura, a mystery Welles never solved to his satisfaction.
Next page: Story #3, Pinky, the Mystery Beast