In February 1949 an Ecuadorian folk song was interrupted by a Radio Quito announcer with urgent news: Martian flying saucers had landed and used death rays to destroy a town 25 miles south of Quito.

Soon a “reporter” breathlessly reported the destruction of the Ecuadorian Air Force Base near Quito before he collapsed in a cloud of “deadly gas.” Then “government officials” asked women and children to evacuate the city and able-bodied men to remain to fight the invaders.

Police and firefighters were dispatched to the airport area to confront the aliens. Military cadets were ordered to establish defensive positions around their campus.

Anticipating the end of the world, thousands of people sought absolution from their priests.

When the radio station finally announced the program was a work of fiction based on Orson Welles 1938 radio drama War of the Worlds, angry mobs burned down their building. The fire was finally extinguished but the building was destroyed. Estimates of the death toll vary from six to twenty.

Abstracted from: Cecilia Alvear