The Night the HighLine Panicked

“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the latest bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. It is reported that at 8:50 P. M. a huge, flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey, twenty-two miles from Trenton.” News flashes, like this one were being broadcast over the speaker provided by HighLine’s Tim Morales.  “Both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight,” the announcements continued, “are a vanguard of an invading army from Mars!”

HighLine Passer-Byers stopped to hear the “news” after catching an eye on Rori Baldari’s poster; they proceeded to walk over to our telescopes and lined up, to see for themselves, the planet Mars. “At least seven thousand men armed with rifles and machine guns pitted against a single fighting machine were all wiped out in New Jersey,” as the news flashes continued.

Carey Horwitz was ever on the lookout for Martian tripod machines lined up on the New Jersey horizon across from the Hudson, looking perhaps “like [men] waiting to cross a brook.” The HighLine was “frantic” with human traffic, listening for more “news” and waiting their turn at the telescope to see the home of the invaders for themselves.

In keeping with the spirit of the 80th Anniversary of the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, and as people waited their turn at the telescope, I was showing some old photos of Mars from the period of the broadcast and prior.  It was a comparison of photos and sketches made by the author and American astronomer, Earl Slipher, along with sketches from his mentors, Percival Lowell. The latter being the one who started it all, being fascinated by what appeared to be a network of lines running along the surface of Mars, Lowell attributed them to the work of intelligent beings. Slipher hoped to “prove” the reality of these canals to the reader by inserting actual prints of photos and sketches so the reader could then judge the reality of the canals for themselves. These photos were showcased and had gotten some interesting reactions from the Passerbys.

It was great having some visuals, for those patiently waiting to look through the telescopes. Even just showing the public pictures as they waited their turn is fun and informative. Mars returns for another close approach in October 2020. Interestingly it is the only planet in the solar system with a population solely of robots on its surface. Could these robots someday unite and plot against us? Perhaps in 2038 on the 100th anniversary of the War of the Worlds broadcast.