Google goes UFO spotting again… this time to mark the birthday of H.G. Wells, an author whose name is forever associated with alien invasions, as well as conspiracies involving government secrecy and plots to condition the public to a UFO threat.

Though Google has recently been on a tangent of replacing their popular logo with images involving saucers and alien craft, the imagery depicted in today’s Wells tribute actually shows us something else. Indeed, along with the flying saucer hovering in the foreground of the image, two other craft visible to the sides of the image display long, spindly legs, representing the “tripod” land craft used by Martian invaders in Wells’ 1898 book War of the Worlds.

With its unique journalistic prose style, War of the Worlds lent itself well to the use of another Wells; on October 30th 1938, Orson Wells directed and narrated a live radio broadcast of the “invasion”. Famously (or infamously, to be politically correct here) panic ensued during and after the broadcast, as many listeners had heard only a portion of the broadcast, causing an outbreak of people fleeing their homes in terror. Many even claimed they had smelled poison gas or “could see flashes of lightning in the distance” as they evacuated, fearing an actual Martian invasion.

Though records of the affected members of the audience are still a point of speculation, it has been suggested that some six million heard the CBS broadcast, 1.7 million believed it to be true, and 1.2 million were ‘genuinely frightened’ “. In decades following the infamous event, conspiracy theorists have suggested that the true intent of the broadcast was to use people’s reactions to gauge behavior in the instance of an actual attack.

H.G. Wells was a prolific writer in many genres, including contemporary novels, history, and social commentary. By later life, he had adopted sentiments that were very socialist and a pacifist, and many of his later works became similarly politically-driven. In 1933 he published a book titled The Shape of Things to Come in which he speculates on future events that lead up to visions of a fictional year 2106. Wells’s belief in an almighty “world state” as the solution to mankind’s problems is evident throughout. Thus, this notion that Orson Wells’ reading may have been intended as a sort of ritual “conditioning” by governing bodies who seek to control the masses is strangely in keeping with the ultimate desires and motives expressed in his writing.

Whatever the political undertones may have been in the case of War of the Worlds, it seems the longer-lasting appeal gained by any fictional elements in Wells’ work stems from the long-legged “tripods”, inspiring a variety of artistic renditions and re-inventions in print and film over the years (see image at right). Interesting that the tripods showed up today (in lieu of all the UFO sightings on Google’s homepage as of late) along with Google’s own flying saucer. A new mascot, perhaps? Or, is the real invasion taking place electronically? Perhaps one of the many UFOs appearing on Google Earth has finally infiltrated the company, intermittently taking over their logo imagery, thus arousing speculation as to what their real intent is. A conspiracy indeed…

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Author: Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, researcher, and podcaster. His interests include areas of history, science, archaeology, philosophy, and the study of anomalous phenomena in nature. He can be reached at