Nowadays, with everyone and their six-year-old nephew having their own YouTube channel and new additions to social media like Facebook Live, seeing unexpected interruptions happen before your eyes is really nothing new or even surprising. But when a sudden break in normal broadcasting happens on a more formal platform such as a news channel or a professional broadcast, it can leave us with an eerie and disturbing feeling. That’s because it’s unsettling when something strange happens to a network or company that we associate with authority. The feeling that we get is that they are weak or at least, capable of being vulnerable and since they are more powerful than us, the little guys, it gives us the feeling that we could also be in danger, more so even. It can also set off alarm bells on a larger level. “What is happening around us? Are we safe?”
We scoured the WWW for fifteen of the most spine-chilling broadcast interruptions that take “we now interrupt this broadcast” to a new and alarming level. Some are confusing, some are bizarre and creepy and others are downright terrifying. Sit back, prepare to enter the Twilight Zone of broadcasting and get ready to put on an archaic DVD after this list. Trust us, you’ll be ready for some non-interruptible entertainment when you’re through.
15. UVB-76 “The Buzzer” Still Has Us Asking Many Questions
This is another signal intrusion that you may have heard of already but I’ll try to provide some information you may not have known before. The first known broadcast came in 1973 and its significance was as mysterious as it was annoying. At a rate of approximately 25 buzzes per minute, playing 24 hours per day, people reported picking up this strange frequency on their radios. The buzzing with brief pauses in between was so odd that people kept listening. And what they heard when the buzzing finally stopped, is truly chilling. A man’s voice, in Russian, gives a list of what sounds like coordinates, followed by several names. Here is the message that was stated after the buzzing on December 24, 1997: “Ya UVB-76, Ya UVB-76. 180 08 BROMAL 74 27 99 14. Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 7 4 2 7 9 9 1 4.” What does it mean? A hit list? A very strange shout out? Are Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna and Larisa still alive to let us know? We may never know.
14. Backward Music Station
The backward music station has been the subject of many debates. It was only available via short wave band stations but the interesting thing was that it came through on several different frequencies, disrupting normal broadcasting for many channels. The bizarre sounds stopped back in 2004 and people were as surprised and confused by the end of the sounds as they were grateful that the assault on their eardrums had ended. Why the sudden end? Some people swear it was aliens trying to tell us something while others think Lincompex was involved (a very complicated and scientific form of radio communications) while a group of skeptics believed it was simply feedback from Navy ships’ communication equipment. Well, feedback from Navy ships isn’t very interesting. Besides, isn’t the sound way too eerie to have a logical explanation? The horrible screeching tune sounds like it belongs in a sci-fi horror movie. What do you think the explanation is?
13. Zombie Outbreak Emergency Radio Broadcast
I’m not a betting person but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that even the biggest Walking Dead fan known to Indiana as well as mankind wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a break in their normal radio broadcast stating that the undead had been spotted walking around and not to approach them if anyone came into contact with an undead being as they are considered dangerous and armed… with a serious hankering for brains. But that’s what happened earlier this year. On March 1st, the radio station WZZY 98.3’s emergency alert system was hacked and warnings for a “zombie emergency” were heard in place of the regularly scheduled broadcasting for those listening to WZZY in Randolph County, Indiana. Police later found out how it happened; the station’s firewall had been hacked. But the question of who remains. And why? We’d like to believe it was nothing more than an elaborate prank rather than someone who enjoys spreading fear for his/her own amusement. That had to be one terrifying broadcast interruption to listen to.
12. The Wow! Signal Gives Us Scientific Proof That Aliens Do Exist
It all started at Ohio State University in August of ’77 when a group of students, working on the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project, noticed a narrowband radio signal coming through unusually loud and clear, with significant strength to the Big Ear telescope that the University housed. The university thought that it had the markings of extraterrestrial communication and brought in American astronomer Jerry R. Ehman, who took a look at the data, which read, “6EQUJ5.” While this series of numbers and letters doesn’t look like anything special to us laypeople, it apparently impressed the heck out of Ehman. When he saw it, he wrote “Wow!” in the column next to the data, hence the name of this incident. The significance of the data implies that the message came from the constellation of Sagittarius. Wow! indeed. Whether or not aliens were truly trying to communicate with us back in August of ’77 hasn’t been confirmed or denied but sources admit that this remains one of the strongest cases that there is life in outer space.
11. Looney Larry Loses It Over SpongeBob Squarepants
Here’s a case of children being subjected to something unfit for little eyes. On September 25, 2014, a man successfully hacked into Nickelodeon’s satellite network from a small town in Wisconsin and the SpongeBob episode entitled “A Pal For Gary” faded out to reveal a slow dripping faucet, then the camera pans to a keyboard and then to a frazzled young guy with long brown hair and old school glasses in some kind of basement or laundry room cluttered up with electronics. In a breaking voice that is surely the stuff nightmares are made of, he says, “Hi, I’m Looney Larry.” Throughout the rant, which lasts only about one minute (though it’s one minute too long!), he references the show, curses the network, tells viewers not to watch it, hobbles around on one crutch, mimics masturbation and attempts to smash SpongeBob Squarepants DVDs with the end of the crutch. Needless to say, it’s very disturbing.
10. Man Calls In Radio Show To Squeal Secrets About Area 51 And The Line Mysteriously Goes Dead
On September 11, 1997, Art Bell, host of a syndicated radio talk show that specializes in discussing paranormal topics, Coast to Coast AM, received a call from a man who sounded to be in great distress. At the beginning of the call, Art seems to think it may be a hoax and tries to see if the man is being sincere. Eventually, Art coaxes information out of the caller who said that he was a former Area 51 employee who was recently let go due to a medical discharge. The caller then says that he has been on the run and doesn’t have much time because “they” (the government) will locate his position soon so he quickly starts spilling what sounds like top secrets. The government knows about disasters that are coming, they want big populations in major cities wiped out so that the few left will be easier to control and then… he abruptly stops speaking and the station’s connection is lost. Moments later, Coast to Coast AM is running on a back-up system. Eerie AF. Does anyone else feel arguments for government conspiracy theories strengthening?
9. The Columbia University Radio Station Creep Out
In 2013, a poster who goes by “Anonymous” on the popular site, 4chan, wrote about an incident that happened back in 1994 or 1995 when the poster was a young teenager. He or she would stay up late at night as most teenagers do, listening to the radio on a radio/tape player that had the ability to record. Anytime she/he came across a song or radio show of interest, the poster would hit record. One night, something very disturbing was caught on an old mixtape. It definitely sounds like a signal intrusion as it cuts off the song that was previously playing. The poster went on to write that an announcer later came back on and stated that the station was WKCR, out of New York and she/he later found it is the radio station for Columbia University. You can scare yourself silly and listen to it here but be warned: its chilling sound is one that stays with you.
8. Russia Today Network Hijacks C-Span Show
It was a confusing moment in early January of 2017 for C-Span viewers who tuned into the popular news channel. One minute, they were listening to Representative Maxine Waters talk about the regulations for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the next thing they knew, they were seeing Russia Today promote trips to San Escobar before a Russia Today news host began speaking. This intrusion lasted for about ten minutes before C-Span was able to resume its normal broadcasting. Alarm bells for some went off when the details of a declassified report suggested that Russia was interfering with the election and claimed that Russia Today was aiming to undermine viewers. Others have suggested that the strange interruption could have been a routing error but with all of the suggestions about Russia’s ties with the recent U.S. presidential election, it’s hard not to buy into the hacked theory.
7. When TV News Reporter Christine Chubbuck Shot Herself Live On The Air
On July 15, 1974, people living in Sarasota, Florida who happened to have their TV sets tuned to ABC’s Channel 40 were in for the shock of their lives when they saw popular local reporter Christine Chubbuck say, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first-attempted suicide.” Then sadly, Christine did just that. She pulled a revolver from the news desk (previously hidden from view), aimed it at her temple, pulled the trigger and fell from her chair. Quickly, the station’s engineers faded to a screen stating, “Technical Difficulties.” That’s one way of putting it. As you can probably guess, Christine had battled depression for years. Her family later said that they took her unfulfilling personal life to be the main cause of her depression. Christine had been in very few relationships, was a virgin on her thirtieth birthday and was told that it was unlikely she would ever be able to have children. Channel 40 viewers flooded the station with calls after Christine interrupted her own broadcast. People even believed it was some kind of bizarre hoax or stunt.
6. HBO’s Sky-High Rates Forced Captain Midnight’s Technologically-Skilled Hand
Some people think of John MacDougall as an airtime thief, a slanderous criminal. Others find him heroic. After all, how often does the average Joe Schmoe get to pull off a fantastic feat, figuratively stickin’ it to the man and give themselves a cool superhero name in the process? Not very often but John MacDougall aka “Captain Midnight” did just that. But first, let’s rewind all the way to 1986 when HBO was something of a pioneer in its day, nickel-and-diming viewers by charging a subscription on top of the cable fees everyone was already paying for. Many people grumbled and moaned about the extra charge. But John had something else to lose in this as he owned a satellite dish small business. A little after midnight in ’86, John used a giant transmission dish and an electronic keyboard to float the message, “Good Evening HBO from Captain Midnight. $12.95 a month? No Way! (Showtime/The Movie Channel beware.)” Captain Midnight was tracked down thanks to the FCC and satellite signals but today, he says he has no regrets. Still, it’s an unsettling feeling to see something come across your screen that isn’t supposed to be there.
5. Playboy Channel Protest
Back on September 6, 1987, viewers tuning into Playboy’s network of girls, girls and nothing but girls got an unexpected and surely unwelcome surprise. Not just something other than girls but a religious message on a blacked out screen that covered the movie that Playboy was airing called Three Daughters. The white text said, “Thus sayeth the Lord thy God. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” They are Bible verses from Matthew 4:17 and Exodus 20:8.
Now this story is a little different in that the perpetrator of the signal intrusion was actually caught. Thomas Haynie of Virginia, an engineer at the Christian Broadcasting Network, was charged with satellite piracy in 1990. Though Haynie has always maintained that he is innocent of the charges he was convicted of, investigators felt that the particular verses he chose and the way the signal was interrupted was indicative of the way the Christian Broadcasting Network worked. What makes this hack chilling is the fact that Haynie felt so compelled to take elaborate steps to spread the message. We’d hate to think of what his next steps might include.
4. Max Headroom TV Incident Remains Unsolved As Of Today
Surely, you’ve heard of the Max Headroom incident by now, probably a few times over. But maybe I can add a few extra details here that are new to you. For those of you unaware, Max Headroom was a fictional character with a digitally enhanced voice from the 80s played by comedian Matt Frewer. On November 22, 1987, an unidentified person took over the airwaves in a rubber Max Headroom mask and tried to duplicate the background the popular character was usually seen behind with a homemade backdrop.
The signal interruption happened twice on the same evening. The first show interrupted was the WGN nine o’clock news, the second happening around two hours later during a Dr. Who episode on PBS member station WTTW. He mostly just bobbed his head without speaking during the first intrusion. But during the second one, he seemed to gain bizarre momentum. He referenced a soda commercial’s slogan and a woman whose face is not shown in a maid outfit swat his exposed behind with a flyswatter. While some may have found this amusing, there is a large number of people who are still confused and concerned about the reasons this person hacked the stations.
3. Aliens Take Over The Airwaves
Or at least that’s what they wanted us to think. On November 26, 1977, the station, Southern Television located in the United Kingdom, was hacked. A booming authoritative-sounding male voice interrupted a show where a host was reading from a news report and began a long message, declaring that he was Vrillon, representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command. He seemed to claim ownership for previous UFO sightings, saying, “For many years, you have seen us as lights in the skies.” If the message truly was from aliens, it wasn’t a mean one. Vrillon was very polite, requesting that we remove all weapons of evil and advising to be aware of false prophets and guides operating in this world. He ended the message with, “May you be blessed by the supreme love and truth of the cosmos.” Though the message wasn’t terrifying in itself, the warning behind the message was chilling in sentences like this, “You have but a short time to learn to live together in peace and goodwill.” Who was behind this signal hack is unsolved to this day.
2. We Now Interrupt This Children’s Program To Bring You Action From “The Other Industry”
If you can’t trust an innocent Disney movie to entertain your kids, is anything sacred? Sadly, it would seem that nothing is these days. An airing of Lilo and Stitch in 2012 on Dish Network was hacked by an individual or group of people who felt it was their job to teach young children about the birds and the bees in the most inappropriate, twisted and intrusive way. A pop-up message appeared during the movie stating that part of the recording had been lost due to a signal issue. Mere seconds later, a lovable tale about a girl and a plucky creature in Hawaii is replaced with hardcore porn.
Unfortunately, this is hardly an isolated incident. In 2013, the Facebook page for Peppa Pig, an animated children’s program was hacked by someone telling visitors to the page to “go to hell” while posting information about Sasha Grey, the famous porn star. In 2007, Disney’s Handy Manny was taken over and interrupted with porn for Comcast viewers. Pranks are one thing but we think that you’ll agree showing porn to kids is just sick.
1. Anti-Hezbollah Interruption During The 2006 Lebanon War
Those who follow Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon, were under attack during the 2006 Lebanon war and the opposing side, Israel, got creatively evil when thinking of ways to attack them further… through their TV screens. They did this by manipulating control of Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV station only to play many crude anti-Hezbollah messages and one disturbing image of Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, with the crosshairs of a rifle fixed over his face. Gunshot sound effects followed the threatening image along with an audio byte of a man’s voice saying, “Your day is coming.” It’s hard to imagine how terrified citizens who carry strong Hezbollah beliefs must have felt when they saw the scary hacked images in place of their normal show. But Israel wasn’t done. They took things another step further and showed images of hot spots in Lebanon getting annihilated by the Israeli Air Force.