We live in an era of wholesale mass communication, with our lives practically dominated by TV, radio, and other forms of entertainment and news that we pluck from the air with what would have been considered magic in more ancient times. Our world is currently absolutely saturated in radio and television waves crisscrossing unseen all over the globe, and for almost as long as these have existed there have been mysterious, shadowy parties who would seek to infiltrate this spiderweb of networks and hitchhike on the backs of these signals for their own, often inscrutable, purposes. No place is safe from such intrusions, and it seems that we can be reached by nefarious individuals right in the inner sanctum of our own living rooms and quite against our will. I have written of this phenomenon as it relates to TV here at Mysterious Universe before, as well as similar phenomena on the airwaves as well but the cases of this happening are numerous, and so here we go again on another trip along the strange and often creepy airwaves of our planet.
The earliest of the strange broadcast occurrences we will be looking at here happened all the way back in 1966 in the U.S.S.R., and was rather dangerous in the fact that it could have quite possibly triggered a catastrophic nuclear war. The incident apparently happened in the city of Kaluga, where a regular broadcast was suddenly interrupted by a seemingly official emergency warning that declared that nuclear war had just broken out with the United States. Since this was at the height of the Cold War and fears of nuclear attacks on both sides were high the bizarre transmission was taken quite serious by the locals, with panicked people running for cover and saying their last prayers, and if higher ups had taken it seriously it could have very well triggered the very horrific event it was hoaxing. It was found that an unidentified teenager had been the one to hack the station as a prank, although who it was has never been made official and could have been merely a cover up, perhaps by someone with extremist tendencies within the government who really wanted the war to happen.
This would certainly not be the only ominous transmission of foreboding to come out over the airwaves over the years. In June of 2007, a show called Panorama was being aired in the Czech city of Prague as part of the station’s regular programming. The show itself is meant as a sort of tourist program to display calm and scenic areas around the country, yet the intruding scene that was to suddenly unfold was far from either of these things. This particular episode started as usual, with long, lingering shots of picturesque locales around Prague when the screen was suddenly bathed in a blinding flash, after which a mushroom cloud can be seen climbing into the sky above.
It was extremely alarming at the time, because the show was usually aired live, meaning that terrified viewers at home were convinced that a nuclear strike had just happened as they watched. It was all so realistic that even government officials and authorities believed that a nuclear strike had actually just gone down, and as soon as they realized that this was not really the case and calmed down somewhat they began their investigation to find the perpetrators. It would eventually be discovered that a guerrilla artist collective called Ztohoven, which is known for their extravagant hoaxes and pranks, was responsible for the tasteless display, and that it had been merely a piece of performance “art.” It is unclear whether the group reimbursed the millions of viewers for all of their soiled shorts.
Just as startling and sinister was a broadcast interruption that spooked TV viewers in Orange County, California, on September 21, 2017. On this evening the regular programming for several cable TV stations suddenly cut out to make way for a very realistic and official-looking block of text that read “emergency alert,” overlaid with spooky audio, after which there could be heard a booming male voice that proclaimed “Realize this, extremely violent times will come!” in a voice that was described as sounding “like Hitler talking.” This was followed by a wide variety of strange, ominous, often nonsensical messages played out over the air, with one witness saying that it all sounded like “a radio broadcast coming through the television.” The mysterious and frightening messages lasted for a full 2 minutes and made scary proclamations such the end of the world was coming, that “the end is nigh,” various other apocalyptic pieces of the Bible, and most bizarrely a breathless voice that gasps:
The space program made contact with… They are not what they claim to be. They have infiltrated a lot of, uh, a lot of aspects of military establishment, particularly Area 51. The disasters that are coming—the military—I’m sorry the government knows about them…
It is all interspersed with the cackling of white noise and eery music wafting in the background. The transmission then ended with an official conclusion to the emergency broadcast, after which regular programming resumed. Those watching at home were puzzled and not a little creeped out by the dire, portentous message, made all the more alarming as it by all appearances seemed to have been an actual test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). It was unnerving to say the least, became an immediate social media sensation, and one local said of the strange incident:
My sister recorded it on her phone and brought it over for me to hear and it was the most unsettling thing I have ever heard in my life. I heard music playing and a man talking but his tone was scary and oddly went with the music.
Authorities investigating the unexplained incident confirmed that the broadcast had indeed originated from the Emergency Alert System, and initially came to the conclusion that someone had hacked in to pull off a prank. However, officials for the cable company said that a usual emergency test had gone out at the time in question but that there had been some technical difficulty that had resulted in the spooky chatter in the background, likely because somehow the audio files had been mixed up or that some audio had bled in from other sources. However, it is unknown just how this could have happened or just where the audio which can be heard came from.
Theories as to where the audio came from include that there were pieces a radio sermon by the fire and brimstone apocalyptic nutjob David Meade or some similar Christian station, as well as a snippet from the paranormal and conspiracy radio show Coast to Coast AM. The clip from Coast to Coast AM was from its own bizarre incident in 1997, in which a terrified caller had called in to host Art Bell to claim that he was a former employee of Area 51 and that he had insider knowledge of vast government conspiracies concerning aliens from another dimension. During the whole unsettling call the sobbing, hysterical man breathlessly tells a startled Bell that these menacing aliens are infiltrating the world and that they were “triangulating” his location as they speak, before the line suddenly goes dead. An interesting broadcast oddity in its own right, one portion is exactly the same piece of audio played in the Orange County mystery transmission. However, who was or why they did it either case remain unknown.
Another rather unsettling broadcast infringement happened in Australia in 2007. On January 3rd of that year, a Canadian series called Mayday, Mayday was on the air, a rather chilling show documenting various air disasters. As if this content wasn’t already disturbing enough as it is, during the show the program abruptly and inexplicably featured an audio loop that repeated the phrase “Jesus Christ, help us all Lord” over and over again without pause for a full 6 minutes, and the whole thing is accompanied by the sound of gunfire and an obscenity blurted at the end.
Perturbed viewers immediately reported the interruption, and it was soon found that the audio clip was likely taken from a news video of an ambushed Halliburton supply truck driver in Iraq named Preston Wheeler. The video shows Wheeler’s truck disabled by insurgent fire, after which he can be heard pleading for his life, during which he says the phrase that was featured in the mysterious broadcast. Wheeler survived the attack with bullet wounds to his arm, but it is strange that the audio from this video should be played during the Australian broadcast. Making things even stranger still is that the obscenity issued in the clip is not from the original footage, and the officials of Channel 7, on which the program had aired, claimed that there had been no intrusion at all. They claimed that everything had aired as usual, even though it is obvious that something was awry. The source of the spooky broadcast interruption and its purpose remain unknown.
Also scary is the 2008 alleged broadcast hijacking that occurred in Niobrara county, Wyoming. Known frequently as “The Wyoming Incident” or “The Wyoming Hijacking,” the whole event allegedly started during a news broadcast in the wake of a presidential election. During the footage there apparently suddenly appeared some white and grey bars along with some text that read, “we present a special presentation,” followed soon after by the words “You will see such pretty things.” After this there is a montage of various disembodied animated human heads flashed on the screen in different poses and with different expressions, all in black and white and with frequent changes of camera angle, and the whole thing is rather dizzying and nauseating. During the whole odd spectacle there is a message that flashes reading, “You are ill, we just want to fix you,” as well as other weird phrases such as “Why do you hate?,” “You cannot hide forever,” and the question “What hides in your mind?” followed soon after by their response, “We have already seen it,” all with those freaky heads hovering around and a flickering test pattern of some sort in the background.
Viewers who saw the entire creepy show, which lasted around 5 minutes, reported a whole slew of negative effects, such as vomiting, vertigo, audio and visual hallucinations, headaches, memory loss, cramps, and dizziness. It was also claimed that there were unusual high frequencies embedded in the broadcast that were thought to have caused these detrimental health effects. The whole strange incident was widely picked apart on the Internet and became quite the sensation at the time, although it is now largely thought to have been a hoax concocted by some individuals inspired by a piece of creepypasta urban legend, after which the video they made became taken as real and made into a modern myth, and the ones who apparently made it even admit as much. Even so, there are plenty of people who claim to have actually seen the original airing, as well as those who say that even watching the YouTube video of the supposed intrusion can cause adverse effects. You can see it here and decide for yourself.
Not all such broadcast anomalies are scary or all about doom and gloom, but can be rather bizarre nonetheless. Another rather early incident happened on the evening of September 6, 1987 on American television. On this night many people were secretly sitting down to watch the Playboy Channel, fully expecting to see the nudity and sex on display. What they were probably not expecting was an inexplicable religious message thrown up in their faces. The strange transmission came during a film called Three Daughters, and was pretty much the opposite of what one would expect to be shown on the adult-oriented channel. At first the screen went black right in the middle of the movie, but rather than the film coming back up where it left off, there was instead a block of plain text hovering over a colorbar test pattern that creepily read:
Thus sayeth the Lord thy God. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The passage is supposedly cobbled together from the books of Exodus and Matthew, but what is mysterious is why it should come up during a porn film. It was at first thought that someone at the station was just messing around, but this turned out to not be the case. For years it was completely baffling as to where the mysterious message had come from, until authorities were finally able to find the culprit, identified as a Thomas Haynie, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, who was an employee of the Christian Broadcasting Network and who that very same night had crashed programming on another adult channel called American Exxxtacy. It was a pretty big deal at the time, because such signal intrusions were a relative rarity in those days.
While a deeply religious message might be a strange thing to find on an adult porn channel, the opposite has happened as well. In 2007, the Disney Channel was airing an episode of the wholesome children’s show Handy Manny, at around 9:30 PM in Lincroft, New Jersey. Suddenly and without warning, the beloved show of a handyman and his talking tools was interrupted by talking and tools of a different kind, as a clip from a hardcore pornographic film splashed across the screen, no doubt much to the shock, chagrin, and utter bewilderment of parents and children watching at home, and it went on for an excruciatingly long time before the regular program came back on again.
Comcast, the company responsible for the embarrassing incident, claimed to have no knowledge of what could have possibly happened, and were unable to find the culprit behind it. They did vow that it would not happen again, but then in 2009 an airing of the Super Bowl in Tucson, Arizona by the same broadcast company was rudely interrupted by a brief 10-second long pornographic clip of a woman unzipping a man’s trousers before going back to the game and leaving viewers dumbfounded and no doubt wondering if they had just seen what they thought they had. They had indeed seen it, and again Comcast was unable to uncover who was behind the incident, although it was widely suspected that it was a sick prank, with Comcast saying at the time, “Our initial investigation suggests this was an isolated malicious act. We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine who was behind this.” Prank or not, the perpetrator has never been caught, and it is not even known if the same person was behind both incidents. In the meantime, Comcast seems to have managed to keep itself porn-free. For now.
There are still other such broadcast oddities that are really hard to classify and are quite incredibly bizarre in their own way. One occurred in July of 2007, when ABC affiliate WJLA had its signal jammed to make way for something quite surreal. There on the screen materialized the creepy visages of an elderly couple which sat there hovering motionless and without expression for several seconds before vanishing. During the whole thing there was no sound at all, and although nothing gruesome or particularly menacing was shown it was all inherently disturbing nonetheless. The TV station would come forward to say that it had been a simple programming error and that it had been from an advertisement from another show that had been on the air earlier, although there has been nothing like what was seen found in any of the supposed advertisements that had aired. What in the world was this all about and where did that image come from? No one knows.
Way back in September of 1998 there was also the completely bonkers broadcast over CBS affiliates in Los Angeles that materialized to interrupt an episode of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. The footage that popped unbidden onto screens was that of a handsome, fit man in his 30s, who seems to really, really love the mouthwash brand Listerine. He lovingly cradles a bottle of the stuff in his hand and proceeds to relentlessly expound on the virtues of this product, as if the whole thing is a mouthwash infomercial. This was not from some amateur hack either, and the extremely odd video went out on over 350 CBS affiliates all over the region, reaching millions of puzzled viewers. The video was from no known Listerine commercial, the company of Listerine insisted that they had had nothing to do with it, the source of the signal could not be located, and it was oddly found that the signal seemed to be coming in from a normal scheduled broadcast. Furthermore, it is not known who this Listerine-loving man was and he has never been identified, adding another layer to the surreal quality of it all. FCC spokesperson Grant Yarborough would say of the whole head-scratching matter:
Why this individual should be so obsessed with oral hygiene as to demand that several million bottles of Listerine be simultaneously purchased is baffling, to say the least. This gentleman seemed single-mindedly, almost obsessively determined to convince as many people as possible that using Listerine is somehow absolutely essential.
Cases like these are not only bizarre and with meanings beyond our comprehension, but also quite scary in a sense, not only because of their disturbing or freaky imagery but also due to the fact that they have managed to penetrate into our very most private of times, as we sit in front of the TV trying to unwind. It is violating in a sense, as we like to think we have control of this one little piece of the planet that we truly feel is our own personal domain. Yet sometimes that control is out of our hands, and there will perhaps always be mysterious forces out there who wish to push into our programming to exert their strange influence, whatever that may be. So the next time you are cozying up on the sofa to enjoy a movie or your favorite show just remember that there is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission.