Since the late 1970s, there have been several notable cases of broadcast signal intrusions that have left authorities seriously worried. There’s no doubt that radio and television broadcasts hold a huge captive audience, so what better way for unscrupulous individuals to get their own messages out than by hijacking the airwaves?
10. Broadcast Signal Intrusions: Pornographic Super Bowl
Each year, the NFL broadcasts the US’s most popular sporting event: the Super Bowl. Typically, around 100 million people tune in to watch the big game.
In 2009, viewers in Arizona were shocked when the Super Bowl was suddenly interrupted by pornographic footage. An adult film played for around 40 seconds before the broadcast signal intrusions were disrupted. The issue only affected viewers who were watching the game through their Comcast cable subscriptions, but the incident still resulted in a huge public outcry.
Shortly after the game aired, the culprit was discovered. The pornographic interlude was the work of a Cox Communications employee who served as the company’s Comcast liaison. He was punished with 3 years of probation and a fine of $1,000.
9. Broadcast Signal Intrusions: Captain Midnight
Unlike many of the broadcast signal intrusions on this list, the responsibility for the Captain Midnight interruptions was never much of a mystery. In 1986, an electrical engineer named John R. MacDougall hacked into the HBO signal broadcasting to much of the eastern half of the United States to spread an important message.
According to MacDougall, operating under the alias of “Captain Midnight,” he was tired of the high prices being demanded for premium channels like HBO and Showtime. He spent around 5 minutes explaining why he believed that the prices were unfair and threatening to continue targeting other signals so that his message would be taken seriously.
Unfortunately for Captain Midnight, he was never able to target other networks. He was arrested and eventually pled guilty to illegally operating a satellite uplink transmitter. He was placed on probation for one year, paid a $5,000 fine, and had his amateur radio license revoked.
8. Broadcast Signal Intrusions: The Winker’s Song
Not all broadcast signal intrusions have the type of lofty goals that prompted Captain Midnight to take to the airwaves. Sometimes, hackers jam signals just for the fun of it.
In 2017, a local radio station in Nottinghamshire, England had its broadcast hijacked 8 times over the course of a single month. Instead of using the stolen airtime to broadcast a message, this wonton criminal chose instead to play an old tune: The Winker’s Song. This catchy melody, a song about masturbation, caused quite a stir when it was repeatedly broadcast. Some listeners thought the joke was hilarious, but others were offended by the song’s content. A few parents reported that their children had begun repeating the adult lyrics.
Although the radio station made attempts to identify the culprit, the radio pirate responsible for The Winker’s Song remains at large.
7. Jesus Christ, Help Us All Lord
In 2007, viewers in Australia were watching a Canadian documentary about air disasters, entitled Mayday, when the program was suddenly interrupted. The video for the program continued as normal, but the soundtrack suddenly changed to a single voice.
The voice had an American accent, most likely southern, and it repeated the same phrase over and over for six minutes: “Jesus Christ, help us all Lord.”
Viewers were baffled and frightened by the cryptic message. The network was initially silent but eventually made a statement that no broadcast signal intrusions had occurred. They stated that the voice had been part of the original broadcast and that it had said “Jesus Christ one of the Nazarenes.” However, the videos that still circulate on the internet don’t fit with this explanation.
It was eventually discovered that the audio was from a year-old broadcast, but it remains unclear how the disturbing voice was inserted into the Mayday broadcast.
6. The Faces on the Screen
The Mayday incident in Australia wasn’t the only time that broadcast signal intrusions have been blamed on innocent mixups. In 2007, the broadcast for a Washington DC television station was suddenly interrupted by a strange image.
It appeared to be an old photograph depicting two faces. Although the image was grainy, witnesses stated that it looked like a creepy old couple staring into the camera. The picture remained on screen for several seconds with no movement or sound before it abruptly disappeared.
The cable company’s official statement explained that the image had been a still from an advertisement for the Oprah Winfrey show. However, viewers were skeptical. They took to the internet to find footage of the bizarre interruption but discovered that any video of the incident posted online was quickly and mysteriously removed.
5. Intergalactic Association
In 1977, this incident, sometimes called the Southern Television broadcast interruption, made waves in the UK. An evening news broadcast was interrupted by a mysterious voice. The voice was heavily disguised and accompanied by a buzzing sound. The speaker called himself Vrillon.
Vrillon claimed to be the representative of an intergalactic association. He warned viewers that “all your weapons of evil must be removed” and “you have but a short time to learn to live together in peace.”
The interruption lasted for around six minutes before turning back to the regularly scheduled broadcast. Viewers were disturbed by the message. Most brushed it off as a hoax perpetrated by a tech-savvy jokester, but many UFO aficionados believe that it was a genuine message from another world. Officials investigated the incident in an attempt to discover who had interrupted the signal, but the culprit was never identified.
4. Max Headroom
In 1987, the United States encountered one of the most notorious broadcast signal intrusions in history. The culprit was known as Max Headroom. An unknown individual appeared on screen twice wearing a mask of the cartoon character and sunglasses covering his eyes. A metal background moved eerily behind the man.
During his first appearance, viewers heard only white noise. However, during the second interruption, the individual in the mask speaks. What he has to say is bizarre. He insults sports pundit Chuck Swirsky and then begins screaming and laughing. He calls out a Coca Cola slogan while holding a Pepsi can. He says he has “made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds” and holds up a dirty glove before exposing his buttocks and flogging himself with a fly swatter. These are only some of the strange musings that Max Headroom utters during his second broadcast.
The broadcast company eventually began humorously using clips from the video, claiming that it had been a big joke. However, most people believe that it was a legitimate hacking and that the culprit remains unidentified.
3. The Zombie Apocalypse Warning
In 2013, viewers in Montana watching the Steve Wilkos Show were confronted with a sudden Emergency Alert. However, instead of the usual test of the system or even a legitimate emergency, viewers heard a startling message.
During the alert, a voice calmly took to the air to inform viewers that “dead bodies are rising from their graves” and “the bodies of the dead are attacking the living.” The voice instructed viewers to avoid trying to capture any of the creatures or even get close to them as they were extremely dangerous.
The alert ended as quickly as it began, being replaced with a correction and apology from the network stating that there was no actual emergency. Explanations for the incident varied. Some believed it was a joke, and others speculated that it could be unconventional advertising for a popular zombie TV show. However, still others believe that the government that silenced the warning is hiding something very real about the undead.
2. The Wyoming Incident
In 2008, newscasters in the United States were busy analyzing the events of the presidential election that was in the process of wrapping up when the broadcasts were interrupted by a series of cryptic messages.
The screen was filled with black, white, and gray bars. Inside the bars read, “we present a special presentation.” The words then changed to say “you will see such pretty things” before switching to disturbing images of human heads with the caption “you are ill, we just want to fix you.” The messages then state that whoever is responsible for the broadcast has already seen the things that are inside of our minds.
As if the ominous messages weren’t enough, the video itself was broadcast on such a high frequency that some viewers became ill while watching it, experiencing episodes of vomiting and even hallucination. No real explanation has ever surfaced for the disturbing video.
In the 1960s, the United States and the USSR were involved in a tense nuclear standoff that had the entire world holding its breath. In 1966, one of the most dangerous broadcast signal intrusions in history almost pushed the situation over the edge.
In 1966, the city of Kaluga in Russia had its broadcasts suddenly interrupted with a news bulletin claiming that the United States had begun a nuclear war with the USSR. Although authorities quickly determined that the report was false, this signal hack could have had disastrous consequences for the entire world. Had the authorities believed the report, they likely would have deployed their own missiles, launching the world into a catastrophic nuclear war.
Thankfully, the report was disregarded as a hoax. However, the miscreant responsible for this reckless signal intrusion was never identified.