By Evan Kasindorf
As we speak, broadcast signals are moving invisibly through the air all around you, from millions of sources. And some of them are really, really freaking weird.
We know this because occasionally somebody with a shortwave radio, or a special antenna or even a common household television, will capture one of these mystery signals and suddenly start broadcasting utter insanity.
Where do these signals come from? Who the hell knows?
It is an irritating, electronic noise, not unlike the sound of a truck horn played through a cheese grater. It is broadcast over a certain frequency, constantly, and has been since at least 1982. But the weird part isn’t the tone, but what happens when it stops.
In its 20-something year run, the sound has been interrupted only three times, the earliest known time being Christmas Eve in 1997. Each time a voice comes on and lists several Russian names and numbers before returning to the foghorn. The most recent occurrence was 2006, a mere three years before the time of this writing. It is clearly becoming more active after remaining quiet during the Cold War.
The case gets curiouser when you realize that the noise is apparently something held up to a live microphone rather than a recording or just some random feedback (distant conversations can be sometimes heard behind the sound, though they’re difficult to decipher).
#4. Preschool Show Hijacked by Porn
Handy Manny is an animated show on Disney’s Playhouse programming block. In a heavily cliched attempt at multicultural acceptance, Manny Garcia is a Hispanic handyman with talking, googly-eyed tools. It’s a Dora the Explorer rip-off, sure, but that’s OK because kids are stupid.
#3. The Max Headroom Broadcast Intrusion
This was a television broadcast interruption, breaking into WGN-TV and WTTW on November 22, 1987. The only way to sum this up in a single sentence is to say that a man was dressed as Max Headroom and crazy in ways most crazy people can only longingly aspire to.
For those not familiar with him because you don’t remember the 80s, Max Headroom was a CGI character with a distorted, electronic, stuttering voice. The background was constantly moving in a dizzying descent into pure madness. He did Coca-Cola ads and even had his own TV show back in the day. As bizarre as that sounds–it was the 80s, you had to be there–the intruder somehow made this infinitely creepier.
The two stations, WGN-TV and WTTW, were interrupted within two hours. The first, the intruder interrupted the WGN nine o’clock news to announce to the world he had a screw loose. Unfortunately for him, there was only a buzzing noise accompanying the video. Then on the PBS station WTTW, Doctor Who was interrupted by the same video, though this time with audio. And it went for a horrifying minute and a half.