Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stranger Than Fiction - Unsettling Real Life Occurrences - Part I - Broadcast Piracy

Thought we might try a little something different here tonight on Midnight Cinephile.  Let's talk a little about broadcast piracy.  Most of the time, it's some kid who's figured out how to hack a signal and have a little fun.  Sometimes, it's a well known hacker who's mission is to protest the cost of cable.  Such was the case in April, 1986 when a software engineer from Florida, who went by the handle Captain Midnight.  Upset with the (at the time) high fees that HBO was charging satellite subscribers, he jammed their signal at 12:32am for four and a half minutes during a broadcast of The Falcon and the Snowman.  Now this in itself is not unsettling.....but the broadcast hijackings that I'm about to tell you about are far stranger and were much more disturbing to those who witnessed them.

The first incident took place on November 26, 1977 at about 5:10 PM.  During the early evening news on ITV, the audio was hijacked and for the next six minutes a strange monologue delivered by someone identifying themselves as Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command.  He warns that we must stop our evil destructive ways, lay down our weapons and cease our destructive path.  Apparently failure to heed this warning would rain down destruction upon us.  As it so happens, the broadcast has survived in both print and audio format, both of which I shall provide you  here:

This is the voice of Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command, speaking to you. For many years you have seen us as lights in the skies. We speak to you now in peace and wisdom as we have done to your brothers and sisters all over this, your planet Earth.

We come to warn you of the destiny of your race and your world so that you may communicate to your fellow beings the course you must take to avoid the disaster which threatens your world, and the beings on our worlds around you. This is in order that you may share in the great awakening, as the planet passes into a New Age of Aquarius. The New Age can be a time of great peace and evolution for your race, but only if your rulers are made aware of the evil forces that can overshadow their judgments.

Be still now and listen, for your chance may not come again.
All your weapons of evil must be removed. The time for conflict is now past and the race of which you are a part may proceed to the higher stages of its evolution if you show yourselves worthy to do this. You have but a short time to learn to live together in peace and goodwill.
Small groups all over the planet are learning this, and exist to pass on the light of the dawning New Age to you all. You are free to accept or reject their teachings, but only those who learn to live in peace will pass to the higher realms of spiritual evolution.

Hear now the voice of Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command, speaking to you. Be aware also that there are many false prophets and guides operating in your world. They will suck your energy from you - the energy you call money and will put it to evil ends and give you worthless dross in return.

Your inner divine self will protect you from this. You must learn to be sensitive to the voice within that can tell you what is truth, and what is confusion, chaos and untruth. Learn to listen to the voice of truth which is within you and you will lead yourselves onto the path of evolution.
This is our message to our dear friends. We have watched you growing for many years as you too have watched our lights in your skies. You know now that we are here, and that there are more beings on and around your Earth than your scientists admit.

We are deeply concerned about you and your path towards the light and will do all we can to help you. Have no fear, seek only to know yourselves, and live in harmony with the ways of your planet Earth. We of the Ashtar Galactic Command thank you for your attention. We are now leaving the plane of your existence. May you be blessed by the supreme love and truth of the cosmos. 

The hijacker was never identified and never caught.  The Winter 1977 issue of Fortean Times (Issue #24) published their own account of the transmission which was significantly shorter and not exactly acurate:

This is the voice of Asteron. I am an authorized representative of the Intergalactic Mission, and I have a message for the planet Earth. We are beginning to enter the period of Aquarius and there are many corrections which have to be made by Earth people. All your weapons of evil must be destroyed. You have only a short time to learn to live together in peace. You must live in peace... or leave the galaxy.

Personally I'd prefer the first message if this is indeed an communication from an alien race.  Of course I'm not going to just flap my gums and tell you to make up your mind about it.....I'm gonna give you a chance to listen to the actual audio recording.  The incident has since become the stuff of urban legends.  Have a listen!

Vrillon of the Ashtar Galactic Command Incident from Labyrinth13 on Vimeo.

Now as strange and wacky as that was, nothing compares to our third incident, which has become known simply as the Max Headroom Hacker.  On November 22, 1987 residents in Chicago, Illinois were subjected to not one, but two broadcast hijackings.  The first occurred during WGN-TV's  Nine O'Clock News.  During the sports report broadcast was interrupted with a video feed of a person wearing a Max Headroom mask.  There was no audio aside from a buzzing sound.  The video feed was quickly switched back when engineers changed frequencies.

About two hours later, at 11:15 PM, during a broadcast of Dr. Who (the episode was The Horror of Fang Rock).  The same person wearing a Max Headroom mask appeared this time with distorted audio.  The hijacker start to spout off some seriously deranged stuff including insulting Chuck Swirsky (the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bulls), reciting Coke's slogans while holding a Pepsi can, humming cartoon themes and eventually baring his butt while getting spanked with a fly swatter!  Seriously, this happened.  Even better, it was recorded by a Dr. Who fan who was taping the episode that night.  I present to you the entire, broadcast hijack.  Some may find this funny, some may find it disturbing.

See?  I told ya!  That shit is messed up!

Unlike the earlier broadcast intrusion, this time, engineers were unable to stop the pirate broadcast.  Before they could even locate the source it was gone.  Once again, a broadcasting pirate got away with his illegal hack.  His identity is still unknown and who knows where this loon is now.  This particular incident had gained nationwide exposure, which I'm sure ticked this fellow pink.  What was the point?  Was it simply the work of a hacker who wanted to have a little fun, or was there an actual, perhaps sinister agenda behind the Broadcast Hijackings?  We'll probably never know.....but I for one will forever be creeped out by this little slice of American Television History.

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