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?
What is it?
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).
It sounds like "robble-robble."
That is, someone is actively broadcasting and maintaining the signal.
So What's the Deal?
Information on the mysterious station had been compiled here on Geocities, the best place for code cracking and speculation on the Web. From this, we know it originates from Russia, specifically here:
Military base? Home of Russia's shittiest FM radio station?
That listener, who helpfully kept his crucial analysis at the mercy of Geocities and Yahoo!, claimed the operator is the "1st Communications Hub of the General Staff of Army," and its purpose was to "transmit orders to the military units and recruitment centers of the Moscow military district."
Wikipedia argues that this makes no sense, since it's mostly just that simple buzztone. But honestly, who are you going to trust: A Web admin who didn't have the foresight to pay for a domain name, or the Illuminati-run Wikimedia foundation?
Our theory? It's not a buzztone at all. It's a message sent in the native language of a certain group of embedded Russian agents. Their native language being robot.
#4. Preschool Show Hijacked by Porn
What is it?
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.
This jerk can't even walk.
One day in 2007, in one cozy New Jersey town, Handy Manny suddenly looked rather real, and Handy Manny got a bit too handy with a lady. In fact, it wasn't Handy Manny at all. Kids plopped in front of the TV were suddenly treated to a human anatomy lesson, probably causing mild confusion as to why Manny was wrestling with that woman, as well as arguments over who was winning.
Yes, Handy Manny had been interrupted by hardcore pornography for the Comcast viewers in Lincroft, New Jersey. Comcast vowed to get to the bottom of it and make sure it never happened again.
And it didn't. Well, until it happened again in 2009. And again, it was Comcast. This time it happened in Tuscon, Arizona during the goddamn Super Bowl. Viewers were treated to something startlingly more heterosexual than football (yes, we said it) as the picture cut to a woman unzipping a man's pants for the two-point conversion.
Needless to say, it was good.
So What's the Deal?
This wasn't a simple matter of wires getting crossed at the Comcast switchboard. They swore after the second incident that the signal was boobie-free when they sent it out. Also, that clip was from a pay-per-view sextravaganza on the Spice Network (ClubJenna) which those who know say could not have been inserted by accident.
So if it was a prank (and the perpetrator would just need the right equipment to splice into the signal) was it the same person who was behind the New Jersey incident in 2007? They were never caught, so maybe it's some kind of traveling crusader, traversing the country spreading the good news about porn.
Like an NSFW Robin Hood.
That would actually make the guy a lot less crazy than...
#3. The Max Headroom Broadcast Intrusion
What is it?
Want to sleep tonight? Then you probably shouldn't watch this:
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.
The face of unbridled envy.
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.
That is, creepier than this dead-eyed abomination.
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.
Though, because it was PBS, few people noticed.
The YouTube clip up there has subtitles, but they aren't very helpful. Here's a play by play, though it's about as useful as someone turning to you and explaining that the strange man on the subway is farting in Morse code without mentioning the important detail of why he does it.
So What's the Deal?
You might wonder how in the hell some nutjob could have the technical capability to get himself in front of millions of viewers by hacking the TV signal of one of the largest local TV stations in the country (that being WGN) but the shocking thing is it's incredibly easy. Apparently you just need a fairly simple piece of equipment that you can park near the broadcast transmitter. Even if the station encrypts their signal, you can still jam it so that nothing gets through.
So, unsurprisingly, Max Headroom impersonator was probably driving one of these.
Though how this nutjob managed even that has to leave you scratching your head, considering that he used his precious seconds with an audience to utter such thought-provoking lines as "I stole CBS!" and "I made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds." He finishes by bending over and allowing a girl to spank his naked ass with a fly swatter, screeching that someone was coming to get him.
Oh and once again, the culprits were never caught. Sleep easy!