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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?

5
UVB-76

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.


Hammertime?

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.

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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.


Tee-hee,"tooling around."

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...

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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!

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2
The Backward Music Station

What is it?

The "Backward Music Station" doesn't actually play backward music. That's just what they call it. What it is broadcasting instead is something from the fucking bowels of Hell itself:

A high-pitched grinding, with some banging thrown in, perhaps just to make it sound creepier. That video said it was recorded in 2004 and claimed the signal had since gone dormant, but there are other recordings claiming to be as recent as September of 2009:

In the comments section of that one, our brave listener claims with a burst of excitement and exclamation marks: "Two weeks ago I logged it on four frequencies within a few minutes... all of them CFH wefax frequencies!!!!" WEFAX meaning weather facsimile meaning it's in grayscale meaning fuck if we know. But it shows the station has resurfaced and resurfaced hard, hard enough to warrant a sudden increase in punctuation.


"?!!?':!"

Unlike the UVB-76, no voice interruptions have been heard. It's just a noise, a noise that may have an encrypted message of World Domination, or may not.

So What's the Deal?

People have put quite a bit of effort into figuring it out. The below graph, to people who know what the hell they're looking at, apparently demonstrates how sophisticated the effort has been to hide the true signal in the noise.

The signal appears on more than one frequency, one from within the USA, the other from Europe. The frequencies are similar to those used by the U.S. Navy.

Is it a heavily encrypted signal to communicate with spies? If it's a noise deliberately made by someone somewhere, then would there not be someone on the other end who had the know-how to make sense of it? Remember that behind every broadcast signal there is equipment, electricity and expense on someone's part. It has to be for a reason, right?


Then again...

Is this how the U.S. is signaling to its own robot soldier task force, to be ready for when the Russians make their move?

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1
The Wow! Signal

What is it?

This broadcast rivals or even surpasses the Backward Music Station in mysteriousness. It is so mysterious, in fact, they were forced to go with this ridiculous name.


Wow! Holy shit! Numbers!

This was a radio signal that was picked up at The Big Ear radio telescope. Yes, this one comes from space. Big Ear used numbers, from zero to 10, to document how far above the useless background noise any signals went. In a comically childish system, the eggheads ran out of fingers and had to use toes, adding letters A-Z on top of the numbers. The Wow! Signal was "6EQUJ5," meaning it began at a scale of six, crept past the letter threshold, jumped to Q and then as far as U before fading gradually.

All of this happened over 37 seconds, and all of this from a seemingly empty point in space. Perhaps even more mind-boggling, it came from a non-terrestrial and non-solar system source. It was a signal shot to Earth from one of the emptiest places imaginable, and something from that place somehow got to us.


Return address.

It's called the "Wow!" signal because the man who found it was so amazed by it that he circled it and wrote "Wow!" on the side, which for posterity was better than "HOLY FUCKING MOTHER OF COCK SHIT!"

So What's the Deal?

It could be, as the killjoys at Wikipedia suggest, interstellar scintillation of a weaker continuous signal. If that statement did little more than sexually excite you, then all you need to know is that a continuous signal is far less remarkable, and what they picked up might have been a weak, continuous signal that gained strength for a short time. However, it's a mysterious signal from space that follows a very calculated system, turning off, and turning on. That... really shouldn't be.

The signal had the trademark of an artificially produced interstellar broadcast. How did they broadcast it from a point in space where there are no planets and there are no solar systems? Well, the only explanation would be a spaceship, and the signal is used to communicate to other spaceships.

The guy who found the signal in the first place tried to deny it was extraterrestrial life; that it was something from Earth reflected off of space debris, but there are problems with that theory.

If it was from Earth, the reflector would have to have been in all sorts of unrealistic requirements for the nature of the signal. For once the explanation that there's an alien craft beaming signals is more logically sound than the tried and true "space debris" argument. Holy shit!

Do you have something funny to say about a random topic? You could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow. Go here and find out how to create a Topic Page.

For more mysteries of the world, check out 6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (With Really Obvious Solutions) and 6 Insane Discoveries That Science Can't Explain.

And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 1.12.2010) to see our mysterious broadcast (of Brockway's genitals).

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