Long before the internet was public knowledge a strange hacker managed to stun the whole of Chicago. The Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion managed to hijack two popular TV stations within the space of three hours…
No matter how many times I watch this video I’m still amazed at how freaky it is. It took place on the evening of November 22, 1987 – I would of been 12 at the time!
There is no real ‘subject matter’ or ‘message’ behind the broadcast signal intrusion – it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to mess with people’s minds ( which it was very successful at! ).
The TV intruder was successful in interrupting two television stations within three hours. It’s unclear how many people were involved in this hijack as none of them were ever caught.
The Nine O’Clock News
Sports presenter Dan Roan was half way through his normal gig on the Nine O’Clock News. He was giving his analysis on a football match for WGN in Chicago.
He was covering a recent Bears game when the picture on all the station’s monitors and every tuned in household started to flicker.
Without warning the football clips of the Bears suddenly gave way to screen full of static.
The static fell back to reveal a man in a Max Headroom mask staring out of the screen. Max Headroom was a sort of comedy robot character in the 80’s ( he was also the front man for Coke adverts at the time ).
There seemed to be a corrugated metal sheet behind the man in the mask that swayed and buzzed as he moved. The audio was taken over by a very harsh buzzing noise.
The hijacking only lasted about 30 seconds as the engineers at WGN managed to switch transmitters. The strange man in the mask had done very little in that 30 second period – just sat there and said nothing.
Dan Roan suddenly appeared back on people’s screens but he failed to cover up how shocked he was. The first thing that came out of his mouth was “Well, if you’re wondering what happened, so am I.”
The Second Coming
The first intrusion was freaky enough but nobody expected a second one to occur later that same night.
This time the hijackers targeted the local PBS affiliate WTTW who were showing an episode of Doctor Who at the time. Halfway through a scene the screen disappeared again to reveal our freaky Max Headroom.
This time he came complete with distorted audio and spouted all kinds of gibberish:
- “Catch the Wave” ( a Coke slogan at the time )
- “Your love is fading”
- “My brother is wearing the other one” ( as he holds up one of his gloves to the screen )
Without warning the picture then cut to the Max Headroom character having his backside spanked by some guy in a dress ( using a fly swatter of all things! ).
He then cries out that “They are coming to get me” and the screen quickly reverts back to Doctor Who.
Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion
The engineers failed to stop this second transmission and it played for a full 90 seconds. By the time technicians could begin to take corrective measures, the incident was over.
I didn’t take long for the FBI to get involved but the pirates always seemed to be one step ahead of them.
They never found out who was behind the Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion…
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