Local news bulletins don’t often become the news generally. A little after 5pm on Saturday 26th November 1977, the transmission of the local UK television station Southern News bulletin made worldwide headlines when it was overridden by an external broadcast from an individual claiming to represent the Ashtar Galactic Command.
As newscaster Andrew Gardner recited the days’ events in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the scheduled bulletin began to break-up and an eerie broadcast took over in its stead. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) engineers based in Croydon, Surrey had no idea that their regularly scheduled news bulletin had been hacked by an outside source. This rogue signal was also oblivious to the main transmitter located in Southampton. The only people that were aware of something bizarre taking place were the viewers themselves. Some panicked, while others were unmoved. The video feed remained intact, but the audio was suppressed by a spokesman identifying himself as Vrillon. His six minute message went as follows:
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 the 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 IBA moved quickly to dispel fears and concerns among their viewership, declaring that the broadcast was a hoax. A technically gifted one, but a hoax nonetheless. Whoever, or whatever, was responsible for the broadcast interruption would almost certainly have excellent and in-depth knowledge of broadcasting capabilities and frequencies in order to pull off the interruption. The Huntingdon transmitter, where the Southern TV signal was normally broadcast from, was actually a unique example which could explain why Southern TV became the victim here. The Huntingdon signal actually originated at the Rowbridge transmitter on the Isle of Wight. Overriding this FM signal was quite an easy thing for the right person to accomplish. With the proper equipment, all that the hacker needed to do was to broadcast the rogue signal on the same frequency as the authentic signal, but almost on top of the Huntingdon transmitter itself. Vrillon had to be in the immediate vicinity of the remote Huntingdon transmitter at 5.10pm on the very day he took over the airwaves.
Pulling this off required a lot more than mere capability. Time, and quite a bit of it, was also necessary. If this was, as the IBA contest, a hoax then it was a magnificent effort on the part of the hoaxer. It’s almost unfortunate that nobody knows precisely who that was.
The same thing could be said about another infamous broadcast interruption. This one occurred almost a decade on from Vrillon and half a world away in Chicago, USA. On this occasion, a pair of broadcasts were taken over by someone resembling then current TV star Max Headroom. The first intrusion occurred during a news report of a baseball game on WGN-TV. Both the audio and video were taken over but no discernible dialogue could be heard from ‘Max’. The only audio that could be heard was a buzzing that drowned out the news reports. WGN engineers managed to block this intruding signal by altering the frequency of their own.
Three afters the first intrusion, another took place. This time the target was WTTW and audio was present. Ironically, it was an episode of Doctor Who that suffered the interference. Once again, a Max Headroom lookalike invaded the airways and uttered a stream of incoherent babble and juvenile sound effects. He also sang the Coca-Cola advertising jingle to a can of Pepsi on air and finally got an accomplice to brandish a flyswatter while parading in a French Maid’s uniform. ‘Max’ readied himself by mooning to the camera before the accomplice instigated a spanking. WTTW technicians were unable to combat the high microwave signals that were employed with standard counter-measures available at the time. WTTW were able to gather recordings of the event from Doctor Who fans that recorded the schedule broadcast of their favorite show.
Both Vrillon and Max Headroom have yet to be identified conclusively. Neither had intruded on any broadcasting since. Whoever masqueraded as Max Headroom in 1987 was likely a high-school fraternity who did what they did for the notoriety it would bring. What of Vrillon? Perhaps the IBA were correct in their assessment, but the very nature of the message given has made some people believe that Vrillon could very well be the real thing.
And he may be simply biding his time.