Max Headroom broadcast intrusions

Max Headroom broadcast intrusions

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Overview

The Max Headroom broadcast intrusions were a series of break-ins to two television stations in Chicago by a man imitating and wearing a mask of the character Max Headroom, as well as mocking political figures and the networks he hijacked on November 22, 1987. The broadcast pirate and his accomplices have never been found, nor have the police ever named any suspects or witnesses.


Close-up of a Max Headroom mask, the same kind that the hijacker wore in the video

WGN-TV (channel 9)

The first and lesser-known occurrence happened during the WGN Nine O’Clock news, in which anchor Dan Roan was recapping the highlights of the recent Chicago Bears game, which was the hijackers primary and, at the time (debatably) sole target. The intrusion lasted (approximately) 25 seconds and there was no audio but a low buzzing sound. It only lasted as long as it did because the engineers switched the frequencies of their studio links, effectively terminating the intrusion. When the broadcast returned to anchor Dan Roan, he befuddledly stated, “If you’re wondering what just happened (laughing) so am I.”

No official recording by a casual person has been found, but a (condensed) version found on news reports of the event has been uploaded to YouTube.

WTTW (channel 11)

Two hours later (at roughly 11:15 PM), on PBS member station WTTW, a re-run of the British series Doctor Who’s Horror of Fang Rock serial was hijacked with a similar Max Headroom video, only this time the audio was working, and the engineers had no way of getting rid of it. What followed was 90 seconds of the Max Headroom impersonator making fun of WGN anchor Chuck Swirsky, Max Headroom’s ill-fated “New Coke” advertisements, giving the finger with a rubber extension, as well as mocking Chicago’s newspaper, Clutch Cargo, and putting on a glove then claiming his brother has the other one.

After this it cuts to Max bending over, bare-buttocked, in front of a woman(?) in old-fashioned attire with a fly-swatter. The woman proclaims, “Bend over, bitch!” and hits him repeatedly, followed by Max screaming in agony. The video then cuts out, with Doctor Who resuming as normal.

There are many full recordings of this particular incident, the one included is the highest quality copy able to be found.

Aftermath

The next day, the incident received widespread national headlines, and was reported on the CBS Evening News, among other affiliates. WTTW received many calls from people wondering exactly what was occurring as early as the last few seconds of the hijacking.

The incident was parodied by WMAQ-TV. The station inserted clips of the hijacking (without sound) during a newscast of Mark Giangreco’s highlights. They go on to state that the FCC and FBI will likely never catch the culprit.

In 2011, an AMA Reddit article by user bpoag claimed that he “may know who was behind the hijacking”. The article gained some media attention and received over 200 comments. None of the claims are proven (and the author even says he doesn’t know for sure if they are behind it) and the identities of the supposed hijackers were protected as to not disrupt their current lives. He has no idea where or what they are doing today and the author has not come in contact with them for a number of years.

Another Reddit article article confirms the author’s naming of places and the kind of people involved, but he as well did not divulge any personal info.

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Top Comments

The Lizardo
The Lizardo

I’ve added info about the Reddit article, but do you guys think it should be in there? I mean, yeah there were a few news articles online about it and it was pretty big two years ago, but it doesn’t flow very well and I don’t know if it should be included. What do you guys think?

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