It started on WGN TV 9 during the evening news broadcast when, in the middle of a sports segment, the signal went weak and the newscast was suddenly preempted by a guy in a Max Headroom mask yukking it up with wavering audio distortion as his soundtrack. This affront lasted only about 30 seconds before WGN engineers adjusted the signal from the station to the tower thereby knocking the pirate off the air.
A couple of hours later that evening sci-fi geeks were enjoying 'Dr. Who' ('Horror of Fang Rock') on WTTW TV 11 when things got really weird. The ersatz Max returned to the airwaves, this time he could be heard making fun of WGN and the "newspaper nerds" at the Chicago Tribune before he pulled down his pants, exposed his rear end, and received a spanking with a flyswatter from a co-conspirator. This time the video assault lasted over a minute before the PBS affiliate recovered.
Viewers were reportedly appalled by this unexpected mooning over Chicago, was it merely a prank or a hint of something more sinister to come? An attack of this sort would have taken powerful microwave equipment and
particular industry know how but the perpetrator was never caught despite rigorous FBI and FCC investigations.
Here's the WTTW TV 11 attack in full:
Anniversary of Chicago TV's WGN and WTTW Broadcast Hijackings
by Billy Ingram
(Billy Ingram is the author of TVparty! Television’s Untold Tales and the creator of the classic TV web site TVparty.com.)