Max Headroom 1987 Pirate TV Incident

Posted on 06.01.08 in the category Hacking

Some of you may be familiar with this one but for those that aren't, here's a quick rundown of the events of Sunday November 22nd 1987

  • During the sports section of the 9pm news broadcast on Americas WGN network, an unauthorised signal over powered the stations transmitters and was broadcast for over a minute.  The signal had no audio, but the video was of someone in a Max Headroom mask gesturing at the camera.  Some stills of this are shown below

Max Headroom 1987 Pirate TV Incident

  • The second of these incidents occured during the evening broadcast of Dr Who on WTTW.  This time the signal had audio and viewers were witness to a unintelligble rant from the 'fake' Max Headroom character, a video of this interuption can be seen below


We have cleaned the audio up as much as possible in this version of the video, the original source we took ours from is if you want to compare it to the original


I have included this translation and explanation for some of what is said in the tape, any corrections or suggestions are more then welcome, just leave a comment….


Because he's a  freaky nerd

I think I'm better than Chuck Swirsky

Freakin liberal

Oh, Jesus

Catch the wave

Your love is fading

Humming Theme Tune To Catch Cargo

I still see the X

Oh my piles

(Appears to be a sound effect of somebody crapping their pants)

Oh, I just laid a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world's newspaper nerds

My brother is wearing the other one

But its dirty


They're coming to get me!

(Female Asistant) Bend Over Bitch

Oh, do it!

Chuck Swirsky
Chuck was a sports broadcaster with WGN -TV at the time of the incident

Catch The Wave
Catch The Wave was the slogan being used at the time by Coca Cola.  The Max Headroom charcter was advertising for coca-cola at the time and we've dug up one of these adverts with the slogan in below

Clutch Cargo Theme Tune
The theme tune the pirate hums during the broadcast is to the american animated TV series Clutch Cargo

I just laid a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world's newspaper nerds
The WGN station that was originaly attacked is short for Worlds Greatest Newspaper, could the pirate be an ex WGN technical employee?

A few things we noticed that nobody else seems to have picked up on.  After the pirate says the line 'Oh my piles' what at first appeared to be interference and distortion, is actually a sound effect of somebody crapping their pants!  This makes the next line ' just laid a giant masterpiece for all the greatest worlds newspaper nerds' make even more sense.

Another discovery we made after enhancing and filtering the audio is that his female assistant actually speaks towards the end of the video.  She says the line 'Bend over bitch'.  This was something that we noticed towards the end of the process, it was so subtle it was almost missed!

This is an amazing incident made even more so by the fact that it is captured on tape!  Whoever did this had to have had some quite advanced knowledge and equipment, but in my opinion all the evidence points to a disgruntled TV-Station employee.  I cant really see that the pirate took control of 5 seperate transmitter locations using a DIY microwave transmitter,  I think this was done internally by a disgruntled employee. 

I think that after being discovered and thwarted in his attempt to take over his original target WGN the pirate attatcked WTTW as a last resort, the introduction to his video message would have made much more sense if it had have been broadcast as intended in the middle of a sports programme.  The majority of the message comes across as rubbish, but it all sounds like insider talk to me, little jokes that only employees of the station would understand.

Wouldn't surprise me if the TV station had a very good idea of who the culprit was…..

Maybe one day, the truth will be known 🙂

For more information on this subject then check out these links below

Max Headroom Pirating Incident Wiki
Labyrinth13 – Lots Of Good Info – Seems to be where the original recording came from

9 Responses to “Max Headroom 1987 Pirate TV Incident”

  1. […] EDIT: Thanks to a new video with the audio cleaned up, I’ve found out that he is indeed saying “I still see the X”. And the person with the flyswatter is the one who said “Bend over Bitch”. […]


    “Humming Theme Tune To Catch Cargo

    I still see the X

    Oh my piles”

    Clutch Cargo is the theme he hums.

    He says, “Oh my files” before loading the previously recorded video of him getting spanked.

    The people responsible were students that worked at a Bloomington, Indiana College TV broadcasting station. They had borrowed the equipment to “Film a music video” for their band, The Blood Farmers, which was a cover story. The real intention was take over the signal with a music video of the band, until they realized that would get them caught and possibly in jail. Instead, they recorded their “Masterpiece” destined for WGN piracy.

    Shaye St. John AKA Eric Fournier is the person behind the Max mask.

  3. I disagree,

    ‘Oh My Flies’ just doesn’t fit in, it doesn’t appear to have any relation to the ‘pre-recorded’ video that then plays.

    In my opinion all of the video was pre-recorded and nothing was live.

    The story of it being Eric Fournier aka Shaye St John is purely conjecture, we have no proof of this.

  4. I think like Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot, Dick Tracy, Ace Hart Private Dog, Edgar Allan Poe’s detective character, and Gaston Leroux’s detective characters. I’ve found the clue to the fake Max Headroom pirate TV. Look up on
    ther was a true story tht could solved an clue of the case.

  5. Sounded like it was work from Big Time Television, a pirate station, from a converted bus. The villain who did this was Blank Reg from the real Max Headroom in “Blank Reg”, he is the one who’s did the fake Max Headroom pirate television. If Max Headroom see the fake Max Headroom, and the pirate television screen, he will be mad and also angry. He’ll come for justice to put up the television injustice for television insults.
    Clues like this;,
    Like Ace Hart, Private Dog from Jim Henson’s Dog City the series,
    Just from an husky dog, Balto.

  6. I think again it was the other villain, Ned Grossberg who’s did the Max Headroom pirate television.
    As Sherlock Hound of course,,
    And that is the ppoint of reason.

  7. Sorry! I wrote it internet address all wrongs, it’s,
    I hope if you enjoyed.

  8. I think that it was a copy of the Max Headroom TV Show and TV commerials of the Super Bowls, he mimitc the Max Headroom’s Coke commericals, and there will going to be solved by an great way is the taking a DNA tests to find out of the guy who was the video pirate as Max Headroom.For video piracy. The mystery will be solved. And also the case solved for look behind of the screen of the mock Max Headroom was a room, and it’s could be a basment, and the attic? As Balto the Husky like myself. Thought of brave and courage to be smart.

  9. It’s just like from The Revenge of the Nerds movie, the Jocks is trying to get it prank revenge on the Nerds by stealing the TV Broadcast airs to put it prank on air into the television screen of the Nreds’ television at home. So I thought to imagine tht it was the works of the Jocks!

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