The "Max Headroom pirating incident" is the fascinating story of the successful hijacking of two television signals in the Chicago, Illinois area on Sunday, November 22, 1987. This feat was accomplished by a person who then proceeded to perform an illegal broadcast on live television while wearing a Max Headroom mask.
The incident began when television broadcasts at two different stations (WTTW and WGN) were interrupted by the hijacker on the same day, only hours apart. The first incident occurred during the sports segment of the WGN 9:00 p.m. news broadcast; the second incident (featured in the video) took place around 11:15 p.m., during a late evening showing by WTTW of the "Doctor Who" television show.
The hijacker's motives for the act of piracy remain unclear, but it is possible that he may have held some sort of private grudge against the two Chicago stations that were effected by his broadcasts: he made a direct reference to WGN sportscaster Chuck Swirsky, as well as to hijacked station WGN (known as the "World's Greatest Newspaper) by referring to the latter as the "greatest world's newspaper nerds."
Later commentary on this event would refer to the hijacker as "a sophisticated video pirate with an unsophisticated sense of humor who managed to override the signals of Chicago's [television] broadcast."
And criticism was even leveled at the pirate for not using his "air time" to say something more profound!
But as one observer has noted, there may actually be a "hidden message" there for those who look a little deeper, pointing out the fact that the plot of the actual Max Headroom television show "had been set in a post-apocalyptic future where evil television corporations controlled the world and freedom fighters spread their messages by 'zipping' their pirate signal into live television feeds." In light of that observation, it must be noted that the hijacker delivered a decent recreation of the real Max Headroom character; he actually produced a pretty convincing display of his mannerisms, his suit and the iconic, undulating-line backdrop by standing in front of what appears to be a sheet of corrugated roofing metal!
The independent genius responsible for hijacking the signal has never been caught or identified.
May he live long and prosper . . .
Transcript of the Pirate Video:
The audio in the pirate video is highly distorted, making it hard to decipher accurately what the person is saying. Below is an interpretation of the hijacker's words; other listeners may hear something different.
Pirate broadcast begins with:
"That does it, he's a freakin' nerd"
"Yeah, I think I'm better than Chuck Swirsky."
(Distorted speech. Hijacker shows audience a Pepsi cola can)
"Yeah . . . catch the wave."
(Hijacker throws can away; distorted words and moaning)
"Your love is fading."
(Hijacker laughs, then begins to hum the theme song to the 1959 Clutch Cargo show)
"I stole CBS"
(Hijacker continues to hum Clutch Cargo theme)
"Oh, my piles."
(Hijacker laughs and moans)
"Oh, I just laid a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world's newspaper nerds."
(Hijacker laughs and moans; is seen putting an old glove or baseball mitt on his hand)
"My brother is wearing the other one, it's dirty."
(Pulls glove off and tosses it away. More distorted words. Pirate video then switches to scene of hijacker with his pants down, being spanked with a flyswatter by a disguised female).
"They're coming to get me!"
"Come get me, b****."
"Oh, do it!"
Pirate broadcast ends and the Doctor Who show resumes with the words, "As far as I can tell, a massive electric shock, he died instantly!"