Do Not Adjust Your Set: Spooky Television Pranks

Inside No. 9 pulled the ultimate prank on us last week, and don't tell me you weren't fooled!


Cutting out at exactly 9 minutes (get it?), the sound errors seemed to be genuine, and after several further errors the whole broadcast was apparently abandoned in replace of a repeat. A quick glance at Twitter at the time told you the whole audience had been taken in. But it wasn't too long before we realised this was all part of the plot and the episode played out as a forth wall, breaking horror, as the cast were picked off one by one.


However, this is not the first time we've seen something like this on TV. In 1992, the BBC broadcast probably the most bizarre programme of all time: Ghostwatch. The show was a Crime Watch/Watchdog telethon-style broadcast hosted by Micheal Parkinson. This live paranormal investigation was hosted by Sarah Green at a house belonging to a family who had apparently reported activity in their home from a malevolent spirit called 'Mr Pipes'.


This was interspersed with lighthearted reports by Craig Charles, as he walked around interviewing local residents, while Mike Smith was back with Micheal Parkinson taking your 'calls' live in the studio.


However, nothing was real - it was all a hoax! It was a drama, which the BBC had revealed in the Radio Times that week, but millions hadn't got the message. The programme caused outrage, some people genuinely believing a girl had been hurt, and that Sarah Green had actually been killed by a ghost (yes, really!).


Ghostwatch was reportedly banned from being repeated by the BBC shortly after the broadcast, but has since been released on DVD, so maybe that is an urban legend. The BBC have always maintained that they were clear that the programme was a drama, but the intention to fool viewers seemed to be clear and people were not happy!


Inside No. 9 is probably the first show to try something similar since Ghostwatch. However, there was also another famous creepy interruption to a broadcast, but this one was real...


In America, in 1987, Doctor Who viewers were dismayed when the PBS channel was overtaken by a man in a Max Headroom mask, who ranted randomly, while using something to distort his voice. This creepy broadcast definitely made headlines. However, the culprit was never identified- although many online sleuths have tried to uncover the man behind the mask.


Most were baffled as to how this could have been done in the first place. It actually happened twice, and after the first interruption the baffled news anchor said, 'If you're wondering what that was, so am I.'


The second and final signal interruption ended with the hacker’s exposed buttocks being spanked with a flyswatter by an accomplice before normal programming resumed.


So, there you are. Do not adjust your set, because most of the time you're just being pranked...


Written by Rhianna Evans


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