Remember a time before television was completely digital? It wasn't that long ago, but many people seem to have forgotten about that analog signals were the standard. To the outside viewer, one might not know the differences between the two. I probably wouldn't have known the difference myself if it wasn't for my parent's large antenna behind our house. It was the size of a car and the space it required took a good quarter of our backyard. My dad loved television and his job allowed him to afford whatever expense for his addiction. I remember there was a TV in every room of the house, even in the bathroom.
My room was no exception. The television was an older television cabinet, one of those ones with the TV built inside and had the fake drawers. It was originally our living room set, but since dad had upgraded to a 42 inch CRT, I inherited it. I guess he was tired of kicking me out of the living room when I was playing video games. Ironically, I never was much into television myself. It was never interactive enough for my taste and I hated someone just telling me a story. Usually the TV in my room would be on Channel 4 for my Nintendo. On rare occasions I would turn onto Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon when I was particularly bored with jumping on enemies, but that was about it. I was still appreciative of the set however.
I recall there were 120 channels on the dial of my TV. Because of the placement of the channels, it was easier to go backward to get to the channels that I would want to watch rather than going forward. However, this way there was a lot of what I called "ghost channels". They were mostly shows that didn't come in quite right. I'm not exactly sure why there were there. Maybe the signal wasn't quite strong enough, or maybe it had something to do with how it was connected to the antenna. Most of them were just static where you could just barely hear any talking, but I could never quite make out what it was saying. Almost every channel from 80 to 120 was one of these ghost channels. I started getting actual programming around channel 80 or so, but Nickelodeon was 78 and Cartoon Network was not so far behind. Looking back, turning the channel this way saved at most a couple of minutes of my life, but it made me feel pretty efficient as a child, even if I had to hear annoying static.
But one of the stranger ones was one I called "Channel One". The dial on the television didn't have '1' labeled. I've been told on some TVs this was the "U" channel, but I guess it functioned the same. It went from 2 right around to 120. However, there was definitely an audible click in between them. The channel was always was just complete static. The other ghost channels would have an actual channel trying to push through. Channel one wasn't a ghost channel, it was a dead channel. No sounds of talking, no picture forming, nothing like the others. Just complete static. None of the other televisions in our house even had a channel one. For some strange reason, I always felt bad for the channel, it seemed like it was forgotten. I'm not sure why I had a strange empathy for a television channel of all things, but I always slowed down as I got closer to it, just to acknowledge it was there.
I guess to call it a "dead channel" was wrong of me though. Rarely there would be... something on channel one. I remember the very first time it happened. It was summer and I was on vacation from school, I was watching Nickelodeon until Nick-at-Nite came on. I didn't really want to watch a "Grandma Show" as I not-so-affectionately referred to the black-and-white syndication that ran on the channeI after dark. I was bored and not ready for sleep, so I had started turning the dial to play a game of Super Mario Bros. 2. I was going past the channels when I noticed an old black-and-white program flicker right before I reached channel 4. As I said, there would be times where the other ghost channels would have something on them, but never have I seen something in monochrome and most definitely never on channel one. I could have sworn that's where I seen it. I slowly turned the dial back bit by bit until I got to that empty space. Sure enough, something was there.
I don't remember any of the exact details at the time. I was fairly young and a bit confused, and my grasp on all the 'grown-up' language was pretty limited. I remember an older man, black suit and tie, reading a sheet of paper and speaking into a microphone with a fairly bland background. His voice seemed distinguished, and educated. At first glance, it was obvious he was a newscaster, but the things he said that didn't make any sense to me at the time. I vaguely remember he was talking about something with World War II. It was about the Pearl Harbor attack and evacuations of civilians in areas that might be future targets. It was fairly serious sounding and I recall being fascinated and confused. About 2 minutes into it, the signal faded back into the empty static.
Thinking about it now, I would have been really creeped out that this happened, but my child-like wonder left me intrigued. It seemed fairly normal to me since old shows ran all the time, and I figured why not the news as well? I figured channel one was just an old news station that rarely ever came in. However, because of this rare occurrence, I became fascinated with channel one and wanted to see what else would pop up. I sat there watching the static for an hour but nothing happened. Disappointed, and almost lulled into sleep with the white noise, I went to bed defeated. However, that moment made me obsessed seeing something else on this secret channel. I felt like I seen something that I wasn't supposed to see. Or something that no one else had ever seen before. It was as if Channel one acknowledged my existence in return.
When I was bored and didn't feel like playing video games, I would turn the TV on channel one just to see if anything else would force its way through the dead static. It drove my parents crazy to have me listening to that harsh white noise most of the time. It eventually drove them to the point where they would demand that I either change the channel or turn it off, threatening to take the TV away if I didn't. Humorously, I remember getting "the talk" from my father because he thought I stumbled on the scrambled porn channel, only to find out that wasn't the case. But they never believed me when I told them what I saw, claiming that "Channel One" didn't exist.
But despite these threats, I intently watched; Most of the time with the sound turned down just enough that I could hear it. Their reprimands inspired me. Them telling me not to watch it, even denying its existence only made the curiosity worse. I watched it for weeks over that summer. Most times it would be nothing but eventually my efforts paid off. I recall four more incidents of something coming up on channel one after that day that I remember seeing that strange newscast. These events were a week or two apart, at completely random times of the day. Each of these only lasted for a minute or two before they faded away.
The first one that I saw was a cartoon of all things. Through the faint static, there was an image of a sun that was breathing fire on the land, causing the water to dry up and the plants to die in cartoonish way. There was no voice acting, only a narrator that talked over the show. I could barely hear him through the static. From what I could tell, there was a Native-American village that was dying from the heat of the sun. An Native American boy tried to give animals water but all that was left was a drop. Before the plot could develop any further, the whole thing faded into static.
The second time was the news man again, this time talking about a rather terrible story of a young girl who was murdered in a park somewhere in California. He made brief mention of the scene, of how her body was discovered in two different locations, though the details were intentionally vague. He made mention of a police investigation not turning much of anything and he demanded that if I knew anything about it to contact the authorities. I remember he said something like it was a "black daisy" murder or something to that effect before the scene faded into the static.
The third one was what seemed like an old weather report. I remember someone besides the newscaster talking about how the cold weather was great for the season. He mentioned the low temperatures and the snow falling. It was a very stark contrast to the humid summer heat I was dealing with. I honestly don't remember much of this because I believe this one came in at 3am, and I only caught it due to the static cutting out and waking me from a dream. It was doctor who and the sensorites
The last broadcast I caught though... it was rather disturbing and different from anything else I ever seen. Before then, everything I had seen was at least recognizable, but what came across the last time was too frightening for my young mind. It was some older man in a nice outfit and a monocle looking thing in his hand. I distinctly remembered he spoke with a thick accent of some kind. However, the static distorted his features where I could not see any face. But what was worse were the creatures he was talking with. They had distorted skulls, long faces and slits for eyes. I don't remember seeing noses or mouths, but their skin was leathery and dark. I figured they were aliens of some sort, but not having any exposure to sci-fi, they looked like burn victims. The static was just thick enough that I could not even make any details to relieve the stress in my mind.
As a child, this vision scared me so much that I remember leaping out of the bed turning the TV off as quick as I could. I ran into my parent's bedroom crying, trying to explain what I just saw. They didn't believe anything I said about channel one. They played it off as it was just static and my eyes were playing tricks on me, before berating me about watching channel one again. Since then, I had always gone the long way around the dial. I made damn well sure that I stayed away from channel one as much as possible.
Fortunately, I didn't use that TV for much longer as I had gotten new TV for Christmas that year, as well as a Super Nintendo. Undoubtedly they bought this for me to alleviate the "issues" I had with channel one. This TV didn't have the ghost channels, and not even a way to access channel one. However, the old TV was still in my room due to it being fairly useful as desk to put the new TV on top of. Besides, that TV cabinet was roughly 600lbs and my parents had no desire to try to drag that thing out of my room. For a long time, the TV just went unused and channel one was completely out of my mind at this point
It wasn't until 15 years later that old TV would be used again. I had inherited dad's flat-screen TV from his room after he got yet another upgrade. It was nice but it only had composite cables, no plugs for an RF adapter. By this time Analog on televisions was being phased out for digital so there was less and less need for those coaxial cables. It didn't really bother me, because every other console I had supported it, outside of my old Nintendo. I knew there was a composite cable option but I never bothered investing in them.
But one day, I just had this urge to play Super Mario Bros 2 again. I just plugged in the TV cabinet and plugged in the Nintendo. It was simple; the old Nintendo RF adapter as well as the antenna cable was already in the back. I had no desire to move the heavy TV to unplug it even after all these years using it as a desk. However, since my dad had moved onto digital cable, the only channels that were coming in were the analog channels anyone could get. The huge antenna in our back yard was still functional, so the quality of the signals were fairly good.
Curiosity consumed me as I browsed through the channel to see what we were still getting. After some clicking through more than 100 dead channels, there was one I needed to check. It was a good long time before I had even considered looking at it again, and I still vaguely remembered the creepiness of it, but now I just dismissed it as child-like imagination as I was told it was. I turned the to channel one. On first glance, it was nothing but static, but there was something different in this static than it was all the other dead channels. It was harsh, almost scrambled. There was a strange, constant sound coming through. It's hard to explain. It sounded like someone was talking underwater. Every couple of seconds, a extremely high pitched sound would come in and slowly fade, like the sound your ears make when they are ringing.
I intently watched for a good minute, trying to make out what was going on. I could see the video ever so faintly through the static. In my mind's eye, it was the news reporter, with the paper and microphone as I had seen about long before. I humored at the luck of stumbling upon something on channel one after all these years. As I said, it was 15 years since I even looked at it and I remember spending weeks worth of time for the random 2 minutes of content, quite literally a million-in-one odds. The signal grew stronger it became easier to make out and eventually I was treated to a fuzzy picture.
However, as the picture started coming through, a sense of dread washed over me. It looked like the reporter, but something was deformed with his face. It looked disproportionate. His head was large, I'd say roughly one-and-a-half times the size of a normal human, making it very easy to see details despite all the static. It had a shiny, rubber texture to it and was expressionless. His lips were barely moving and the eye sockets seemed dark and empty. It was as if he was wearing a cartoonish mask of himself. I was confused at first, but then the whole face just changed expression, this time looking angry, the mouth seemed to grit non-existent teeth and the brow furrowed with a scowl. The mouth grew wide like a snake unhinging it's jaw then slammed shut, and his face turned completely neutral again. It seemed wrong, it wasn't quite a mask, or a puppet. It was like someone was wearing skin that didn't fit.
His movements were exaggerated, his head bobbing up and down repeatedly as he talked. It wasn't in any sort of rhythm or motion, but completely sporadic. His hands were moving the papers in exaggerated motions as he flipped through them. On the papers it was complete scribbles ran haphazardly across the page. It seemed like as if someone was imitating a caricature of the reporter, like a parody or Satire. As he spoke, the strange reverse glubbing and harsh static coming through. A screech that sounded like a... roar of a robotic elephant came piercing through the static that caused me to freeze in fear.
It was then I noticed the other proportions. His hands were... dangling. It was like skin was hanging off the bone and had no real muscle structure to it, bending and folding nearly flat at some points, his pinky not moving at all, just dangling loosely. Two fingers, the index and the thumb, were longer by a good inch. His limbs seemed unusually long, with his forearms disappearing behind the desk and his arms sloping all the way down. Even his body frame was disturbing, resembling long, nearly rail thin proportions.
He looked at the camera and you could see these strange looking eyes just gazing right at you underneath the mask's dead eyes. I then realized that wasn't entirely in black in white, but I could see these cyan colored-orbs behind the slits, like the whole studio was washed from color rather than broadcasted in monochrome. His head suddenly twitched and shook violently.
Then static overtook the image.
I was enthralled, but frightened. My hand was still on the dial, frozen. I wasn't quite sure if what I was seeing was actually happening. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me and I was just seeing things through the static. I remember exhaling violently as I had forgotten to take a breath the entire time that was going on. My mind tried to reason with itself. Maybe I just witnessed something and took it out of context, like I caught the last end of a Saturday Night Live skit. Hell, maybe I just imagined the entire thing.
But just as I started to calm down and change the channel. I heard a voice that had been lost to my memory. It was the reporter. There was no image available, just static, and the voice was faint and barely intelligible from the noise. I had turned the volume up full blast just to make out what he was saying, for some reason feeling like he could explain what I just saw.
His words were broken, with at least a second's worth of pause between them, and the tone from one word did not match the next, as if someone was using a soundboard. Even after a decade later after hearing it, I remember it clearly as yesterday.
"Good Morning... Danger... Killing... Everyone... Earth... Time... Twenty...Twenty-Nine... Everyone... Evacuate... Twenty...Twenty-Nine... All... Dead... Good Night..."
There was a loud, screeching roar followed by complete sound garbage. Painful, ear-piercing gibberish. Probably because I had the TV on full blast to hear the faint speech. Then the signal just cut out completely. Normally, there was a small fade to static but this was an immediate feed cut. A feeling a nausea and worry overcame me, and I felt my tongue pull back into my throat. I had trouble comprehending what I just saw, my mind racing miles per second. I had gripped the dial so hard that I had shattered the plastic casing underneath my fingers and I didn't realize that I was bleeding.
I had let Channel One stay on for over an hour with the loud static just to see if I could hear anything else... but nothing came up. I left it on for days, weeks, months. I had bought a DVD recorder to record when I slept and while I was at work. For almost a year of my life, I had spent hours with both televisions on. One watching what I missed and one watching what might yet to be. I dreamed in static. I had nightmares of these horrible, disfigured proportion doppelgangers of the newscaster. My entire life was consumed by this television. I was hoping, begging to hear anything.
But despite my efforts, that was the last time I heard anything from that channel one.
My parents, which I was still living with at the time, became so concerned that they forced me to see psychiatrist to "explain" it to me. He said I had some sort of psychotic episode from stress. That my mind had made up the whole event. Not once did he reassure what I might have seen could actually happen. He told me to quit watching channel one, but I refused. He tried to put me on medication, but I refused. He eventually ordered me to take the TVs out of my room, telling my parents that I shouldn't be allowed to watch the TV unsupervised. Again, I refused. It wasn't until my father eventually smashed the old TV and burned it while I was at therapy that my search was forced to stop.
I had spent time looking up what might have happened, searching forums, doing research, anything I could. The most common explanation I got was that some of the old TV waves are sent out to space, and some times they come back if they bounce off a planet or something. That explained why I might have seen those old news reports, but I never got a good explanation on what I saw that day. My mind tries to wrap around the possibilities but I never found any answers other than people who seem even crazier than I am. I've been told that it was aliens warning us about some asteroid coming to the earth, with the government trying to cover it up. Some told me my TV was possessed by a demonic spirit offering me prophetic knowledge. Some told me it was a message from the future, appearing through a worm-hole.
And many told me that I was lying, or that I was crazy. As if it was just some story I wrote for attention or to just scare people.
I'm not sure what I saw, I just know I've seen something. Something that maybe I shouldn't have seen but did. Or maybe it was something that was meant for us to see but many just neglected the unlabeled channel. A channel that was completely removed from most TVs after that. I believe channel one was trying to communicate something to me.
Every now and then I desperately want to see what's on channel one to hear any messages that might have been left out there, like some twisted obsession. But now analog TVs are a thing of the past. I couldn't even replicate the same set-up anymore, at least not without hundreds of thousands of dollars. It might be impossible now. I just want to know if there were any other messages meant for us, things we might have missed. Thousands of minutes in my life go by and each one containing a possible message, a warning that I might have missed. A narrative that I needed to hear.
I wonder if the change to digital was with best intentions for us. Was it just because of better quality pictures and less frequency pollution? Or maybe something was seeing us, seeing our society filled with violence, murder, killing our planet. Seeing our fingerprints passing through empty space, only for someone or something to pick up light years away.
Or maybe the change was to prevent us from seeing what they were sending back...