45 Years Ago: Did an Alien Called Vrillon Hack Into English TV?
It’s often remarked upon that when a greater being attempts to contact humanity, it chooses quiet backwater areas instead of going straight to the top. So it was when, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 1977, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command took over TV airwaves to warn the world of the risk of its destruction, he spoke via a regional broadcaster with a maximum audience of about 500,000 households in the south of England.
Southern TV’s usual Day by Day evening news bulletin was being aired live just after 5 p.m. when the comforting tones of broadcaster Andrew Gardner were heard to fade, and the picture dissolved. “This is the voice of Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command,” came the words of a seemingly computer-generated speaker. “For many years you have seen us as lights in the skies. We speak to you now in peace and wisdom, as we have done to your brothers and sisters all over this, your planet Earth.”
Vrillon went on to describe the rising of a new Age of Aquarius – a well-known hippie reference from the ‘60s, based on a vague and ill-defined astrological concept. But, he continued, “We come to warn you of the destiny of your race and your world so that you may communicate to your fellow beings the course you must take to avoid the disaster which threatens your world and the beings on our worlds around you. This is in order that you may share in the great awakening.” He urged listeners to make political leaders aware of “evil forces that can overshadow their judgments,” adding, “Be still now and listen, for your chance may not come again. All your weapons of evil must be removed.”
Promising that "higher stages" of existence were available to humanity if it was "worthy," he advised that there wasn’t much time to prove it. "Only those who learn to live in peace will pass to the higher realms of spiritual evolution," he said. "Hear now the voice of Vrillon. … You know now that we are here, and that there are more beings on and around your Earth than your scientists admit."
The hack ended with, “Have no fear, seek only to know yourselves, and live in harmony with the ways of your planet Earth. We here at the Ashtar Galactic Command, thank you for your attention. We are now leaving the planes of your existence. May you be blessed by the supreme love and truth of the cosmos.”
Within moments, Gardner was back on the air, telling the audience, “We understand that viewers in some parts of the region are receiving a breakthrough in sound. We’re sorry about this and are doing our best to rectify the fault.”
Watch the Vrillon TV Hack
Media reports spoke of an “intergalactic prankster,” who didn't impress the authorities and faced a fine of up to £200 ($363 at the time) if he was found. A local newspaper said “thousands” of viewers had been scared by the hack; one man described the experience as “very eerie indeed” and said it “sounded very authentic.” A woman reported she had to call her friends to make sure she wasn’t “hearing things,” adding that “it sounded like a genuine voice from outer space and was quite frightening.”
A few days later, Southern TV announced they established how the hack was achieved but wouldn’t reveal details so to avoid a repeat episode. “But we are taking steps to ensure it will not happen again and viewers [are] not frightened,” a spokesperson noted. It was later theorized that Vrillion and his helpers had taken advantage of the fact that one of Southern’s transmitters was based in a remote location on the Isle of Wight, making it easier to hack into the system.
It’s worth noting that, unlike some of the world’s best-known TV hacks, Vrillon’s was different in that it seemed to carry no element of humor. In the ‘70s Cold War environment, many genuinely lived in fear of looming nuclear destruction.
Those who recall the British government’s Protect and Survive PSAs do so with a shudder, so the Ashtar announcement’s format lent a deeper feel to its message. People wanted reassurance, and Vrillon’s promise was much more positive than the contents of many Day by Day bulletins. (Gardner was reporting on the extremely violent civil war in Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe, when the hack took place.) One letter to the Sunday Times demanded to know how the authorities could “be sure that the broadcast was a hoax.”
Watch a Sample ‘Protect and Survive’ PSA
Perhaps some of those listening on that evening took the message to heart and are now living in another dimension under the auspices of the Ashtar Galactic Command. Perhaps humanity’s continuing struggles with the issues that have plagued us since the start of the industrial revolution meant we’ve failed the final test. Either way, Vrillon never spoke to the world again – unless he used an even quieter backwater stunt.