Case of a couple receiving harassing messages on their TV?

Okay this really is a double post, sorry, but this fascinates me.

I found this (unfortunately unsourced) news article on a message board that at least states that the messages stopped after Labor Day (2000) but the TV still turned off by itself as late as October:

Man. This, Max Headroom, and number stations… for some reason people screwing around with broadcasts really bothers (aka scares the crap out of) me, I don’t know why.

It was either the 13 year-old son or they built their house on a former cemetery but they never moved the bodies!

Google News; I did an advanced search for “tv messages couple” between 1995 and 2003, and it was the top result. It’s a damn useful tool, and I was really disappointed that Google pulled the plug on the archiving project earlier this year. Thankfully, stuff that they’ve added already is still accessible, even if it’s a little harder to get to than it used to be.

There is a very funny scene of that in Grumpy Old Men. From 1993, several years before this. Video here.

I actually had a device that would you overlay a computer image on a composite video image. Anything that appeared on the computer would appear on the tv image as an overlay. I just used it to draw adjustable alignment marks on the screen. It was something like this.

You could probably could attach a parabolic antenna and a signal booster to a unit like below and freak out your neighbors.

This is the first time I’ve ever called someone from a news story out of my own curiosity, but I worked on my highschool newspaper and got used to calling strangers to get information. It went something like:

(Gentle voice to try to not alarm her at all):

Woman picks up “Hello?”

Me: “Hello, can I speak to Judge Smith?”

Her: “He’s not here right now.”

Me: “Is this Charlotte Smith?”

Her: “Yes”

Me: “Hi, my name is _____, you don’t know me but I saw the news report many years ago about the case of the person harassing you through your TV. I can’t find ANY information about the case online, I was wondering if they ever caught the person?”

(Before calling I was 90% sure they would catch this person either as a disgruntled Cable person or someone within RF distance of their house, I assumed it would be pretty easy to catch this person)

Her: “No. They never found out who it was.” (I can’t describe to you how this one sentence sounded coming from her. Charlotte sounded like a sweet, dignified and intelligent lady, but she definitely sounded like I was reminding her about the worst time in her life.)

Me: “I’m so so sorry to hear that, that was an awful thing. Well I hope everything is alright now, take care.”

That was about it. As soon as she said the person was never caught and sounded distraught, I chose not to ask any of the questions I wanted (My number 1 question was “Did they ever have a suspect?” I totally would’ve tried to track down that guy and call him if she had a name).

I felt somewhat guilty about upsetting a sweet old lady, but her and Judge chose to appear on the news in the first place to share their story, so I was only asking the resolution to what they chose to make public.

Since the FBI got involved, does anyone know how to do a freedom of information act request to find out what they found?

You might next find the F.B.I. calling YOU with some upsetting questions.

Yeah I thought of that but considering I was proveably not even in her state at the time and I was 15, I am not that worried even if they do ask me questions.

So like I suspected, the remote control capable of doing this is not consumer grade. I hope the authorities investigated Dish Network technicians and also checked to see if any equipment with those capabilities was reported stolen. I found a newsgroup for a technology security group discussing the case and they posted the specs of an RF remote needed to carry this out, it definitely sounds like specialist equipment. And if the TV really responded to Charlotte’s voice, I wonder if their house was bugged during the initial break-in.

See this current thread for more thoughts about THAT. See especially the posts about the advisability of answering questions. Be worried.