Category Archives: itv

Thames TV ‘night time’ ident & Armchair Thriller intro (1978/79)

(View the video here)

I am sure I am not the only kid who was scared stupid by this little piece of video. This series of thrillers (some novel adaptations) was shown at both primetime and repeated in the afternoons on ITV. It didnt really matter if you were staying up late or innocently watching the telly in the afternoon, as soon as the night time Thames ident came on (an alternative to the ‘blue sky’ version used the majority of the time), there was a general feeling of unease. It was reality turned inside out, like the walls suddenly dripping blood (which reminds me – click here for more ITV ghoulishness. Once the Thames music faded, the real scares began. A solitary armchair in a darkened room, then a shadow moving into view, and settling down into the armchair. I know it doesnt sound particularly frightening. Check out the video. The shadow effect, achieved with animation, really does a good job of cranking up the fear factor. Some of the episodes even lived up to the intros mood setting (like ‘Quiet As A Nun’).


Armchair Thriller entry at Wikipedia

Armchair Thriller fan site with video and episode guides

TV Heaven guide to the show

One of the episodes even made it into the Channel 4 list of 100 Greatest Scary Moments, just behind the magnificent Suspiria by Dario Argento.

Just to make sure all your childhood fears are reawakened, check out this slide below, with the following explanation from the Armchair Thriller fan site;

“The slide …… was used for the “coming up” announcement before each episode…”

What were they trying to do to us Kids????

A different kind of newsflash from the Seventies…. (1977)

A few months ago I discussed my childhood terror of ITN newsflashes and serial killers. All I can say is, I am glad I wasnt a 7 year old home alone (and I would like to stress no 7 year old should be left home alone) when this happened.


On the evening of November the 26th, 1977, the ITN news broadcast was interrupted at 17:10 – although the video remained the same, the audio signal was hijacked by an alien!

The voice proclaimed to be ‘Vrillon of the Ashtar Galactic Command’, and had a message for Earth, warning of total destruciton if Humans carried on their present path.

This is from the esteemed ‘Fortean Times’ article on the event (courtesy of

And this from Fortean Times #24, Winter 1977

“Mention must be made here of an event that startled several thousands of TV watchers in Southern England. At 5.06pm, just as the news was being read on Saturday evening, 26 November 1977, a deep voice, accomapnied by an eerie booming sound likened to a “hollow drumming”, drowned out the newscaster’s voice and delivered a short message…

This is the voice of Asteron. I am an authorised representative of the Intergalactic Mission, and I have a message for planet Earth. We are beginning to enter the period of Aquarius and there are many corrections which have to be made by Earth People. All your weapons of evil must be destroyed. You have only a short time to live to learn to live together in peace. You must live in peace… or leave the galaxy.

Somehow the originators of the message had jammed the sound signals frmo Southern TV’s transmitter at Hannington, Wiltshire, so viewers from Newbury and Reading to Winchester and Andover heard the weird voice superimposed over the ITN news bulletin. It caused sufficent panic for SOuthern TV to put half-hourly announcements insisting that it had been a hoax and that the planet was not being invaded. Predictably the IBA and Post Office took a rigid humourless stand, vowing prosecution of the culprits… and if the planet had been invaded we’d like to have seen them try!

Whoever did the deed knew their stuff, for the android (as one Post Office representative persisted in calling the mystery voice) needed sophisticated equipment or techniques to break into and dominate a TV transmission. One perceptive letter in the Times pointed out that if this was the first time this had ever happened in Britain, as the IBA claimed, then how could they be sure it was a hoax? Inexplicably the News of the World and Daily Mail call the owner of the voice ‘Gillon of the Ashdown Galactic Command’ and that he said “Unless the weapons of Earth are laid dow, destruction from outer space invasion will quickly follow”. We hope their regular news reportage is more accurate than that, for the indication is that they’ve simply invented a more shocking message. The Sunday Times claimed to have tracked down a student group who invented a new type of transmistter (for £80) which can ‘hich a ride’ on conventional transmissions. But again, how can they be sure that this isn’t a bandwagon hoax?

Incidentally, we’re sure you noticed that the ‘entity’ and message closely conform to the messages given to UFO prophets, psychic sitting groups and contactees (see UFOs:John Keel’s Operation Trojan Horse and Clark & Coleman’s The Unidentified for discussions of names and messages from UFOs). Whoever perpetrated the hoax had done his homework; especially if he was a terrestrial. Of course the massive TV publicity of the imminent Star Wars must have reinforced its effect for those ripe for the salvation-from-the-stars belief. One professor (quoted in the Carlisle, Penn Evening Standard 3 Dec 1977) said that the reference to Aquarius proved the message was a hoax… he reasoned that as the most intelligent body on Earth, the scientists, do not believe in astrology, then ipso facto intelligent life elsewhere would not believe in it either.”

Enough of the words, lets hear the transmission! This is courtesy of Labyrinth 13;

and hosted on vimeo (http;// Nice use of the theremin on the introductory test….

Vrillon of the Ashtar Galactic Command Incident from Labyrinth13 on Vimeo.

Ashtar Command it is claimed, are an extraterrestrial organization associated with and promoted by New Age believers and contactees, including George Van Tassel and others (see the Wikipedia entry);

Whoever or whatever hijacked the broadcast, it is certainly effective. I will change my ways forthwith!!

Some thoughts on the Vrillon broadcast on a Hoax forum (if you don’t want to ruin the magic, don’t read it!);

It even makes it into this sites televisual events of the year, 1977 (and rightly so);

There is a very good article on TV hijackings at the splendid site, including the Vrillon ITN hijack;

Here is a newsflash

One of the most frightening experiences of my life occured on the 5th of January, 1981. A cold Sunday evening (around 6pm). I could feel the cold air coming in from under the doors. I was in the house on my own, because we lived next door to my gran, and the rest of the family were there. I was listening to the Top 40 on the radio, but had the telly on as well (they call it multi tasking nowadays). Suddenly, on the telly came the stark blue background and gold letters stating in no uncertain terms this was an ITN News Flash.

I dont know about you, but I still had a problem with the dark when I was 10. Going upstairs with just the landing light on, on my own, facing the ‘unknown’ terrors that lurked in your own house. It was a trial every time I needed to go up there. Winter was worse, of course, as the dark settled in so much earlier. I had an overactive imagination. I used to make my younger brother go with me if I needed to make that trip upstairs. I didn’t always reciprocate, forcing him upstairs then doing something evil like turning off the landing light, or making ‘ghost’ noises from the comfort of the bottom of the stairs. Even being downstairs, if the landing light wasnt on, and the door leading to the stairs was ajar, and dark, then this was enough to send me into a bit of a state. What terrors lurked beyond that thin piece of wood???

Back to the Sunday evening. I was in the front room when the newsflash came on. This was enough to concern me. The fact I was in the house on my own ratcheted up the anxiety. Factor in it was January, early evening, so it was DARK. This was getting worse by the second. Add into the mix the fact that the DOOR leading to the tiny hallway that took you UP THE STAIRS was AJAR. Also, THE LANDING LIGHT WAS NOT ON. I was staring, through that crack that seperated me from the terrors beyond the hall, into the cold dark heart of my fears.

Then it got worse, and this is why it still makes me go cold thinking about it to this day.

The stark newsflash ident* disappeared to be replaced by a screen showing photos of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. This montage of victims photos was seen quite frequently on the news, and the immediate reaction was that something ‘bad’ had happened.

However, nothing ‘bad’ had happened. The newsflash was reporting that Peter Sutcliffe had been charged with the murders. What had happened that was ‘bad’ was my mind had been overloaded with dark thoughts. I was in the house on my own, it was dark UPSTAIRS, there had been a NEWSFLASH and then ITN made me look at faces of people who had been murdered. I was rigid with fear, staring at the black strip beyond the door that led to the hall, imagining Peter Sutcliffe or some other killer/ghoul/bogeyman advancing down the stairs.

I made a 2 second dash to the front door and through to my grans house. I never beat that time. It felt like my body had been charged with electricity.

Nowadays if my children say they are scared of going upstairs, I listen and I understand. I don’t turn off the landing light.

* ident being the way the television station identifies itself or the programming schedule – see;