The situation depicted in the creepypasta “After The Sign-Off” may be increasingly unfamiliar to readers these days; not only are we no longer accustomed to television channels going off-air for long periods of time in the wee hours of the morning, we can watch pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want now — the prevalence of streaming has virtually done away with scheduled programming and given us the freedom to program our own viewing schedule.
But if you’re willing to think back a little — or to read up on how television worked 40, 50, 60 years ago — then “After The Sign-Off” has much to offer. Published to the Creepypasta Wikia in 2016 by user Moogyboy, it’s one of those stories that leaves much unexplained, but is all the more effective because of it.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Weird shit used to happen on the TV at night.
At least it was never this weird, though.
…As far as we know, at least.
For the curious, this is the test pattern mentioned in the story. Content warnings below the excerpt, if you want/need them.
After I’d got back from the Army, I’d drifted around the Midwest a bit and ended up living just outside a small village in rural north central Ohio. This was back in the late ’70s, early ’80s. About the only place I could afford in those days was an old trailer in a dingy little park off a two-lane county road. I was delivering pizzas for a little shop in the village, and being out in the middle of nowhere the business dried up around 10:00 or so every night.
These were in the days before the internet or even TV as you young ones know it now. Because of a freak of geography or propagation, my area could barely get the big stations out of Columbus, so the only TV we had in my corner of the county was a small independent low-power station run by a local family out of their barn. They’d inherited the transmitter and studio equipment of one of the Columbus stations back in the ’50s when they’d converted to color; it was really antiquated stuff. They only broadcast in black and white. Aside from 15 minutes of local news every evening, a farm report on Saturday morning, and an evangelical Christian sermon on Sunday, the programming was nothing more than scratchy 16mm prints of old Monogram serials, government training films, public domain cartoons, and whatever other random junk they could find. I gave the family credit; it wasn’t Hollywood, but they did the best they could for the community with what little they had.
…[But] one anonymous night—
Something caught my eye.
(CW: Imprisonment, murder, what essentially amounts to a snuff film.)
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[Photo via Tina Rataj-Berard/Unsplash]