Oddtober 2020: WKCR Interruption and Master Post

I began a discussion about the creepy WKCR broadcast interruption tape last October and I hate to admit that I still haven’t “solved” it.  But I have cleared up a bunch of the names in the video, and still think that I, or anyone else who reads here and takes up the mantle of transcribing the tape, can eventually determine its purpose or its creator. I’ve noticed some incoming links from other sites that analyzed  the tape and realized I never shared what I discovered since I last wrote about the case.  So this will be a master post that has all of my research and I’ll post any new findings in this entry as I find them. If anyone reads this and has information they’d like to share, please comment. I’d love to hear what you think.  Also please feel free to take any of my research and run with it.

My first entry beat down a few of the more unfounded conclusions people had regarding this tape interruption, and in the interests of completion, I’ll pull that data over into this entry.

The lore behind this tape is that in 1994-1996 – the time frame is never clear but is restricted to these years – a kid who enjoyed taping radio shows and listening to them later accidentally recorded a broadcast hijack in a radio program on WKCR radio, the station for Columbia University.  He or she rediscovered this strange recording twenty years later and shared it on 4chan. It’s not as well-known as the bizarre Max Headroom broadcast interruption, but is still discussed on paranormal sites, mystery message boards and similar.

Quick description: In the middle of a radio broadcast, the music was interrupted by a strange recording that began with the sound of breath exhaling and soft feminine moans.  It’s fairly creepy to listen to.

Initially you can hear a bit of chatter and eventually the sound of chatter increases enough in volume that you can tell names and dates of deceased people are being recited, along with names of the deceased’s family members.  Each person’s information ends with a ringing bell.  After the recording ends, there’s a brief moment before the DJ comes back to continue with the show’s format and many people, myself included, think the DJ’s voice is identical to the voice reciting names during the interruption.

Multiple attempts to contact WKCR regarding DJs who worked at the station during this time frame have gone unanswered.  In fact, the station stopped broadcasting this year and I suspect there is little to no chance any time soon of finding someone who has the time to search such records.  Similarly I cannot find anyone who claims to have heard this broadcast interruption as it happened.

My goal has always been to either find out if there is a link between all these names, or if these names could lead us to the person who performed the interruption.  I’ve never felt this was a genuine broadcast interruption.  Either the radio DJ staged this as some sort of avant garde experiment or the tape was created by the person who leaked it with the purpose of passing it off as an interrupted broadcast.  As I listened to the recording over and over (and over and over…), I picked up on some clues the performer seemed to have laid that might lead to her identity or purpose, but I still don’t have the whole of the tape deciphered.

Before I share my research, I want to emphasize that you should not get hung up on the fact that one of these names is of a student who died in the PanAm 103 flight that Libya shot down over Lockerbie.  Also, don’t put too much into the fact that one of these names belonged to a famous physicist who was the brother of the father of the Manhattan Project.  Though I have not figured out every name yet, among those I have I cannot find any links to terrorism, plane crashes, or nuclear physics.  The connection these people share – if they share any connection – I suspect will be the person behind the interruption, a belief bolstered by the fact that the speaker in the interruption specifically states her relationship to some of the people whose names she recites.

I also want to emphasize that the recording has errors in it, either by design or by accident.  If this recording was actually aired between 1994-1996, errors could be chalked up to misremembering dates. It could be deliberate, but I tend to think it wasn’t. If this recording indeed happened more than 20 years ago, it’s not like the woman on the tape could look up information on the Internet.  When you have to rely strictly on memory because Find-a-Grave and Ancestry.com weren’t invented yet, you’re gonna make some mistakes. I also am not wholly sure who the “my friend” or “our friend” portions refer to, the deceased or the name that immediately precedes such statements of relationship.

So join me under the cut and see what I’ve come up with.  And please share anything you think may help or that I’ve overlooked.

When I began, I used work done by or replicated by a blog called Silent Thrills as my launching point. I’ll put my work in bold under Silent Thrill’s interpretation in italics.

 

***

  • Frank Oppenheimer

February 1985 – Frank Oppenheimer, brother of Robert. Husband of Jackie, their father of Micheal, our friend.

This is close.  Breaking it down, I heard a bit more and believe the whole of the entry is as follows:

February 1985 Frank Oppenheimer, brother of Robert, husband of Jackie and Mildred, father of Michael, our friend.

This one was easy because Frank Oppenheimer was famous. All I had to do was listen closely while checking the Wikipedia entry.

***

  • Irene DiTullio McElhoes

August 22nd 1985 [incoherent] Tulio. Sister of Millie, Margaret, Dominic and joe. Wife of William. Mother of Mary, Lisa and Billy.

My first few passes at this one yielded the following:

August 22, 1985  Irene McGills (McEllis) DeTullio (?), sister of (?), Margaret, (incoherent list of names that may include Tony and Joe) Mother of Mary.

The speaker mixed up Irene’s maiden and married names, which was a problem.  But at some point I lucked out – a search on “Irene DeTullio” landed me on a genealogy site that had information on an “Irene DiTullio McElhoes.” Comparing the data, I concluded that the speaker got the name order wrong. From there I was able to pull out the following, with the maiden versus married name error corrected:

August 22, 1985, Irene DiTullio McElhoes, sister of (incoherent), Margaret, (incoherent), Tony, Ida, (incoherent), (incoherent), (incoherent), Alvera and Joe. Mother of Maryann

It speaks to how muffled the recording is that even with her entire family tree in front of me, I still could not determine which names fit into the incoherent spaces.  But here’s a quick recount of Irene’s data:

  • Irene was born in Lawrence, NJ in 1907.  She died on August 22, 1985 in Buckingham, PA and was buried in Trenton, NJ.
  • She married William McElhoes.
  • She had a single daughter, named Maryann.
  • Her siblings were named Joseph DiTullio, Genevieve Ida DiTullio Schnorbus, Adam DiTullio, Scotti DiTullio, Alvera Theresa DiTullio, and Margaret DiTullio.

It was dumb luck plus lots of spare time due to insomnia allowing me to finally land on the combination that would lead me to the correct spelling and order of Irene’s name. “McElhoes” is pronounced almost identically to “McEllis” but is such an uncommon spelling that I never would have thought to search on the correct form of the name.  This will not be the sole time dumb luck aided in my searches.  Also, the McElhoes family will come up again, which makes me feel like this family may be key in uncovering the identity of the person behind the tape or a common link between all these names.

 

***

  • Peter (last name not deciphered.

July 4th 1987 Peter Dunwell, Son of Robert, Husband of Lisa

Was able to pull out the following:

July 4, 1987 Peter (Fenwell, Dunwell?), son of Robert (something) Kay, brother of Bob, Karen, Cindy and Mary, husband of Lisa, father of (?) Rick and Lucy (my father-in-law?)

Even with a complete date of death, a first name, sibling names, and partial names of children, I cannot find anything online that definitely decodes the names here.  Which sucks because I really feel like the speaker in the tape has said that Peter is her father-in-law. I sense his last name is another “McElhoes” sort of name wherein it’s unusual enough that it spoils attempts to decode it using anticipated spelling.

 

***

  • Edward McElhoes

March 17th 1988, Edward McEllis (McNellis?) [Incoherent] Edward’s brother. William, June, Peggy father of Julie.

Hohoho!  This one was easier to decipher given my discovery of the spelling of “McElhoes” above. I was immediately able to find him on the McElhoes family tree and was able to suss out the incoherent parts above.

March 17, 1988 Edward McElhoes, brother of  William, June, Mary and Peggy, father of Shirley, Allie and Geraldine

  • The genealogy site confirmed the death date of March 17, 1988.  Edward was born on April 30, 1912.
  • He was born and died in New Jersey.
  • His siblings were William J McElhoes, James F McElhoes, Mary C McElhoes, Edward McElhoes, and Margaret McElhoes.  Peggy is a nickname for Margaret and I suspect I misheard James as “June.”
  • He was married to a woman named Evelene Snyder, and together they had a daughter named Albina, who is represented in the recording as “Allie.”
  • He was later married to a woman named Ethel Tilton, and together they had a daughter named Shirley.
  • I cannot find anything about a Geraldine and that assumes that my guess regarding the name is correct.

Edward’s brother William was Irene DiTullio McElhoes’ husband.

 

***

  • Ruth or Rupert

April 1988 Rupert [incoherent]

I cannot decipher anything clearly except for the date. In fact, it’s so muddy that I couldn’t even use natural spaces of speech to narrow down how many words were in this part of the recording.

 

***

  • Marvin TenEyck

October 1988 Morgan (Tunic?) father of Barbara, Husband of Elsie. Barbara’s dad.

My first few passes yielded the same as above except I heard “Marvin” rather than “Morgan.”

October 1988 Marvin (Tunic?) father of Barbara, Husband of Elsie. Barbara’s dad.

This name was similar to “McElhoes” in that I would never have considered TenEyck until an Ancestry search on “Marvin Tunic” brought up results for a man named Willis Teneyck.  Here are the pros and cons of considering that this section is referencing a man named Willis Teneyck, who spent most of his life in Wisconsin.

  • Willis Teneyck married a woman named Elsie Mueller, who also lived in Wisconsin.
  • Willis and Elsie had a daughter called Barbara.
  • It’s weird that the speaker lists Barbara as his daughter but then also mentions Willis is “Barbara’s dad.”  She’s already said Willis was the father of Barbara – why the repetition of the relationship at the end of the entry?
  • Willis and Elsie had two daughters, Barbara and Lona May.  Why would Lona May not be included in the names of their children.  This sort of points to the idea that the speaker on the tape is relying on potentially faulty personal remembrances.
  • Willis died on August 12, 1986.
  • There indeed was at least one 20th century Morgan Teneyck but he died in 1969.

This one is up in the air but data for “Morgan” and “Marvin” Teneyck yielded family connections and dates that miss the mark more than Willis.

 

***

  • John Byrnes

November 1988 John Byrne (Burn?) Son of John, brother of Catherine and Chris.

This is what I heard:

November 1988, John Friend/Friends, son of John Sr and Marilyn, brother of Cathy and Chris (…) and Billy

I believe that the name indicated here is John Byrnes.  Here’s why:

  • John Byrnes’ father was John Byrnes and his mother was named Marilyn.
  • He had two sisters named Kathleen and Christine.

There are some issues with this information, because I cannot find anything about a “Billy” and cannot determine what was said just before Billy’s name. Also John Byrnes died in October of 1988.  I also believe that I heard “Kathy/Cathy” and that Kathy’s full name was Kathleen, not Catherine.

 

***

  • Barry Valentino

December 21st 1988 Barry Valentino, son of Barry Senior, brother of Scott, Mark and Lisa. And his friend, my friend.

My reading of this was almost identical, and I’m not sure what exactly “his friend, my friend” is meant to indicate.  However, the facts are identical and easy to find online because Barry Valentino was killed in the PanAm 103 flight that was shot down over Lockerbie, Scotland.

 

  • Henrietta Graham

May 1987 Henrietta Graham, Mother of [incoherent] my friend

My interpretation is the same.  I searched on variations and homophones for “Graham” — Grahame, Graeme, Gram, Grant, Grantham and others and cannot find anything that could be a Henrietta Graham who died in May of 1987.

 

And that’s where it stands for now.  When I have time, I’d like to double check the locations of these death to see if there is some geographical element that links these names.  I’d also like to find all their jobs and causes of death to see if there are any links there.

Again, if you are interested in this recording and have information I missed or heard something different than what I heard, please comment.  I’ll revisit this entry as I find new information.

4 thoughts on “Oddtober 2020: WKCR Interruption and Master Post

  1. Firstly, thanks for stumbling upon my most random blog! Secondly that is some awesome further work. May I link to yours in mine so we can keep them on a cross reference?
    I love this mystery!

    1. Please link away, or share the data however it suits you! When I get some free time I will also upload, somewhere in this entry, screenshots of the various ancestry trees and obituaries that cleared up the names.

      This is my favorite “broadcast interruption” story. The other genuine signal hijackers did not want to be identified, but the WKCR interruption always felt like the speaker was leaving bread crumbs for us to follow. Like there’s an interesting story that can be told if I’m just patient enough and find some good audio software to help me pare down all the noise in the recording. There’s also some twitchy stuff that happens during the research process that thrills me – like trying to decode Peter Dunwell/Fenwell, I searched on the phrase “Peter son of Robert.” First hit was a link to Peter Oppenheimer, son of Robert Oppenheimer and nephew of Frank Oppenheimer. Definitely not the right Peter because no other names matched up and the speaker is definitely not saying Peter “Oppenheimer” in the recording, but it gave me pause for a moment, that a dead end search could be so on the nose.

      It’s always awesome to meet someone else who is into this story and thanks for laying out the initial framework. Having that baseline of research when I started made it so much easier to start this little project!

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