If you see this man on TV, turn it off and leave your house immediately

There’s no more horrific sound than the screams of a mother who has just lost her child. Those were the sounds that awoke me in the middle of the night when the neighbor’s boy passed away during the night. Officially he died from an undiagnosed, hereditary heart condition, but the rumors told another story entirely.

Mary had always been a big part of our community, arranging barbecues and birthday parties, getting along with each and everyone in the neighborhood. All while being a working, single mother. Her son, Ulrich, was the most lively boy, outgoing and smart. We all expected big things from him as he grew up, and he loved the attention.

Needless to say, his passing hurt us all, but none were as devastated as her. She pulled away from the community, hid inside her home. I don’t even think she ever returned to work, until she just disappeared. I only got the chance to speak to her one time before she went missing. At which point she decided to tell me just what had happened the night her son died.

It was one of those rare occasions where she’d let Ulrich stay up past his bedtime to watch a movie. She was busy in her office doing paperwork, letting her son have a moment of peace, feeling all grown up. He was watching one of the old Terminator movies, a bit out of his age range, but she let him have it, and pretended not to know.

That was until just before midnight. She’d drifted off, still in her chair as she heard a scream coming from the living room. Ulrich was calling for her, and she didn’t hesitate to come to his rescue.

“Mom!” he called again.

“What is it? What happened?” Mary called out in shock. On the way to rush there she’d grabbed the only thing she could find to fashion as a weapon, which turned out to be her son’s tiny baseball bat.

“There’s a man on the TV,” he said meekly.

The movie had ended, but rather than replacing it with advertisements, or a second movie, there was only static filling the screen.

“A man?” she asked.

“Yes, he wanted to hurt me,” Ulrich cried.

Mary stared at the television showing nothing but snow plastered across the screen, and she let her guard down, finally realizing that his scream had been caused by a nightmare. She knew then that letting him watch a movie restricted well above his age had been a mistake.

“It was just a dream, Ulrich,” she said comfortingly as she hugged him tightly.

“No, he was there on the TV,” Ulrich cried, “he was bad.”

“It’s alright,” Mary simply responded, still holding onto him, “I’ll keep you safe, just go to bed and know that I’m always watching over you.”

Her voice was the most calming thing anyone had ever heard. It didn’t matter what words she uttered, because once they’d been heard, people just calmed down. She was that pure, that wonderful. It calmed Ulrich right down, and after another tight hug, he headed to bed.

But as Mary went to turn off the static covered TV, she could have sworn she saw the outline of a man, staring back, whispering something indecipherable. She shook her head, trying to wake herself up, and the world fell back into silence. It was late, and sleep deprivation had already taken over her exhausted mind.

She didn’t even make it out of the living room, she just passed out on the sofa as soon as she’d shut the TV off. It wouldn’t be until the middle of the night, before she awoke from a sore neck. As she made her way to her room, she noticed Ulrich’s door creaked open. While he was still young, he was a tiny man who liked his privacy. So she thought she’d check in on him, making sure he wasn’t suffering through any nightmares.

At first he seemed to be sleeping, but his position was odd, kind of drooping over the bed with his back fixed in an unnatural position. She turned the lights off, knowing he’d easily sleep through the dim illumination, and then she just froze in place as she realized that Ulrich’s eyes were open.

They looked kind of glassy, unmoving and lifeless. With careful steps she approached him, and for each foot closer, it became more apparent that his back had been completely broken. As the realization hit her, she rushed over and kneeled beside him, not sure whether to touch him or to leave him be. His back was shattered, as were his arms and legs. There wasn’t a single unharmed bone left in the little boy’s body. He was dead, and had been for some time.

Still, Mary tried to resuscitate him as she awaited the ambulance. The paramedics practically had to pull her away before they could remove the mangled body. In the following days she’d be visited by various detectives who were investigating the place. She told them all she knew, including the strange man hidden in the static. But there was nothing anyone could do, it was a ridiculous story, and only Mary herself knew it to be true.

I’m not sure why she told me her story, not if she ever shared it with anyone else. How she felt, how his body looked where it lay in bed. But those were the last words she ever spoke to me before she just vanished from the face off the Earth.

No body was ever found, but traces of blood were scattered all over her home. Even in the absence of her corpse, no one could have survived that amount of blood loss. So the rumor spread. I told my wife, who told her friends, and before long, everyone knew about the man on the TV, hidden in static. It started a sort of urban legend, telling everyone to turn their TVs off before twelve, and to never under any circumstances fall asleep on the couch with a movie running in the background.

But as weeks turned to months, and months turned to years, the tragedy of Ulrich’s death and Mary’s disappearance turned from one filled with sorrow, to a mystery overflowing with intrigue. People would start to actively seek out the static filled channel, but none would ever discover it… none until my wife accidentally fell asleep while watching a movie.

It was just after twelve, and I’d returned from a late shift. As I stepped inside I could see the living room illuminated by a pale, white light that danced in the dark. Atop of that, a quiet staticy sound was penetrating the silence of night.

“Elise, are you up?” I asked out loudly, to no response.

“Elise, come on!” I called out again as I was starting to figure out what had happened.

I stormed into the living room, to find a static filled TV screen illuminating the room. I paused as I noticed a man hidden behind the static, just barely visible through the snow. But no sooner had I entered the room, than he vanished from sight. Then I turned to the couch, to find my wife sleeping peacefully. The commotion had just about woken her up.

“What’s going on?” she asked with a groggy voice.

But I couldn’t respond. The split second long sight of the man had awoken an innate fear deep within me. In that moment I knew that everything Mary had told me was true, and it terrified me.

“What have you done?” I asked in panic.

“I was just- I was just watching a movie- I fell asleep. I didn’t mean to,” she said, getting more afraid herself as she noticed just how scared I was.

“Let’s go to our room, come on,” I demanded.

I wasn’t a brave man, nor a strong one, but I had a gun I inherited from my Dad after he passed away. While it was kind of old, he’d regularly used it for practice. I’d never been a fan of weapons myself, but desperate times and all that.

We retreated back into our room and shut the doors. Elise sat down on the bed while I prepared the gun.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Don’t worry. I’m not gonna shoot anyone. It’s just a precaution,” I said.

“What’s going to happen to us?” she asked.

“Nothing, we’ll be fine,” I lied.

Truth be told, I’d never gone into detail about Urlich’s death. I’d mentioned the TV, and I’d told her that he’d passed away unnaturally, but I didn’t mention the broken bones and destroyed body.

“Then why do you-” she stopped in her tracks. “What was that?”

“What was…”

My question was interrupted by loud whispers coming from outside. It was a deep voice calling out, distorted as if talking through a radio.

“Is it coming from the TV?” Elise asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m gonna check it out,” I said.

“No, stay here, call the police!”

“Fine, you call them, I’ll make sure there aren’t any intruders in the house.”

“Gary, wait!” she shouted in a loud whisper, but it was too late. I had already opened the door and gone outside, making sure to shut it securely behind me. It might have been a stupid idea, but the protective instinct within me had taken over. If someone, or something… had entered my house, I’d make damn sure they didn’t hurt the one person I loved the most.

So I snuck back into the living room, holding my gun ready. I half expected to find the TV turned back on as the source of the sound, which left me surprised when I entered the living room to find it pitch black. Everything was turned off.

Then the voices returned, coming from the basement. Now I knew we had an ancient television from my Dad’s youth stacked down there, but it wasn’t connected, and hadn’t been functioning in decades. It was an antique kept as a memory more than anything else. Still, if I had to destroy it to make sure the voice went away, then so be it.

I stepped inside as the voice grew louder, still indecipherable behind the mess of static. Step by step, I descended the dark staircase into the abyss that was my basement. It didn’t have a functioning source of light. The electricity had been turned off following a flood in the summer, and was still awaiting repairs. So I used the dim flashlight attached to my mobile to guide my way, still holding my weapon high.

“If anyone’s down there, you better fucking show yourself right now!” I yelled, hoping the police would show up before I encountered anyone.

But no one would respond.

So I kept descending, noticing a dim, flickering white light at the bottom. I instantly recognized it as static from a TV, which meant the unconnected ancient piece of technology had somehow turned itself on. I jumped the last two steps and pointed my gun in the direction of the light with haste, only to find a staticy picture emitting from the disconnected broken TV. In the center I noticed a man staring through the noise. He was clearer than before with a scar covered face and limbs that reached too far, their ends even surpassing the edge of the screen. It whispered something else, unintelligible like the rest, but there was a single word I could make out.


Then I heard the sirens, pulling my attention away for just a moment, but that was all it took. The room had fallen back into darkness and the police had arrived. I rushed back upstairs to find not one, or two, but a dozen patrol cars rushing into our streets. The officers emerged and all rushed to various houses, only a couple came over to me.

“Mr. Larsen?” one of them asked.

I nodded.

“We received a call from your wife, we believe she may be in danger.”

“Yeah, but she locked herself inside the room, she should be fine,” I explained.

“Mind if we have a look?”

We walked together to our bedroom, which was locked from the inside. The officers knocked at first, trying to get her attention. No response.

“Honey, Elise, please open up,” I called out.

By then the officers had realized someone was wrong. They gave each other a nod, before preparing to break open the door.

It shattered with a band, and the officers stormed inside. They halted quickly as they found my wife. She was lying on the bed with her mouth wide open. Her jaw had seemingly been dislocated, and her neck was fractured in multiple places. She had the same empty gaze Mary had described, dead and beyond saving. The officers didn’t even attempt to resuscitate her, it was too late.

But as broken as I felt, the night wouldn’t end there, because from the chatter I could hear, each of the two dozen officers reported finding dead bodies all over the neighborhood, each of them broken beyond belief, with their significant others, children or parents reporting televisions showing static and hearing whispers.

That night, fifteen people died in their homes, all having views of a static filled image hiding a man. But there was never more than one victim. I realized the mistake I’d made by searching for the intruder. It is nothing but a distraction causing me to leave my wife alone, a trap to kill her.

I’ve considered ending my life, but I need answers. I need to know why my wife died, and who it was. The only clue I have is Mary. Despite her blood being discovered all around the apartment, her body was never found, which is something that deviates away from the other murders.

She might still be alive, and she might have the answers I so desperately seek.

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