In the fall of 1987, local news channel WSB-TV 2 of Atlanta, Georgia, was attempting to fill a scheduling gap in their Sunday morning lineup.
After a few solicitations by local business owners, they decided to allow the young Reverend Marly Sachs to take the available hour block to do a religiously themed show. It premiered October 18th with little promotion.
The show was standard religious fare and consisted of the reverend sitting in a simple chair reading passages from the Bible to the camera and discussing their interpretation and significance to our modern, day-to-day life. The show received a reasonable number of viewers and continued to be shown into early December. It was then that the studio began to receive extremely strange complaints from viewers of “Words of Light with the Rev. Marly Sachs.”
The calls were from women (and women only), who vaguely referred to uncomfortable feelings they had at very specific intervals during the program. They described feelings of nausea, back pain, dizziness and blurred vision. These callers, for no discernible reason, were convinced that it was the viewing of this program that was causing these symptoms. It was later determined after 3 weeks of complaints that these “feelings” were happening at roughly 12 minute intervals during the course of the program.
The small studio staff checked all recording equipment, both audio and video, and found nothing faulty. When the Reverend was made aware of these incidents, he merely shrugged and stated, cryptically, that “Some can’t handle the voice of God…” The head of the studio, at a loss to explain the cause of these complaints, decided to continue running the program.
By February, viewership had dropped sharply and it was decided to pull the plug on the show. The studio head figured it would be more prudent to spend as much time as possible on the news story that had the other two local news networks a-buzz: the miscarriage epidemic. Starting sometime in November, the number of healthy pregnant women miscarrying in the Atlanta metropolitan area had reached over 300. The CDC could find no discernible cause for this terrifying occurrence.
The Reverend took the show’s cancellation with what could only be described as abject indifference. When informed, he made no protest, merely nodded, almost knowingly. He left the studio after the last episode was filmed without so much as a word and dropped off the face of the earth. No one ever heard from him again, not his former congregation or any member of the church. The studio moved on, filling the slot with an infomercial and continued to concentrate on the miscarriage story.
A year and a half later, an intern at the WSB studios discovered the tapes of the “Words of Light” and began going through them in an attempt to find stock footage for an upcoming piece the station was doing on the impact religion had on the city. The Atlanta Incident (as the miscarriage epidemic became known in medical journals) petered out three months after the studio cancelled Reverenced Sachs’ show and had already begun to fade from the public consciences. As the intern went through the tapes, he accidentally made a disturbing discovery about the footage.
While attempting to stop one recording at 10 minutes, 45 seconds, he mistakenly jammed the fast-forward button down. While the footage whizzed by, he attempted to pry up the button with a screwdriver. Just as he succeeded, the tape stopped at 32 minutes, 1 second. The intern actually fell out of his chair when he looked up at what was frozen on the screen: the image of a badly decomposed severed head filling up the entire frame. After he collected himself, he moved the film back a few frames, then forward and realized that his mind was not playing tricks on him. He began going through the rest of the recording and soon discovered that at exactly twelve minute intervals the image would appear for one frame.
Thinking it some practical joke being played on the new guy, he presented it to one of the film technicians, ready to be mocked. The technician was just as puzzled as him. No one had touched the footage since the cancellation of the show. After the studio had closed for the night, the intern convinced the tech to help him go through all the tapes of the “Words of Light”. They discovered that every single episode had this same horrifying anomaly.
They also realized that as the show progressed the image had become more disgusting, as maggots began to eat away at the loose flesh and pieces of hair and skin seemed to have fallen off exponentially. The tech made clear to the intern that what they were seeing was technically impossible, since the film itself showed absolutely no signs of splicing. And he himself had been at every filming of the show and knew of no time when this image could have been inserted into the frame.
All of this was presented to the studio head, who, fearing some kind of backlash over allowing this to get on the air, ordered all the tapes destroyed. He told the intern and tech that he had no interest in knowing who did it at this point, only that “…covering their collective asses is all that’s important now.” He demanded that they mention this to no one.
The tech easily moved on, remembering the incident as a darkly funny personal anecdote, but the intern wouldn’t let it go. He made copies of as many tapes as he could before they were wiped and took them to see if he could find anything else in them that might to point to who did this or why they would.
A week later he attempted to rope the tech into helping him again, saying that he believed he had discovered something even more disturbing than the images themselves: when the single frames were edited together in chronological order, the head’s mouth appeared to be moving as if trying to form words. The tech, fearing for his job, told him to get rid of the copies and to not talk about it again.
A week later, police responded to a 911 call made by an elderly woman in one of the Atlanta suburbs at dusk. She had heard horrible noises coming from her next door neighbor’s house where a young couple lived. She told the emergency responder that the wife was pregnant and that she was terrified something had happened. When the officers arrived on the scene 20 minutes later they found no lights on in the windows and the front door ajar. They moved in slowly and made their way into the living room.
Inside they found a young woman, dead, with her abdomen slashed open. The wound was jagged and a trail of blood led from the body to the couch on the far end of the room. There sat her husband, the studio intern, naked, the corpse of his unborn child at his feet, dying. In his hand he held the rusty piece of metal siding he had used to gut his pregnant wife. The television was on and playing an 18 second loop of silent footage of a decomposing head mouthing some unintelligible words.
The story at the police precinct to this day goes that the intern kept saying under his breath, over and over again as they led him away: “The light of God calls them…”