Fact Check

Did American TV Viewers Hear the Devil's Voice on Aug. 29, 1968?

This appears to be an urban legend of recent origin.

Published March 25, 2023

 (Getty Images/Stock Photo)
Image courtesy of Getty Images/Stock Photo
"On August 29th, 1968, all the televisions in America were shut down. There was a murmuring on the TV that some believe was the devil's voice. The televisions were off for about 25 seconds. No one knows what the issue was and no one knows what the sound was from the TVs."

Here's a historical claim with an eerie supernatural twist that we've been asked to check out many times. This version was sent to us in 2016 by a reader named Neil: 

I heard this thing that on August 29, 1968, every single TV went out across America at the same time. There was a strange noise coming from the TV, and some thought that it was the voice of the devil. The televisions were off for about 25 seconds, and no one was ever able to figure out what happened.

We have yet to come across a variant that provides any more detail than this: On Aug. 29, 1968, every TV set in America simultaneously "went out," "turned off," or "shut down" (meaning, perhaps, that the broadcast signal was interrupted) for about 25 seconds, during which time the televisions emitted a "strange noise" or "murmuring" sound, which some people took to be "the voice of the devil." 

This type of viral story is often called "creepypasta," which in turn is a form of "copypasta" — as in a text (or text combined with images) that is copied and pasted and shared ad nauseam on the internet.

We'll state up front that there is no historical evidence that any such thing occurred — not on that date or any other. In fact, we'll go so far as to say that short of some sort of supernatural intervention — by the devil, let's say — no such thing as all the TVs in America shutting down all at once could occur. And even if, for the sake of argument, the devil did do it, the incident would not have gone unnoticed and unreported by every single news outlet in the country. It would be in the historical record. There would be eyewitness accounts. But none exist.

Nevertheless, the story — such as it is — continues to be told and retold in tweets, memes, and online videos. This version was tweeted in 2015 (thus far, we haven't found any tellings or mentions of the story prior to 2014): 

This meme version appeared in a Facebook post in 2022:

all the tvs in america shut down on August 29th 1968

The tale has also been retold in TikTok videos, and there even exists a YouTube clip that is alleged to contain actual "confirmed footage" of the incident as it (supposedly) happened: 

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. 

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.