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The day "little men from outer space" took down a radio station

The strangest incident in the history of radio.

Pat Burns, circa 1950


Long before there was Howard Stern, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, there was Pat Burns. Burns, who died in 1996, was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and made a career out of being controversial. His radio show, which aired on Montreal's CKGM from 1965 to 1969, helped transform the fledgling 10,000-watt station into a Canadian broadcasting powerhouse. The cantankerous Burns was the Canadian equivalent of Joe Pyne, and both men would be responsible for influencing future generations of confrontational radio and television hosts like Morton Downey, Jr. and Bill O'Reilly.

Like Art Bell and George Noory, Burns would also occasionally delve into offbeat topics. In 1968, one frequent caller to his radio show was a strange woman with a Dutch accent who liked to ramble about "little men from outer space". Little did Burns know, however, that this mysterious caller nearly pulled the plug not only on Burns' show, but on CKGM as well.

"She must have spent hours dialing the hotline and all too often she got through," stated Burns in a 1975 interview with fellow Canadian journalist Allen Spraggett. "Our heroine had only one subject she wanted to talk about. Her little men from outer space."

When the caller asked if Burns had ever seen the little men from outer space, Burns replied, "Doll, I've seen a lot of guys spaced out, but nobody from outer space."

"Don't be sarcastic, Mr. Burns," snapped the caller. "I'm serious!"

"Well, doll, where do you see them?" asked Burns.

"Downtown. You can tell by their eyes. They're a brilliant mauve and when you talk to them they change to a bright pink."

Burns told Spraggett that he enjoyed these "crackpot" callers from time to time because they provided his show with comedy relief. Listeners also enjoyed these callers, and they soon dubbed the strange woman "The Outer Space Lady".

One day the outer space lady called the show when Burns was in an irritable mood, and the host really didn't want to deal with a crackpot caller. "Doll," he said, "I can't let you talk about your little men from outer space."

"Don't you dare cut me off," she threatened, "or the little men will cut you off!"

This reply caused Burns to chuckle. "Honey," he said to the caller, "call me tomorrow and explain to me why your little spacemen let you down."

Click.

After hanging up on the outer space lady, Pat Burns pressed the button for the next call. "Burns' hotline. Go Ahead."

But there was nothing but silence.

The line was dead. All lines were dead, In fact, everything at the station was dead. Station CKGM was off the air. "Now in radio, six minutes off the air is a disaster," stated Burns in 1975. "But-- and get this-- we were off the air six hours!"

Engineers scrambled to find the cause of the disruption, but they couldn't account for the incident. The next day Pat Burns was back on the air, and once again the mysterious woman with the Dutch accent called in. "Well, Mr. Burns, I told you the little spacement would cut you off. What do you say now?"

"You and your rotten little spacemen!" snarled Burns at the caller. "Try for two in a row! Goodbye."

Once again, CKGM was dead. The power failure lasted only fifteen minutes this time, but it was still an eternity in the world of radio. Don Wall, the station manager, stormed into the studio and confronted Burns, thinking that the whole mess was just a hoax or a publicity stunt. "Honest, Don, I don't know how the dame does it," pleaded the legendary broadcaster.

When the outer space lady called again the next day, Burns decided not to go for three in a row. Instead, this time in a much mellower tone, he said, "Now, you were saying about the the little men from outer space?"

To the day of his death in 1996 Burns insisted that the incident was authentic and there was no hoaxery involved. To this day the identity of the "Outer Space lady" has never been confirmed, and no explanation for the mysterious power outages has ever been found. 


Marlin Bressi is a freelance writer, creator of the Pennsylvania Oddities blog, and author of the book Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits.
 

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