Crazy people are attracted to radio.  Somehow in their addled minds, they believe that the on-air personalities are speaking only to them, or that the signal is being broadcast straight into their brains, or that the radio station should answer to their beck and call.

This fact was brought home to me again yesterday when news broke of an incident outside a Boston radio station.  A man showed up in a red car in the parking lot of Kiss 108 where he proceeded to brandish an ax along with several other sharp objects and demand of anyone who happened to pass by that the Top 40 station play "My Axe" by Insane Clown Posse.

As you can imagine, 911 was called and a S.W.A.T team swiftly descended upon the scene.  After trying to reason with the man for over three hours, police finally were able to wrestle him to the ground and haul him off to jail where he will be treated to a psychiatric evaluation.

A similar incident happened early in my radio career while I was working at radio station in Lufkin, Texas.  It was around Noon on a Sunday just before Christmas when I arrived for my afternoon shift which immediately followed the morning church programs.  My girlfriend (now my wife of over 30 years) was the studio operator for those shows, and when I walked in she informed me that she had been getting some weird phone calls from a guy demanding to get a message on the air that Berlin had been invaded again and that he was celebrating with a skating party at Skateland.  Then, at literally that same instant, the station went off the air.

When I had approached the station a few minutes earlier, there had been a car in the parking lot that I didn't recognize, so I went outside to investigate.  The transmitter and tower for the station was right behind the studio, and as I walked around the building I was accosted by a man with a camera around his neck wearing one of those Russian fur hats that you see in the movies.

I'll never forget what he said.  "I've been calling the station all morning trying to get a message on the air.  Berlin has been invaded again and we're celebrating with a skating party at Skateland.  If you'll put that message on the air, I'll turn your radio station back on.  Can I take your picture?"

Danger Will Robinson!  Danger!  It felt like I had suddenly been transformed into a strange alternate universe.  The hackles stood up on the back of my neck, and I got a little dizzy for a second.  I said, "No, I don't think so," and proceeded to hightail it back inside the station,lock the doors, and call the sheriff's department.  The station was way out of town on a Farm-To-Market road, and the only deputy they had in the area was about 9 miles away, so it took him a while to get to the studio.

My girlfriend and I went into Rambo mode.  We found whatever antenna poles were lying around the office, and prepared to whack the guy over the head if he decided to break into the building.  But he didn't.  He just rummaged around in the trunk of his car until the sheriff's deputy showed up and took him away.

Turns out police had taken the guy to the mental ward at the hospital the night before because he had been going door to door in town saying, "Merry Christmas!  Can I take your picture?"  To this day I don't know what the guy was doing back out on the street the next day. We do know that he had some electronics training because he knew the one switch outside the station to throw and knock us off the air.

Well, my girlfriend and I had our 15 minutes of fame as the story was picked up by wire services AP and UPI.  I did a few interviews with radio stations around the country describing the incident, and then all went back to normal.  When all was said and done, it was another reminder that mental illness is a serious and sad thing.



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