The 13th Floor

Did This Religious TV Program Contain a Deadly Hidden Message?

Today’s story originated with a user identifying himself as RoboKy, who claims to know bizarre and previously unpublished information about a locally-produced television program known as Words of Light With the Reverend Marly Sachs. The show aired every Sunday from 6-7 am on WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta, Georgia, from October 18, 1987 to Sunday, February 14, 1988 — whereupon the show was cancelled abruptly without explanation.

According to RoboKy, WSB-TV’s decision to drop the show was never made public, and it was replaced with infomercial programming. But he claims to have access to details provided by a former intern at the station.

This intern tells a ghastly, nightmarish story about something he found on taped episodes of Words of Light — details of which he claims to be connected to a series of officially unexplained deaths in Georgia that occurred during the show’s brief run. Bizarrely, these particular fatalities all involved women who were pregnant at the time.

But first, a little background on the show itself…

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There was little to distinguish Rev. Marly Sachs’s show from any number of locally-produced Sunday morning religious programs; the set was a simple stage with a clear acrylic podium, behind which Sachs — an older man with a bland stage presence — would stand and read scripture passages, then step forward to offer his interpretations of their relevance to modern life.

Oddly enough, while most programs like these were broadcast on behalf of a local church, Sachs did not seem to be affiliated with any particular ministry, and he never made appeals for donations. A telephone number did appear at the bottom of the screen at regular intervals, but the Reverend only made occasional references to it, and then only asking for “prayer requests.” Calls to the line were never played on the show.

Nevertheless, the program maintained a modest following, and garnered enough advertising that the station opted to keep it on the air for a while… but according to the intern, beginning in December they began to receive a growing wave of complaint calls.

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There were several details in common among these complaints: First, the viewers claimed to experience physical discomfort while watching the program, including intense headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and nausea; second, the callers reportedly experienced their most intense symptoms each time the telephone number was superimposed on the screen — every 12 minutes, to be exact.

The third factor is the most disturbing, however — all of these callers were women.

The studio manager at the time directed the small TV crew to assess their equipment, to determine if something in the signal itself might be triggering physical sensations — much like those caused by ultrasound or infrasound frequencies, known for their damaging effects on the human body. But after an exhaustive shakedown, no such frequencies were detected, and no other technical issues were found.

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When Reverend Sachs himself was alerted to the issue, his response was dismissive: “Some people just can’t handle the word of God.”

But complaint calls continued, and viewership began to drop sharply with each passing week. Finally, the station decided to cancel the show after the February 14, 1988 broadcast, and Sachs disappeared from the public eye virtually overnight.

But the story doesn’t end there… in fact, the horror had been growing all along.

RoboKy points out that the cancellation of Sachs’ show occurred at the height of a disturbing miscarriage epidemic affecting hundreds of women in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Widespread reports of failed pregnancies had first made news in November 1987, and by January 1988 the number of miscarriages in Atlanta had exceeded 300.

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The Centers for Disease Control conducted an intense investigation of these incidents, but the results were inconclusive, and no official cause has ever been documented.

But the intern’s story may hold a bizarre and terrifying clue to the puzzle.

Assigned in 1989 to search WSB’s tape library for stock footage (to accompany a feature about the station’s history), the intern found archived episodes of Words of Light… and made a shocking discovery. After pressing PLAY on the first tape, he realized the button on the old, clunky studio VTR was stuck, and wouldn’t shut off. He finally managed to pry it up with a screwdriver, whereupon the picture slipped back a few seconds, finally freezing at timecode 00:00:01.13.

What he saw made his heart skip a beat — a single-frame image of a partially-decomposed human head.

After regaining his composure, the intern convinced himself the image was either some kind of bizarre glitch, or perhaps a macabre joke perpetrated by a bored editor at the station. But as he scanned through the tape, he found the same image again — precisely 12 minutes later, just after the superimposed telephone number disappeared from the screen.

Determined to get to the bottom of this anomaly, the intern asked one of the studio technicians to help him go through additional tapes of the show… and they found, to their mutual horror, that the same gruesome single-frame image appeared on every single episode, and always at 12-minute intervals. But further examination revealed it wasn’t exactly the same image each time; they realized, as the show progressed, that the head was slightly different in each subsequent episode… and with each new episode, it seemed to be in a more advanced state of decay.

The tech analyzed the anomaly closely, and could not find any evidence of post-production tampering; the video time-code did not jump, and the audio-visual signal did not vary in the slightest when the grotesque image appeared onscreen.

When the pair brought their findings to the attention of the station manager, they were promptly instructed to erase the tapes, effectively destroying all evidence of this frightening anomaly, in the hope that the issue would simply go away… after all, the program had been off the air for more than a year. But according to RoboKy, the intern was obsessed with solving the mystery… and secretly dubbed copies of the tapes before they were destroyed.

Spending most of his spare time on the project, the intern managed to isolate each individual frame of the grisly image, and roughly edited them together to determine if they were consecutive frames of a time-lapse film, hoping it might reveal further clues as to its origin. What he found, however, was something even more disturbing: When played forward at normal speed, it appeared that the rotting head was talking.

When the intern brought his horrific findings to the studio tech, it triggered a similar reaction… but instead of bringing this newfound evidence to the manager, the tech concluded the issue was better left alone, for fear he may lose his job. This was distressing news to the intern, who finally decided he would present the dubbed tapes to the police, in the hope that it might touch off an investigation.

But he never got the chance.

Days later, Atlanta Police responded to a late-night 911 call from an elderly woman, who reported the sound of horrible screams coming from the house next door, where a young married couple lived. When responders arrived on the scene, they found the front door open, and all the lights off.

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Just inside the living room, they discovered the still-warm corpse of a young pregnant woman. Her abdomen had been torn open with a jagged implement, and a trail of fresh blood led from the gaping wound to the nearby couch. There, they found the dead woman’s husband — the intern at the TV station — sitting naked on the couch, staring blankly at the screen, watching the time-lapse video of the severed head, which seemed to be on a recurring loop.

The man was mumbling something that roughly matched the silently-moving mouth of the rotting head on the video:

“The light of God calls them…”

On the man’s lap, next to a blood-slicked piece of ragged metal, was the tiny, motionless body of his wife’s unborn child.